Archive for May, 2009

Love Nest by Loren Beauchamp (1959)

Posted in Loren Beauchamp, Midbook Books, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

love-nest

One of Silverberg’s early Midwood titles, while he was still “David Challon” and “Mark Ryan” for Bedstand Books, and just starting Don Elliotts for Nightstand.

This is an odd, dark story with a bleak but “happy ending.”  Mike Foster is a cad married to a very wealthy woman.  he used to be a TV repairman and was  “seduced” by the defiant, rebellious fdaughter of a industrial tycoon.  The couple sleep in separate rooms; Foster has an apartment in Manhattan where he keeps his various mistresses, usually strippers he meets.  It’s always the same: at first they are all right with the arragement with this married man, because he has access to his wife’s money and the wife seems to look the other way…or Foster doesn’t discuss his girlfriends (his wife also bops the occasional man); then they want more, marriage and all that, and they know he will never divorce his wife because that would be the end of the money faucet for him.  So he goes from one woman to another…

The novel concerns two of his girlfriends, as he goes back and forth between them. Both are “B-girls.”  One, Peggy, finds out she’s three months pregnant after Foster dumps her; she blackmails him: she will tell his wife about the affair unless he givs her $10 grand, so she can get an illegal abortion (this is pre-Row v. Wade era) and start a new life in California  (10K was like 100K back then, maybe more).

It’s a late term abortion and risky.  Foster gets the money and his wife knows what is up but keeps quiet on the matter.  Peggy dies on the operating table.  Foster confesses what happened to his wife. Foster’s wife confesses her love and wants a new start.  A happy ending?

This is unlike the other Beauchamps that are told from the woman’s POV and ends with a sappy romantic ending like Connie, Meg, Nurse Carolyn, and Another Night, Another Love. Foster is left with his guilt over Peggy’s death, wrought with fear that his wife will divorce him, and surprised when she suggests they begin their marriage a-new.

Duet by Laura Duchamp

Posted in Midbook Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on May 27, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Duet

Laura Duchamp is often incorrectly credited to Robert Silverberg as one of his pen names, because it sounds close to Loren Beauchamp and both published Midwood titles.

Duchamp was a pen name of Sally Singer, according to Lynn Munroe’s site, who also wrote lesbian novels as March Hastings.  Most of Duchamp’s books are, from what I can tell so far, bi-curious novels, about unfulfilled wives turning to women for love, or women, such as Phyllis Campbell in Duet, trapped between their desire for men and their comfort with women.

Phyllis Campbell is 22 and works at a publishing company; she has a strange affair with one of the company’s male authors in his 40s, who writes teenage romances under a woman’s name, books Phyllis grew up on.  This is a stab at men writing women’s fiction, as many men wrote lesbian books, and Laura Duchamp (Sally Singer) is one of the rare actual lesbian writrs.

The sex with this male writer is cold and crude, emotionless, but Phyllis thinks this is the way of the world — her only sexual encounter was in college and it was quick and meaningless in a car.

Her second affair is with another writer, a rich older woman, Naomi Bannister, who writes high brow literature and has won every award and is taught in college; she is one of the elite class with two NY homes and a villa in France.  She soothes Phyllis after a brutal sexual enocunter with the other writer where the wroter lets another man have her for money.

The intimacy between the two women is tender and thrilling for Phyllis…but in the end she chooses a man she has loved and wants to marry, brushing off the year-old lesbian affair as a time of confusion.  Crushed, Naomi crashes her car — it looks like an accident but Phyliss knows it was suicide and she’s to blame.

A well-written, sometimes meldodramtic urban tale of bi-sexuality.

Sin Servant by Don Elliott (Robert Silverberg)

Posted in Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Sin Servant

One of the best of the Don Elliotts, IMHO, at least this far as I read them.

