April North by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block) Softcover Library, 1961
Like “Andrew Shaw,” Sheldon Lord was an early pen name shared by mystery/crime authors Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake, later used by others, for Beacon, Softcover Lib., and a couple Midwoods.
April North is Lawrence Block — his early style is easily identfiable, it’s set in midwest Antrim, Ohio, not far from his alma mater, Antioch College (featured in many Shaw Nightstands). There’s also the mention of a film, The Sound of Distant Drums, some sort of in-joke connection found in all Shaw novels and others.
April North is 17, a senior in high school, and a good girl from a good, Christain family. She has been “going steady” with a football/baseball jock, Duncan, and believes he loves her and intends to marry her — thus, one night, she “goes all the the way” and loses her virginity to the boy. Like many a naive girl in these books, she thinks this is a contract for marriage.
Now that she has “done the dirty,” Duncan wants nothing to do with her. She is not wife material and tells all his buddies she’s a tramp. Within a week, all the boys in her class are calling up for dates, and Duncan breaks up with her. She has sex with another boy in a field — as shown in the nifty splendor in the grass cover art — because she is dazed at her new reputation, and word gets “around” in the small town that se’s easy.
Knowing her rep is ruined forever, she withdraws her savings ($500) and decides to run away to New York City.
I thought this was going to be like Loren Beauchamp’s Connie — she would become a call girl in NY as a revenge against the men who hurt her. April seems a lot like Silverberg’s Connie. But before April can catch the NYC-bound bus, she crosses paths with Craig, a 27-year-old ladies man in a Mercedies 300-SL, who has inherited a fortune from his dead parents. Craig convinces her to stay, to shun those who mock her, and he will teach her to be a sexually wise, wordly woman.
She falls in love, of course, and has visions of wedding bells with this lover-man, until she attends one of his orgies. She ignores the rumors she has heard that he seduces young girls and degrades them — she believes she is different and that he loves her. She discovers that all his rich, literary, and “world weary” friends are all alcoholics, drug addicts, and lost as anyone — and that Craig, despite his wealth and car and looks, is at heart empty and a loser. To keep her from going home and to stay with him, Craig has mailed secret photos of her having sex with him, an a drunken lesbain encounter, so her parents will disown her.
Trying to escape Craig, she is picked up by her ex-, Duncan, in the rain. She thinks he will help her get her to NY but leads her to a barn where he has arranged for 20 boys in town to come and have sex with her in a gang bang, $5 a piece. ”Work for the money you need for New York,” he tells her.
The second boy she had sex with, Bill, comes to her rescue and they run away and live happily ever after.
The book fell apart about 75% the way in, and rushed to a sappy romantic ending, as if Block was closing in on his reqyured 50K words and he needed to wrap up. Otherwise, a fast-paced novel with good characters, and an interesting early-era Block novel.
Here is the cover for the UK editi0n: