Leased is one of the many “co-authored” books that Jack Woodford did with up-and-coming adult fiction writers in the 1950s. We see the same today — the co-written works with Tom Clancey, Larry Niven, Andre Norton, etc. — a commercially viable writer who is getting old and cannot produce like they once could will generate outlines, or have existing book ideas done by younger, hungrier writers.
I am guessing that Signature Books was most likely a precursor of The Woodford Press, where Woodford did the same. The back cover of Leased lists nothing but Woodford and co-authors on many books:
We noted before that the books from Key that Hitt seemed to co-wrote as Charles Verne and Roger Normandie had Woodford’s silent stamp all over them.
In 1954, Hitt only had two books published the year before, I’ll Call Every Monday and Love in the Arctic, in hardback from Red Lantern Books. In ’54, Monday was reprinted by Avon, and Beacon issued two paperback originals: She Got What She Wanted and Shabby Street.
What’s curious is that the reprint edition of Leased, published as Trapped (Beacon, 1958), only has Hitt’s byline. Perhaps because Hitt seems to have written most if not all the book, using an idea of Woodford’s, and the Beacon edition has extra text, which has five more opening pages than the hardcover edition. Chapters throughout have more material, so either Hitt added it in to get the paperback to a commercial 60,000 word length, or the Signature edition had edited down Hitt’s original typescript.
Leased/Trapped is narrated by a big red-headed man named Brick Hayden, who co-runs a farm with his alcoholic partner, Roy. The two don’t seem to get along well, or see eye-to-eye on business matters, and Brick has been sleeping with the gal Roy plans to marry, a gal Brick has known for along time, and she admits she wished he had taken her virginity when she was ten and had a crush on him, when he was 14.
The novel opens with Brick negotiating with a guy who runs a “camera club” to lease out part of the farm for three months so young women can model for amateur photographers. Brick is hesitant, but he needs the money, and one of the lead models, a gorgeous woman named Gloria, entices his decision with her looks:
She had long, black hair that wasn’t too curly and that hung down across the deep tan of her shoulders She had a high forehead and very dark narrow eyebrows. Below those were a couple of smoky, laughing eyes that looked out at me across a small, roundly pointed nose. Her lips were full and sensuous, half-parted, and I could see her white teeth and just a trace of her red tongue [...] I felt the hair stand up on the back to my legs and the end of my toes became numb and dead. (p. 7)
Brick soon regrets his decision when he realizes that this “camera club” is a ruse for prostitution, that the men are brought in to eye the girls and pick, and pay for, sex. This is a common Hitt theme in later books, such as Campus Tramp and Three Strange Women, as well as the whole racket of nude photos, found in The Promoter, I ‘ll Cal Every Monday, Hotel Woman, Naked Model, Sin Doll, As Bad as They Come, Affairs of a Beauty Queen, and countless others, including Hitt’s last published novel, Nude Model (1970).
A semi-violent love affair happens between Brick and Gloria. He demands she get out of the hooker business and away from the nude photos but she seems to like the seediness of it. But as we know from many Hitt books, when the hero falls for a sexy woman beyond his means, he’s usually being played.
Leased isn’t up to par with Hitt’s other 1954 titles, like the excellent Shabby Street, but for its connection to the legendary Woodford, and the beginning of one of his obsessive pet themes, it’s an interesting read; on the Hitt Scale, however, it gets a 7 for dragging along.