Consider the opening of Sin Servant (Nightstand Books #3651, 1962): “I don’t know why it is I like to hurt people. I just do. Especially women.  It’s the kind of guy I am, that’s all, and I don’t try to make excuses for it.”

The novel chronicles Jimmy Robinson’s journey into the world of S/M and rough sex, from age sixteen to his 20s.  He loses his virginity to an experienced girl in high school who laughs at his lack of sexual know-how.  He then meets a 26-year-old divorcee who shows him how some women like to be man-handled and roughed around.

A bit of autobiography comes into play — Jimmy decides to become a writer. maybe all the sex is true too, who knows.  Jimmy sells a couople stories, but then stops when he finds a more lucrative business: becoming live-in a gigalo for various rich older women. (His first is 37, so that is not really “older” even for a 23-year-old.)  One of his sugar mommas likes to hire call girls for threesomes — high class call girls who come from good stock, and lo and behold, in all irony, one night Leatrice, the girl who had shot him down when he was 16, walks in, to find that the teenage boy she rejected has become a master lover.

It’s an insightful commentary on the psychological make-up of the sadist, and how one is trained to become one by women who desire such things, and how this man seeks out women who get off on pain. This one goes into more detail than your usual “soft-core” and is well-written.

Genre writers (science fiction, fantasy, mystery, western) wrote soft-core to make money when the genre market for magazinesand books dwindled in the late 1950s-early 1960s.  Silverberg wrote an article in 1992 for Penthouse Letters entitled “My Life as a Pornographer” about the scene at the time, recounting:

I was 24 years old when I stumbled, much to my surprise, into a career of writing sex  novels. In l958, as a result of a behind-the-scenes convulsion in the magazine-distribution business, the whole SF publishing world went belly up. A dozen or so magazines for which I had been writing regularly ceased publication overnight; and as for the tiny market for SF novels […] it suddenly became so tight that unless you were one of the first-magnitude stars like Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov you were out of luck.

Silverberg claims he could write a soft-core for Greenleaf/Nightsand/Cornith/William Hamling or Midwood Books and  others in four days, working in the morning to produce 2-4 chapters, taking a lunch break, and then working till evening, where he would switch to writing sf for the rest of the night.  The erotica was paying for his true love, science-fiction that did not pay as much as the market had vanished. It was also paying his rent and dinners at Love Addictfine restaurants and summer trips to Europe.  Producing 2-3 titles a month, starting with William Hamling paying him $600 for the first Nightsstand tittel, Love Addict, and as the books sold well and made profit,  $1200-2000 each. (Hamling paid Scott Meredith $2000 for each pen name/blinded manuscript, and later found out that Meredith was taking more than a standard 10-15% cut, but more like 40-50%, paying writers $1000-1200.” This was  good money for a writer in the late 1950s-ealy 1960s. Silverberg purchased his first house with this revenue — not just a house, but a 10 room mansion once owned by Mr. La Guardia!  $80,000 back then, translated to a couple million now.  When Silverberg was contracted by Hamling to write a certain amount of stories each month for Imagination Science Fiction at $500/month, that was damn good money for a writer in New York in the mid to late 50s:  most writers could live comfortably on $100-200 month, depending what part of the city they lived and if they had modest or upper crust pedacllos.  Silverberg, with his wife, rented a 4-room upscale apartment in Manhattan for $150 a month.  Imagine that!  But $150 in 1950s money was probbaly around $1000-1500, and a four room apartment in New York City today will run $5000 or more a month, with tiny 200 sq. feet holes in the walls going for $1200 or so a month.  Harlan Ellison, he has n oted, paid $10 a week for a room/apartment.

Imn his essay, Silberbeg claims he made about $1000/week on average, not only from checks from Hamling’s many shell accounts used for the books and magazines, but lesbian novels for Midwood as oren Beauchamop and straight sex as David Challon, non-fiction “sex studies”  for Monarch as L.T. Woodward, and science and archeology books geared for the juvenile market for bigger houses, and the science-fiction too.  He burned out on the sleaze in the mid 1960s, but the SF book market had expanded and he wanted to focus more on that.

Silverberg states that the 150 books he wrote for Hamling, and the others (400 in all) not only helped to hone the  carft of plot and dialougue, but put him in a professional mindset that aided the writing of future books — his doens of novels, stories, and anthologies attest to this.

Much more about all this can be read at Earl Kemp’s online zine, el.

Going back to Sin Servant, it is a well-crafted, well-told story with fairly belivable characters. I can see this as a movie.  Who knows, maybe I will adapt it, as I want to make a screeplay out of Barry Malzberg’s A Bed of Money (next review).

Meg by Loren Beauchamp and Backstage Sinners by Don Elliott

Posted in Don Elliott, Loren Beauchamp, Midbook Books, Nightstand Books, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Beauchamp - Meg

elliott - backstage sinner

Both Meg (Midwood Books) and Backstage Sinners (Nightstand) are similar stories — young women seeking fame and having to sleep with certain men to get it.  Meg is about the cimb to supersardom in Hollywood and Backstage Sinners is about New York theater and grindhouse films in L.A.  Both were published in 1961 so probably written around the same time (if not the same month), and meg was following on the success of Connie.  What a drag it must be for a writer to have a hot seller under a pen name and no one knows whose behind the mask — or maybe it’s fun?

Meg is big, busty redhead from a small Idaho town with stars in her eyes. She saves $1000 and takes a bus to New York, after having lost her virginity to Jack, a potato farmer’s son and an ox of a boy.  Since she gave up her virtue, he expects they will get married so Meg high-tails it out of town.

In NY, she meets a talent agent, Bonaventura, a short middle aged slimeball who knows he can make Meg into a star.  He doesn’t require her to sleep with him — he does not mix buisiness with pleasure — buit she does have to sleep with certain men to get places: beauty contest promotoers and judges, money men, directors, producers, actors.  Bonaventura moves Meg around like a puppet — every act is pre-planned and for publicity.  This is the Marilyn Monroe/Jayne Mansfield story re-told.  Meg does’t mind sleeping with the men, she just isn’t into anything kinky like spanking and whips.  She also gets into a faux marriage to an aging Hollywood hunk who is a lot like Rock Hudson or Raymond Burr — ladies men on the outside, gay in secret. The marraige is for publicty to help both their careers.

Meg’s family and friends back home disown her for all the semi-nude photos and the racy films she makes.  Within two years sibce her arrical to NY, she is a superstar with a large Beverly Hills mansion and a satff of four waiting on her.

The sex is often glazed over and not much — you can find more action in a Harlequin romance.  This is pure guilty pleasure soapopera reading. It seems to end too quickly, as if Silverberg was reaching his word limit (all Midwood seem to clock in at 158-164 pages) and had to wrap his story up.

In Backstage Sinners, Jean Bruce is a young actress who is serious about her craft, but in Hollywood, she makes grindhouse junk films where she showsa lit of her body, and has slept with 40 men in a year to get where she is, which seems to be nowhere.  With a year’s money saved, she moves to New York to get away from sleaze Hollywood and study Sid Reinfheld, a method actor who is a lot like Brando but quit acting in his 30s and now coaches hot young actors and actresses. There is a lot of interesting and insightful discussion about acting tecnique, Checkov’s Uncle Vanya and other plays that makes me think Silverberg had some theater background, or had friends who were actors — since he lived in NYC and went to Columbia, no doubt he did, as you could spit on the street and hit three actors in the 1950s, and now.

Jean sleeps with her Svengali teacher, of course.  She wanted to from day one, although he is twice her age and twice her size.  She falls for him and his teaching, as many young actresses have, only to regret it, as most do from a Svengali.  Hollywood beckons for her return, and she cannot decide between a career or living a destitute, artistic life in the theater.

