Death of a Transvestite is the sequel to Killer in Drag (see our review). When last we left former Syndicate hireling, hit man Glen Marker (a.k.a. Glenda Satin) s/he was on the run to California, and a Syndicate hit-man had just been put on her tail (no pun intended) This volume explains what happened next.
Wood gets far more ambitious in this work, even framing it nicely. The opening chapter finds Glen in a prison cell, on the eve of his execution. Yup, the law has finally caught up with him. He has one final wish, and in exchange for it being granted he will tell his story. The wish ? To die as he lived -- in drag.
The warden thinks about it, and then agrees. And so we get Glen/da's confession, or rather a cobbled together account of what happened to him/her after the close of the last book. A new major character is Pauline, the sorry looking drag hit-person sent out to chase Glen/da down.
The Syndicate gets on Glen/da's trail by getting the information about his/her whereabouts from Rose "Red" Graves, the friendly prostitute Glen/da had packed off to New York. Wood actually does a nice pulp turn here as the Syndicate deals with her. Brutal, but true to the genre, no punches held.
Glen/da settles in in Hollywood, making a nice friend, Cynthia. A kept woman -- hell, a [...], but with a heart of gold, 'course. Touching to watch them get together.
As Pauline closes in on Glen/da, Wood defends his character's transvestite lifestyle. No question, the book is a manifesto of sorts, half earnest, half hilarious. Glen/da's problems are big, and Wood relates them with touching concern. S/he wants that operation (yup, s/he wants to get rid of that bulge in his/her [...]that completely destroys the line of those tight-fitting dresses), but s/he's concerned about his/her sex-life afterwards. S/he never much liked sleeping with men (tried it, but not won over), and s/he can't imagine becoming a lesbian (really) -- but then since his/her only turn-on is the clothes s/he wears, maybe it will work out ..... S/he doesn't like skin against skin -- even when having sex s/he like to have some comfy nightgown or [...] on .....
When Cynthia and Glen/da are finally ready to get it on Cynthia is a bit unnerved by Glen/da's transvestism. Proudly, Glen/da insists that she take him/her as s/he is. "There I stand in my panties," s/he states, unapologetically. It's a stirring moment.
A tragic end is in the coming, though, as the Syndicate hit-man lurks in the background. S/he's a pretty sad hit-thing, the ugliest drag-queen around, and none too impressive in doing his/her job. Glen/da practically falls into his/her lap; we don't see how s/he could have gotten at him/her otherwise. On top of that, s/he gets blasted before going after Glen/da. Not very professional. But still fairly realistic for a Wood-creation
The end comes, as we knew it would, and we're back on execution row. Glenda's all gussied up, and she can die a happy gal. "So the record has spun its measured spin. The story is told," Glenda says. This is a grand finale, and Wood actually manages some poignancy to this absurd scene. It's a sincere and heartfelt effort, and it is, amazingly, not half bad.
The sex in the book is considerably raunchier than in Killer in Drag -- definitely not for the kids. It's decent pulp fiction, though, and perhaps Wood's most accomplished work, whether as book or film. One can't really recommend the book, but it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.