A well-written, page-turning coming-of-age novel from Donald E. Westlake, Lust Kicks tells the tale of two 17-year-old buddies, Mike and Frank, from Ohio, who decide to take off on a summer adventure before returning to high school in their senior year. Knowing their parents would not approve, they slip away in the night, a few hundred bucks between them.
Their three week road trip, taking buses and hitchhiking, goes from Ohio down to Mexico. They are both virgins on the outset, but both soon lose their cherries to older women — lonely women, needful women, and then they share a cheap whore, and it’s not the same.
There are plenty of women for them to gain experience. Then they save the life of a young heiress who is grateful and takes them to her mansion, where they meet Katherine, a pretty young maid who has dreams of Hollywood.
Mike falls for Katherine, and agrees to take her to Los Angeles. She’s full of all the usual delusions:
Mike: “What makes you so sure you’ll make it out in Hollywood?”
Katherine got up and poured herself another drink. “I’ll make out all right. There are two ways to make it. I know. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about the movies and Hollywood. If a girl has talent, real talent, she has to keep plugging away until she makes it. And even then she has to entertain at least a few men on her back. The other way is to start out flat on your back and love your way to stardom. What’s the difference if it’s only a couple of men or a lot of men?”
“But if you can’t act what good is it?”
“I don’t want to be an actress,” she said, her eyes closed as visions of mink and ermine raced through her mind. “I want to e a star. There’s a world of difference between the two. I don’t care if I never make a picture. All I want is the publicity and the money. I want to be able to pick up a newspaper and see my name there. And I don’t care how it gets there.” (p. 143)
Or: bad publicity is better than no publicity; as Burt Reynolds once put it: “I don’t care what you say about me, just say it and spell my name right.”
How many times have we at this blog heard the very same, or close to it, thing from the mouths of those many who head west and later wind up dancing or making videos in a certain field…
Then again, such tactics have worked for the fame-seeking…Courtney Love, Sharon Stone, Marilyn Monroe…
Katherine is vixen and good at manipulation; she almost breaks the friends up as she plays hard to get with Mike but immediately sleeps with Frank.
Frank takes her to Hollywood and Mike goes down to Mexico where he meets Carlita, a 17-year-old virgin who feels it is time for her to know a man; and in bed, Mike–three weeks ago a virgin himself–teaches the girl all he has learned on his road trip. He comes full circle, no longer a boy, but a man of the world…
There’s more, but you get the gist. Nothing original here, the same ol’ situations in any coming-of-age road book, but the way Westlake handles it is smooth and delightful. You can really tell that, by 1963, Westlake was getting his plotting and dialogue chops down better than his books from 1958-61 for Midwood and Nightstand.
A great little read if you can find it.