Reed Nightstand (Greenlead Classics) reprinted the book a decade later as The Bed and the Beautiful.

elliott - bed and beautiful

Connie by Loren Beauchamp (Robert Silverberg)

Posted in Loren Beauchamp, Midbook Books, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on May 25, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

midwood - connie

While writing as Don Elliott and John Dexter for Nightstand, Robert Silverberg was also writing as Loren Beauchamp, David Challon, and Mark Ryan for Midwood.  Connie (Midwood No. 18) was a huge bestseller for Midwood, going through four “big printings” and two different covers, both by Paul Rader — above and here:

midwood - connie2

I have the third printing with this second cover.

Connie is told in the thid-person and through the eyes of an innocent teenage girl in Brooklyn.  True to Silverberg’s format for many of his softcore titles, he presents a character the reader cares about who has tragedy befall on them, something so terrible it ruins their lives and changes their worldview.

Connie is 17 and a senior in high shcool.  Her steady beau is a freshman at Syracuse.  Since 15, she has had her entire future mapped out with this boy: the “pinning” for a year,  a year of engagement, marriage at age 20;  house, career, three kids, vacations in Europe, grandkids, gwoing old and happy without a worry in the world.

She writes her future husband every day.  One night, she walks out to the mailbox to send a letter and is kidnapped by a gang out 11 jevenile thugs (big deviant theme of the 1950s, along with beatniks, alcoholics, and wayward wantons); they take her to an abandoned shack and gang rape her for hours.  She is a virgin; she has been saving herself for marriage.  While the rape is brutal, and she comes in and out of conscioiusness, she is shocked when she feels pleasures and has the occasional orgasm. She does not understand this and the gang takes this as  a sign that she’s into it.

The rape devastates her parents and numbs her boyfriend.  She is sent to Arizona to stay with her grandparents for the summer and let the scandal die down (her rape was in all the papers).  While her boyfriend said her “soiling” would not affect their plans, he eventually mails her a break-up letter.

Connie is angry with the world, with men — the gang kids who defiled her, the boyfriend who abandoned her.  She takes a walk, goes into a bar, lets an older man buy her some drinks, and goes to his motel room and has sex with him. She enjoys it.  When the guy is alseep, she opens his wallet and takes $10 and decides she will become a hooker.  She will get back at the world and at men by becoming the opposite of what society expected of her, and never giving her pussy away for free.  She will make men pay; she will make the world turn in shame for her depravity; she will defy and rebel, all in the same of money and fast sex.

She moves to San Francisco without telling her parents where she’s off to and sets herself up as a freelance call girl, first with a man who helps her with her luggage.  She is hot, claims to be 22, and men want to date her; but after dinners and before sex, she informs the men a fuck will cost $25.

Within months she has a long list of clients and referrals and is being paid $100 a night by wealthy older men.  She’s ineperienced at sex at first but soon learns things as she new client has his various kinks and wants, from slapping to anal.

Connie is a romance novel, really; it has that feel of the lost little girl who just wants to be loved.  She does fall in love with a rich cilent who sets her up in Los Angeles: a room in a Beverly Hills hotel ($40 a night!) , a salary, a promise to leave his wife and marry her.  The client turns out to be a sadist who just wanted a mistress.  Connie’s heart is broken and she attempts to commit suicide at the Beverly Hotel.

Her doctor, who gives her a blood tranfusion,  falls in love with her and she falls for him and…

The keen reader will know that this book is not written by a woman.  There are too many men’s fantasies going on: her orgasms during rape (though many rape victims report this does happen, adding to the shame of the experience), her quick willingness to become a whore, the way she speaks.  But this book was not meant to be marketed to women like regular romances.

It’s an engaging story. I admit to a guilty pleasure: I could not put it down, the way you can get sucked up in watching a soap opera and not realize it.  There are a lot of typos and printer errors, but these are to be expected from quickie books.

Like the Don Elliotts, the Loren Beauchamps are of higher writing quality than most sleaze books of the 50s-60s.

I have all the Beauchamps and will talk more as I read them this summer, slowly writing my Silverberg monograph.

Thorns by Robert Silverberg

Posted in Robert Silverberg with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Thorns

While this blog is mainly about vintage sleaze books with a strong focus on Robert Silverberg’s many pen-names from 1958-1964, and as “notes” toward my monograph-in-progress,  Sin, Sleaze and Silverberg,  I also want to examine his science-fiction written at the same time or shortly thereafter, and compare the works.

Thorns was published in 1968 (Ballantine Books)  and contains some elements found in his sleaze books, namely a suicide and sex.  In a lot of his sex books, someone near the end kills themselves or tries to out of despair and/or rejection, which happens in Thorns. There’s a plenty of sex, hinted or direct,  in this novel, but “grotesque” sex — an astronaut went to an inhabited world and the beings there did surgical experiments on him, creating him into “a monster” that certain human women find oddly sexually appealing.  He is paired up with a 17-year-old girl who is a virgin mother to 100 children — earth scientists took eggs from her ovaries for a genetic experiment, gestating the children in six months; she finds herself wanting her babies, lost in the world of being a celebrity freak as the Virgin Mother. She has tried to kill herself twice.

The two are interstellar “stars,” celebs, and a rich mogul pairs them up for publicity, for a narrative of unlikely love among the famous, and the public is fascinated .  They fall in love.  They are tabloid fodder.  Themogul is also an “emotion vampire” — a psychic succubus — who feeds on their pain and needs it like a drug.  The more their pain is in public view, to more he has access to it.

This novel left me disturbed, and few fiction books do that to me, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I am aware of such psychic vampires — I have encountered these types, and I know these people are in the entertianment business as the character in this novel is.  The astronaut’s altered body could be a metaphor, it could be like Michael Jackson’s plastic surgrey that made him in the end look alien, grotesque, and unhuman, yet his fame increased over it.

Thorns was nominated for all the awards and is considered a classic “New Wave SF” book, breaking from old confinements of the genre — there are no heroes in the traditional sense, there is no happy ending.  This is a bleak novel and a commentary on the cult of fame, not unlike the current fascination with Michael Jackson’s death.

The title refers to the thorns on a cactus, and how they penetrate your skin, make you bleed, and cause pain — pain lets these two people know they are alive and still human.

Perhaps it does have a “happy” ending — the lovers unite, freak and lost little girl, and they murder the psychic vampire so he will never hurt anyone — or them — again.

But what was Silverberg warning us in this cautionary SF tale?  The dagers of cult of personality, the dangers of too much power, the dangers of scientific genetic experiments?  This is a dark vision of the future.

Southern Comfort by Gerrold Watkins (Barry Malzberg)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Watkins - Southern

The narrator of this novel is named Gerrold Watkins, a spy for the north.  This is a Civil War novel, although the characters talk like they are from the 20th Century.  I was suspecting, like some Malzberg’s Crossstories, that we’d learn the narrator is in a virtual environment, like Malzberg’s Cross of Fire where the protagonist becomes Jesus ina  virtual  for therapy.

Watkins is in Atlanta, a month before its burning down, spying on some important Confedaerate big wig. he winds up sleeping with his target’s wife and also their black house slave.  What he does not know is that his journals, what we are reading, dispatched to his superiors, have been intercepted, at the Conferates know he is a spy and are letting him go on to find out what his agenda is.  His target’s wife has told her to keep sleeping with him to find out if he slips and tells her something the South can use.

No matter — the Union troops have enterered the city and are bruning it down. As Atlanta burns, so does Watkins in sex frenzy with the wife and the slave.

Not one of Malzber’s better Watkins novels (A Bed of Money is better) but a fun read.

The book is the second Malzberg wrote for Olympia Press New York as a green paperback.  It does not have a sexy photo in front like the others.