In my last column I told you all about some of the leather events that are currently happening virtually and some of the leather related resources that can be found online. (I didn’t even mention Pornhub!) Today I want to go old-school and tell you about some must-read books. I love looking at videos and reading information on websites, but nothing beats curling up with a good book.

One of my first introductions into the leather scene was the classic novel Mr. Benson by John Preston. This 1980 work tells the story of a young man’s search for a master in the pre-AIDS leather bars of New York’s West Village. Before I had ever been to a leather bar in person, this book showed me backrooms and the cat-and-mouse game of cruising. This work also first introduced me to the idea of Old Guard leather protocols.

Ask any male leather titleholder what book one should read to learn about the leather community, and he is bound to say The Leatherman’s Handbook by Larry Townsend. This 1972 guide is highly regarded for being THE book that brought SM / fetish out into the open. Decades before E. L. James introduced bored suburban housewives to a little kink in 2011’s Fifty Shades of Grey, Larry Townsend’s manual of BDSM told it all. Filled with chapters devoted to various aspects of play and personal anecdotes, The Leatherman’s Handbook is considered to be the bible for gay BDSM. I first discovered Larry Townsend’s writing in the pages of Drummer magazine where not only were many excerpts of his erotic books published, but for twelve years starting in 1980 he also wrote a popular column titled “Leather Notebook.” (His column continued in Honcho magazine until 2008) The Leatherman’s Handbook has been edited and updated several times over the years. There is also a sequel: Leatherman’s Handbook II published in 1983. This second book is not just an updated rewrite of the original, it also contains lots of new information.

The must-read book for women interested in the leather community is To Love, To Obey, To Serve: Diary of an Old Guard Slave by V. M. Johnson. This extremely personal book first published in 1999, invites readers into the journal of a slave as she navigates her leather journey. You will also want to explore the Carter / Johnson Library & Collection founded by Vi Johnson in 2005. This treasure trove of resources can be found on the internet at and on Facebook.

One can’t write an article about leather writers and not mention another legend in the BDSM community, Guy Baldwin. A Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and International Mr. Leather 1989, Mr. Baldwin’s book Ties That Bind is also considered a classic. Mr. Baldwin writes that “unlike what many say in the mental health field, this style of erotic play can definitely be part of a healthy expression of one’s sexuality.”

Another popular leather community author is also a friend. Tim Brough has written many instructional and erotic books. Everything from: First Hand: An Erotic Guide to Fisting to Skin Tight: Rubbermen, Macho Fetish and Fantasy. I’ve been thinking about him lately because he recently had a health scare. Thankfully it was not the coronavirus as first thought. His books will keep you informed and entertained during these difficult times. The above books have been around for a while and are all considered classics in the leather community, but what about something new? My good friend Sir Eli Ra just told me about a new book called: Dancing the Edge to Surrender: An Erotic Memoir of Trauma and Survival by Lori Beth Bisbey. In fact you are invited to a virtual book launch party for this new page turner at: This virtual event on May 13th will include music, an erotic reading from the book, games, and more. Many of us find ourselves stuck at home with some extra time on our hands. When it comes to BDSM and erotic play, start by keeping it strictly by the book.

Author Profile

Rodney Burger
Rodney Burger
Rodney is originally from Hagerstown, Maryland and for many years has lived in Baltimore. In April 2017, Rodney was sworn in for his 10th year as the President of the ShipMates Club of Baltimore. He has been involved in the leather community for many years, but often denies that he sold Jell-O shots at The Last Supper. He has been writing THE LEATHER LINE for the BALTIMORE OUTLOUD newspaper ( for over fourteen years. He has produced the Mr. & Ms. Baltimore Eagle Contest and the Maryland LeatherSIR/Leatherboy Contest. In 2001 he was proud to serve as Maryland Mr. Drummer 2001. Rodney also does stand-up comedy and in 2013 was thrilled to perform at Philadelphia Leather Pride Night. He has been nominated multiple times for a Pantheon of Leather Award, was selected Leather Man of the Year in 2013 by COMMAND M.C. and by the Baltimore Leather Association of the Deaf in 2006. The 11th annual 12 Days of Christmas benefit show was dedicated to Rodney and his partner Sir Steve. He has been twice selected as ShipMate of the Year. He has judged Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2015, Atlantic States LeatherSIR / Leatherboy and recently judged Mr. Eagle NYC 2018. He is delighted to be able to bring news of his beloved leather community to his readers every issue.