I submitted my first book to Berkley Prime Crime Books, and I didn’t hear from them for over a year,” Orland Outland says. “When they finally called to offer me a contract, my response was, ‘Thanks very much—I’m already dead.’”

This was 1994, before protease inhibitors appeared on the AIDS landscape but long after Outland’s 1991 HIV diagnosis. “Everyone I knew was either dead or dying,” says Outland, whose downhill slide to near-death sped up when he lost his closest friend, Clint. Outland’s mother flew in from Reno, Nevada—“She literally saved my life,” he says—and brought good luck with her: His first book sold while she was nursing him back to health in San Francisco.

Dedicated to Outland’s mother, Death Wore a Smart Little Outfit was published last year, the first of a series that features a drag-queen detective. Number two, Death Wore a Fabulous New Fragrance, hits the stores this month.

Meanwhile, his satirical self-help book, The Principles: The Gay Man’s Guide to Getting (and Keeping) a Man (a twist on The Rules), is becoming a gay bestseller.

As for the author’s romantic status, “I’ve been single all my life,” he says, though he’s unsure how to characterize his friendship with Clint, to whom The Principles is dedicated. “I guess we were significant others in the Lucy and Ethel sense.”
The success of his ritonavir/saquinavir/d4T/ delavirdine combo has had an unexpected side effect: “My health is good and my thoughts have turned to romance,” says Outland, 35.

Sounds like good grist for his next novel. “It’s about a man with AIDS who goes on protease inhibitors, and all the second-chance complications that arise.” This one is clearly autobiographical. “A bunch of credit card bills came in the mail when I was sick, and I thought, ‘Well, I won’t have to worry about paying these off!’” Outland says. “I’ve spent the last two years eating those words.”