The Many Faces of John Dexter #5: No Longer a Virgin penned by Lawrence Block/Donald Westlake (Nightstand #1513, 1960)
Lynn Munroe suspected that either Block or Westlake or both penned the very first John Dexter novel, the 12th book William Hamling published, edited by Harlan Ellison, No Longer a Virgin:
Lawrence Block says he never wrote as John Dexter, and while I wanted to note that first, we should remember that he is the author of a book called Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. He also told me he never wrote as Sheldon Lord, etc. So this one is just conjecture on my behalf. One thing I noticed in my research of the Nightstand writers was that every single one of them told me that sometimes their books would come out under a house name like John Dexter. The only authors who claim not to be Dexter are Block, Westlake, and Dresner. The Alan Marshall books are full of references to Dexter. One of them mentions a playwright named Dexter St. John. Nightstand editor Earl Kemp told me that whenever they had two manuscripts by the same writer, they would stick a house name like Dexter or J.X. Williams [after that pseudonym was abandoned by John Jakes] on the second one. It is obvious when reading Dexters that they are the work of a wide variety of writers.
Everybody, at one time or another, was John Dexter, so we can deduce that Block was probably Dexter too. Then there’s High School Sex Club (NB1517) [...] which lists [Andrew] Shaw as author on the cover but Dexter on the title page. Is this a typo, or were Shaw and Dexter linked somehow?
After reading No Longer a Virgin, I can confidently say this is another early Lawrence Block with the aid of Donald Westlake — published the same year as A Girl Called Honey, the narrative voice is the same and the female protagonists are somewhat alike…the breaks in style and dialogue are obvious, just as they were in Honey...
In Crossroads of Lust, the character Beth remembers reading No Longer a Virgin and how by chapter three, the girl in the story loses her virginity in a motel room with an older man; variations on the name “John Dexter” pop up now and then in Andrew Shaw and Alan Marshall books.
The heroine of the tale, Ann, discovered the wonders of physical contact with boys youug…
She liked the feeling of men’s hands on [her breasts]. She liked it from the beginning, when she was twelve years old and they were already strongly building, and the boys used to rub them in the darkness of the neighborhood movie theater during the Saturday matinee. Even then, she liked the touch of their hands on her breasts, and she liked to be kissed. But she never let any of them touch her below the waist. (pp. 5-6)
Ann was determined to remain a virgin until her marriage. Even with her high school beau, Dan, “sex” was mutual masturbation.
That changes when she heads to New York City after graduating high school, with some stenography classes under her belt, and a typing certificate of 50-words-a-minute. On the bus she meets 35-year-old Roger, an ad guy coming back from St. Louis. She lies and says she’s 20, and they share a motel room at a stopover. She doesn’t want to seem inexperienced so she goes to bed with him and, as the title states, she’s no longer a virgin.
The innocent girl seduced my the men of New York is a common story in sleazy books of the 1950s-60s — sometimes they become prostitutes, sometimes they become tramps, sometimes they meet bad ends, and sometimes they seek redemption after months or years of sin.
She soon finds that men try to make her every way she turns — there’s the Broadway producer, Barry, and he has her strip to her underpants during a job interview; and a fat slob of a building manager who talks her into a quick bout of sex in exchange for a one year lease on a nice Brooklyn apartment.
Women, too. She first stays with a girl from back home, Janet; one day she comes home drunk and lets her know she’s a lesbian and has designs. What happens is basically a lesbian rape scene, but Roger arrives in time to save her, punching the lesbian out after a boxing match between the two.
She likes Roger a lot — why not, he took her cherry and was her knight in armor, saving her from forced twilight perversions. But Roger is a “forever bachelor” at 35; he doesn’t want to get married or share an apartment with her. Still, she refers to him as her “boyfriend” to others.
Then she learns he has wife and kids, the hard way…
She learns that men are liars. But is she. When Dan shows up out of the blue, missing her badly, she does everthing she can to keep Dan from finding out about Roger, from knowing the truth — she even has sex with Dan and makes him believe he just took her virginity, but it all backfires her and she loses both men in her life.
But she knows the city is full of men to sleep with; there may not be love or commitment or even truth,
but I won’t be alone, she thought. Never that. At least I won’t be alone. (p. 191)
Not a remarkable story, and very little “story” at that, but it does end on a bleak note, rather than the typical romantic ending where the wanton girl finds true love and is happy. This one is more, well, realistic.
One thing is certain: Block, with Westlake, were the first faces of the prolific sleazemeister John Dexter.