Archive for Camerarts

Shocking Mistress! by Orrie Hitt (Novel Books, 1961)

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is the second book Orrie Hitt did for Novel/Camerarts — the first was Easy Women! – and probably his most political of all, in terms of socialist idealism, labor relations, and the power of labor unions in mid-20sth Century America.

This is more a literary social novel than sleaze or men’s book, as packaged.  Indeed, Novel allowed Hitt to go off on tangents that his other publishers, market-conscious, would not, although Hitt’s books do tend to touch on political and economic issues as farm and hard labor, the rich v. the poor, and insurance scams.

Hitt had a previous union boss book, Dolls and Dues, and had union reps and leaders pop in in The Color of Lust and Frustrated Females.

Sammy Layton is a “honest,” ethical union boss — he’s been through congressional and criminal investigations and has come out clean; he is fodder for editorials and politicians. He wields a lot of power and gets what he wants, claiming he is always looking after the common worker, with his notions of redistribution of wealth.

What is curiously fascinating is that some of what Hitt wrote in 1961 sounds like the rhetoric going on in today’s political climate:

The Mayor: “When you start destroying palaces of the rich, Mr. Layton, the next step will have to be taking away the houses of the poor. You want to redistribute the wealth. You want a socialistic, welfare state [...] you’re trying to get something for your workers that they don’t deserve. No man deserves to be paid just because he’s alive. He has to produce. You’re asking for an increase in pay without an increase in production.  Who are you to decide? Let the free market decide.” (pp. 36-7)

Ellen: “This is the beginning of a socialist state, I know. I’ve read about it, the division of wealth and the eventual poverty of the masses because the government becomes everything and nobody is anything.” (p. 107)

Ellen: “I know what’s pushing you and you haven’t even got enough sense to understand it. What you seek is the socialist state where everyone owns a share and that’s only a short jump from the kind of life none of us want [...] This isn’t what we need here in a free country.” (p. 123)

What is at issue is a major national strike at the heart of capitalism, that Sammy wants to bleed those businessmen with millions so much that they will have no profit to show.  Sammy does not believe in big profit, he wants the workers to all share the pie equally.  The backlash is that more job sites and businesses will collapse, creating an economic disaster.  Sammy has an agenda, wants to prove a point — he is Obama more than he is Jimmy Hoffa.

His weakness: women, and like all Hitt heroes, he has several lovers floating about:

Ellen, his live-in girlfriend whom he breaks up with early in the novel, and then tells him she’s pregnant with his child;

Sally, his executive secretary that he was having an affair with; she has called it quits but Sammy would still like to dip his wick now and then;

Anna, Sally’s sister, who comes to work for him and sets him up for a fall;

Norma, the young blonde daughter of a construction magnet, Charlie Adams, that he falls heavy for; but se has her agenda with Anna to bring about his downfall.

Sammy forces Charlie Adams into signing a labor contract that will ruin his empire.  Norma wants to stop this, so uses her charms and body, promising him her body if she leaves her father alone.  But she sets Sammy up for a bogus rape charge, and with Anna, they create a bogus bribery to Adams to make Sammy look crooked.

When he’s destroyed, Sammy sees the capitalist light, which is a bit corny on Hitt’s side:

The whole difference between capitalism and communism — or freedom and dictatorship, if you will — is the difference between owning what you produce and having the state own it.  When you own it, when you are allowed to keep what you honestly worked for and made possible according to your talents, then you are free. And other people benefit from it.

But when everybody else — whether it’s your government or union or some hoodlum on the street — has the right to demand that you give up part of what you own, no matter if it’s a million dollars or a hundred, then you’re not free. Then, even if it’s fifty years off or five hundred, the same kind of thing has to result as happened to Russia or socialist England or Nazi Germany.

