Before he was Loren Beauchamp for Midwood and Don Elliott for Nightstand, Robert Silverberg was David Challon and Mark Ryan for Bedtime Books in the late 1950s. The success of Bedtime sleaze titles on newsstands inspired (by suggestion of Harlan Ellison) William Hamling to start Nightstand, Midnight Readers, etc., as the science-fiction pulp magazine was dying out. Hamling’s company already publoshed Rogue, a men’s magazine edited by Ellison that was good competition for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy — both were Chicago-based, with quality modeld and good writing (often by Ellison and Silverberg under pen names). Hamling published books under the Regency imprint (issuring Ellison’s Gentleman Junkie and Memos from Purgatory, and the first edition of Jim Thompson’s The Grifters). (Silverberg also wrote a bio of de Sade for this imprint, which I will discuss in a later post.)
Silverberg welcomed work at Nightstand since Hamling had previusly had him on a $500/month contract for SF stories, and the start pay was $600 with a $250 bonus for sales…later increasing to $800, $1000, $1200, and then $2000 per book as the books sold well and made money. Bedstand paid $400-500 a book, so Silverberg stopped writing for them when Hamling put him on a two-book a month contract — that was damn good money for a writer back then, considering that Silverberg was still penning occasional SF, detective and ghost-written stuff, plus his non-fiction books for younger readers.
French Sin Port is an odd, uneven work of suspense and debaunchery. The first few pages, I wondered if this was Silverberg, as it started rather sappy and superficial about two teenage American girls, Maureen and Naomi, on vacation in Europe for the summer. First, they spent a month in France, where they find love, sex, and crime.
Maureen’s parents have sent her off abroad to keep her from marrying this geeky accountant (bow tie!) whom she lost her virginity to. She meets an Ameican artist in Paris and falls in love with him; her friend meets a French guy who invites them down to the French Riveria for a week for fun in the sun and sin a la carte.
Maureen is hot, topless on the beach, and gets noticed by a hunky French guy who is a pimp for a Greek tycoon, his giant 20-cabin party yacht anchored off the shore. She gets suckered into a big party on the yacht, mingling with countesses and the rich, gambling with money she doesn’t have, and getting the eye of the 62-year-old Greek man, whom she find srepulsive.
She sleeps with the French man, who fucks her like she has never been; she realzies the two men she’s been with are lousy in bed, inexperienced. But then the French guy hands her off to the Greek man. He is willing to pay her money and she refuses.
The Greek man does not like to be rejected, and later he arranges for her kidnapping, where he rapes her. During the second rape, acting like she is giving in for $25,000, she knocks the Greek over the head with a lamp, runs naked out of the cabin and jumps off the boat.
Returning to Paris, afraid she will be hunted down and killed, she sees the newspaper the next day that states the Greek tycoon died of a massive stroke. She feels no remorse — she is glad she killed him for the rape.
Maureen acts strange for a rape victim — she sleeps with two other men (one her artist lover) immedately after. Her accountant boyfriend shows up in Paris, prepared to marry him, ring in hand, but she tells him she’s moving in with the artist. He tries to rape her too and she bites him and knees him in the nuts — she will not be a victim again.
She’s a bit two-dimensional, though, and this does read like a young writer’s early efforts (Silverberg was 24 at the time). It’s a fast breezy read; I could picture it as one of those teen sex beach romp movies on the 1980s.
I have not read the other David Challon or Mark Ryan books yet. . . (Note: the number of typos in amazing, as well as a missing Chapter 13, where there is just blank space.)
French Sin Port was reprinted in 1967 by Greenleaf’s Ember Library imprint as Rogue of the Riveria by Don Elliott: