In the April 2002 issue of Earl Kemp’s online zine, el, Kemp writes:
In 1961, in an ironic twist of fate, Hamling acquired Bedside Books from New York, completing the circle to where it had all began in the first place. In a further twist, the first Hamling Bedside Book (1201) was Robert Silverberg’s Woman Chaser, by Don Elliott.
Bedside/Bedstand Books was Nightstand’s competitor, or vice versa, and William Hamling got the idea of getting into softcore because Robert Silverberg sugegsted to Harlan Ellison to suggest it to Hamling. Silverberg was writing for Bedside as David Challon and Mark Ryan, as I have discussed earlier in this blog.
Under Hamling’s ownership, Bedside started with 1201, so why not begin with Nightstand’s top writer?
Woman Chaser is like watching an episode of Mad Men, the hit AMC TV show set in late 1959/early 1960, about the office antics and outside affairs of Madison Avenue ad men…so much so that I now wonder if the creator of Mad Men read Woman Chaser and borrowed some from this out of print, long lost Silverberg novel.
Like Mad Men, everyone smokes and drinks all day, and the men in the ad office chase skirts, married or not. The protagonist, Curt, is a notorious womanizer and lead copywriter (like the lead character in Mad Men). He’s 29 and just got married to Nina, a gorgeous magazine writer working on her first novel. He’s been caught, but his pussy chasing days are not over…he can’t help himself…a bra model comes in…he takes her to dinner…she takes him home…he falls asleep…Nina knows, she smells the other woman on him, she knows her husband is a oussy hound, but she forgives him…and keeps forgiving him.
This is a novel about a man cracking up, his life going to hell. But why? He’s well paid, moving up in the world, has a wife all men drool for…he starts losing it because he tries to fight his womaniaing urge. He starts to drink too much, he loses weight, his ad copy is average instead of top notch.
In most Elliott/Beauchamp books, it is a woman who cracks up, drinks too much, becomes a nympho or a a whore. Silverberg turns the tables here. Curt is a sex addict — he is addicted to the chase and conquest, he needs new women, new pussy, new flesh, that is his drug. Without it, he becomes sick and crazy. It does not matter that he has the world’s most beautiful and devoted wife at home — he needs the wild side, he needs sin and gutter filth sex.
Like Dina in March Hastings’ The Drifter, Curt checks into a fleabag motel and tries to commit slow suicide by drinking himself to death. Was this common in the early 1960s? His wife Nina and a friend from work find him and save him…
Like Summertime Affair, Man Mad and a few others, with a little tweaking and toned down sex (as if it isn’t toned down enough), Silverberg could have published this book with another publisher at the time — Dutton, Lippincott, Scribner’s Sons — as a literary novel, it’s that good, and that interesting. I’m sure Silverberg doesn’t see that, then or now, but this is a gem of a little novel and worth reprinting.