I never thought America could turn out like that, but suddenly I realized how close I’d come to it. I began to look around me and saw that other men were further along[...] And I realized in that moment what I had never taken the time or had the courage to see before: and that’s exactly what a free country is! a country where each man produces what he can, according to how good he is, and how ambitious he is. I realized that there’s only one alternative to that: pushing the weak men, the less capable men to the top, even though they don’t belong there. I saw that some men have to produce more than others, that nature made it that way, just as nature made the color of our hair different. (pp. 152-3)

In the end, the only good union left in the country, he feels, is the marriage union, producing babies…

On the Hitt Scale, I give this one an 8.2.  An interesting book, a social and political diatribe disguised as a sleaze book, but it gets to be too much at times — you want that ol’ Orrie back with the blue collar worker jumbling dames and trying hard to make a buck.

Harry Whittington’s “Cora is a Nympho…” (Novel Books, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on February 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Prolific authors often have a re-occurring character name, along with a theme — for Orrie Hitt, it’s “Lucy” and for Harry Whittington, it’s “Cora.” Many Coras and Noras appear in Whittington’s work, under his name and others.

Whittington published this one under his name, as Cora is a Nympho…, and looking at the back cover copy (above), one wonders if the mob-tied boys at Camerarts knew who Whittington was. “We now take pride in presenting a  young unpublished author — Harry Whittington.”

In 1963, Whittington was 48 years old, not exactly a “young” writer, and had dozens and dozens of books under his belt, a run in the 1950s as a top suspense crime writer with Gold Medal and Ace, work in Hollywood films, riding the constant whirlwind of paperback and genre trends.  He penned westerns, nurse romances, tie-ins and mysteries.  Either the Camerarts guys did not know who Whittington was, or decided to market him as a new writer to an audience who wasn’t aware of his work — in the newsstands sleaze market, Whittngton had only written a few books, for the short-lived Bedtime and for Beacon and Newstand Library under pen names.

The original title of this book was To Find Cora.  Both Fawcett Gold Medal and Newstand Library rejected it — a bad blow for such a professional writer.  So said writer sells it to a secondary market, Novel Books, a Chicag0-based publisher of girlie magazines and men’s fiction with some questionable business ties.  He rewrote the story for William Hamling as a 1966 Sundown Reader by J.X. Williams, Flesh Snare. In 2009, Stark House reprinted it as To Find Cora in a three-book omnibus.

The 40,000 word novel is narrated by Joe Byars, an everyday-man whose wife, Cora, has disappeared on him.  Did she leave with another man?  Possibly, because she was not faithful.  Did she leave because she was bored in the marriage?  Possibly.  Did she meet foul play? Who knows.

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The Genuine Wanton – Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Apparently, this Goff book has “lifted” passages and plotlines from four Richard Prather novels: Kill the Clown, Shell Scott’s Seven Slaughters, Three’s a Shroud, and Dagger of Flesh

Since I have not read them, I can’t pinpoint what Goff used.  Seems he used a lot from Seven Slaughters for a number of books, since it’s a collection of stories.

The Genuine Wanton is told by Angus Cordi, a syndicate hitman. It’s pretty short, 128 pages of big type, so a 30,000-worder, episodic.  Cordi is hired by gang boss Mancini — he gets $300 a week retainer, always ready for a job, which he will get a $5K bonus, 10K if he’s loaned out to another syndicate family.

His first kill: the ex-mistress of Mancini, whom Cordi has been seeing.  Mancini wishes to test Cordi’s loyalty: will he murder th woman he has feelings for? She knew this would happen, and to help Cordi, she commits suicide in front of him.

Cordi develops an MO: get close to the wife or mistress of each target, romance the woman, and make it hurt the target twice, sometimes killing the woman as well.

Cordi is deeply cruel, strangely cold and hardboiled — much like an Ennis Willie killer perhaps…and how much like Shell Scott?

If I didn’t know what Goff was up to with stealing from Prather, I would say “wow!” to this cold, violent short novel; as is, original or whatnot, it’s still a cool book in the ultra-hardboiled fashion.

So who is the “genuine wanton” in the title, or is this another misleading Merit book?  It may be either Cathy or Susan, two young ladies he escorts to a reefer madness swinger party that later proves to be his downfall.  There’s enough sleaze to make this a sleaze book:

The brunette’s tongue lasted like bourbon and went like a piston in my mouth. I forgot about Cathy and Susan and the marijuana, and concentrated on the naked woman in my arms. (p. 111)

And enough killing to make it crime noir.

A Look Back @ Men’s Digest

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I have been, and will in the future, been reading books published in the 1960s by Camerarts, under their Novel and Merit imprints.  I was curious about their magazines Men’s Digest, Best for Men, and Rascal, so picked up a few copies on eBay.  One of them was Issue 54 from 1964…

It contains seven short stories (many only 2-3 full pages, or about 2K words, maybe excerpts from books), a couple columns and one feature article. One story is by Robert Bloch, “Red Moon Rising” and one is ny Con Sellers, “Passion Thief.”  (I am on the search for the two issues that interview Orrie Hitt.)  There are photo spreads of semi-nudes throughout, some models I recognize from Novel Books covers — artwork too (the art for the Con Sellers story is the same for a Herb Montgomery novel.)

It started out as The Men’s Digest, digest size, up to issue 40 or so, then went to full size as Men’s Digest.

The stories have the same feel as the books — first person tough guy, noir, sleaze, good entertainment with little artistic value.  That is, men’s fiction. The Con Sellers story in Issue 54 of Men’s Digest starts off:

She hated his guns. It was plain in the curl of her rich lips, the tautnessof her full body.

It didn’t bother Ken Corey; it never did. As long as he got what he wanted, the hell with how other people thought about it. And right now, he wanted this girl. (p. 7)

All three of the magazines are packed with fiction, a good market for writers at the time.  They just didn’t have publishers like this anymore.  Is that a good or bad thing?

Many of the sleaze book publishers also had periodicals — Nightstand/Cornith had Rogue and various nudie digests, Brandon House put out low grade smut rags…Playboy and Penthouse had ventured into books, films, and cable shows, but none of them lasted much (there is Playboy Radio on XM.) — they may have been too big to have a book arm work.

Ah, the vintage sleaze days…what does it mean to be nostalgic for stuff that was around before I was born?  Maybe because I wasn’t alive and growing up with this time, and the era, that I have an obsessive fascination for it all…the same some become meta-nostalgic, say, for the Roaring 20s, the Elizabethean era, the Civil War, orthe Age of Reason.

But I feel I know this stuff well…must have been from a previous life.

Mad for Kicks by Jack Lynn (Novel Books Special, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is dubbed a “Novel Books Special” and is one of a number of Lynn;s Tokey Wedge private eye books.  Not sure which one is the first but doesn’t seem you need to start with the first, although there are references to characters and incidents from other books.

Wedge is not your typical tall, dark and handsome gumshoe.  Wedge describes himself as

five-six and one half [tall]. One hundred aned forty-seven pounds. A bundle of nerve and verve. Persuasive. Permissive. When it comes to girls, I love ‘em. (p. 19)

The women he connects with often note that he’s “a little guy” or “short man.”  On the cover of Tall and Torrid, we get an idea of what he looks like:

Like the typical 1960s shamus, he gets laid often, he’s tough as rawhide, and he kills the bad guys when necessary. Which has given him somewhat a rep — in Mad for Kicks,  a man offers Wedge $5,000 to track down the man men who kidnapped nd raped his daughter, and wants Wedge to kill them. He’s heard Wedge kills but Wedge tells him he’s not a hired gun, and has only killed ijn self-defense.  Wedge takes the five grand to track the men down, but says he will turn them into the cops. Wedge’s relationship with the local cops is shaky.

Novel Books’ usual hyperbole to make the book seem more than it cam be is employed with this blurb from Men’s Digest (which was owned by Camerarts, that owned Novel):

MAD FOR KICKS outdoes LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER and any book that you care to name for that strong stuff that you men like. Not recommended for women and children.  This NOVEL BOOK powerhouse will make you do a double-take every time you pass a beatnik.

What the book’s connection to Lady Chatterly’s Lover is unclear, as this is a private eye two-fisted tough guy yarn…

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