Love Addict by Don Elliott (Robert Silverberg) Nightstand Books #1501
This novel has some historical significance in sleaze book publishing, for Nightstand/Greenleaf/Cornith/Blake Pharms, and even in science-fiction history. Love Addict is Robert Silverberg’s first book for Nightstand, and the first Nightstand, William Hamling’s foray into softcore novels — some will contend it was Harlan Ellison’s idea, although Ellison seems to have divorced himself from his contribution to sleaze publishing — not only did he seem to commission and edit this novel from Silverberg (paying him $600, with a $200 bonus when it went into a2nd printing), Ellison wrote the third Nightstand, Sex Gang, a collection of stories that is now a hard-to-find and much sought after collectior’s item, going for $500-800 on the market — hell, a month ago I was bidding on a very poor, falling apart copy on eBay, and someone else got it for $198.
Love Addict is also rare, at least the first printing, but I got my hands on a second priting (1959 edition, Reed Nightstand later re-issued it as a regular-sized mass market ppbk in 1973, see above) for $33.
Silverberg had a previous relationship with William Hamling — he had a $500/month contract to provide text for Hamling’s Imagination, a SF pulp…that went away when the SF market dried up in the mid-1950s. Harlan Ellison was an editor for Hamling’s Rogue Magazine, a men’s slick compeeting with Playboy. In “My Life as a Pornographer,” Silverberg explains it:
I was 24 years old when I stumbled, much to my surprise, into a career of writing sex novels. I was then, as I am now, primarily known as a science-fiction writer. But in l958, as a result of a behind-the-scenes convulsion in the magazine-distribution business, the whole science fiction publishing world went belly up. A dozen or so magazines for which I had been writing regularly ceased publication overnight; and as for the tiny market for s-f novels (two paperback houses and one hardcover) it suddenly became so tight that unless you were one of the first-magnitude stars like Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov you were out of luck.
I had been earning a very nice living writing s-f since my graduation from college a few years earlier. I had a posh five-room apartment on Manhattan’s exclusive West End Avenue ($l50 a month rent – a fortune then!), I had fallen into the habit of spending my summer vacations in places like London and Paris, I ate at the best restaurants, I was learning something about fine wines. And suddenly two thirds of the magazines I wrote for were out of business, with a slew of older and better-established writers competing for the few remaining slots.
Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison in 1960.
But I was fast on my feet, and I had some good friends. One of them was Harlan Ellison, a science-fiction writer of my own age, who – seeing the handwriting on the wall in the science fiction world – had left New York to accept a job in Chicago as editor of Rogue, an early men’s magazine that was trying with some success to compete with its cross-town neighbor, Playboy. (Penthousedidn’t yet exist, in those far-off days.) The publisher of Rogue was William L. Hamling, a clean-cut young Chicago suburbanite whose first great love, like Harlan’s and mine, had been science fiction. Bill Hamling had published an s-f magazine called Imagination, which bought one of my first stories in l954. From l956 on, he had paid me $500 a month to churn out epics of the spaceways for him on a contract basis. Now, though, Imagination was gone, and Hamling’s only remaining publishing endeavor was his bi-monthly girlie magazine.
Harlan, soon after going to work for him, convinced Bill that the future lay in paperback erotic novels. Hamling thought about it for about six minutes and agreed. And then Harlan called me.
“I have a deal for you, if you’re interested,” he said. “One sex novel a month, 50,000 words. $600 per book. We need the first one by the end of July.” It was then the beginning of July. I didn’t hesitate. $600 a month was big money in those days, especially when you were a young writer at your wits’ end because all your regular markets had crashed and burned. One book would pay four months rent. They were going to publish two paperbacks a month, and I was being offered a chance to write half the list myself. “You bet,” I said. By the end of July Harlan had Love Addict – a searing novel of hopeless hungers, demanding bodies, girls trapped in a torment of their own making, et cetera, et cetera. (I’m quoting from the jacket copy.)
Bill Hamling loved Love Addict. By return mail came my six hundred bucks and a request for more books. I turned in Gang Girl in September. I did The Love Goddess in October. Later that month I wrote Summertime Affair also. Two novels the same month? Why not? I was fast, I was hungry, I was good.
In October, also, the first two Nightstand Books went on sale – mine and something called Lust Club, by another young writer who also was making a quick adaptation to changes in his writing markets. His book, like mine, was really pretty tame stuff. What we were writing, basically, were straightforward novels of contemporary life, with very mild interludes of sexual activity every twenty or thirty pages. But the characters actually did go to bed with each other, and we did try to describe what they were doing and how they felt in as much detail as the government would allow.
Silverberg’s essay seems to indicate that Love Addict was his fisrt forway into softcore, but he had been publishing books with Bedside all through 1959 — seven as David Challon and five as Mark Ryan (as far as I can tell), most published in 1959. Love Addict was written in July 1959 and published in Ocober, so Silverberg was a busy guy, typing away. Also, Silverberg makes it look like he was approached to write, although Earl Kemp, in “Have Typewriter, Will Whore for Food,” it was Silverberg’s idea to have Ellison pitch a Bedstand-like series to Hamling:
In New York City, popular young science fiction writer Robert Silverberg discovered Bedside Books. At that point in time (1959), Silverberg had already acquired a serious case of Compulsive Writeritus and was looking for new markets to conquer. Bedside Books looked like a natural. In short order Silverberg was selling them manuscripts that appeared under the bylines of David Challon and MarkRyan. The new market direction could be the answer to many writers’ wildest dreams in the very near future.
Harlan Ellison, along with his wife Charlotte, was preparing to move to Evanston, Illinois, to work for William Hamling. Silverberg approached Ellison with the glorious possibilities for the future for energetic young writers and had him all primed and ready for William Hamling so Ellison could lay out the road map to Toontown in front of him.
Everyone thought Ellison was in Evanston to work on Rogue, Hamling’s Playboy-type men’s magazine. Even Harlan thought so at times, and talked about it incessantly, thereby furthering his modest reputation….
Hamling liked the idea of the proposed books and grasped the concept of the throwaway sleazy paperback firmly in his hands. After a bit of formulation, Hamling sent Ellison back to New York City to start the ever-loving money-making wheels in motion.
Harlan Ellison went straight to Robert Silverberg to report on his success with Hamling in the initial set-up phase of the operation. It was Silverberg, not Ellison, who took the proposal to Scott Meredith that eventually opened the doors to the fabled black box clandestine enterprise that virtually flooded the country with soft-core pornography.
I could even stretch the point just a little and say that it was Robert Silverberg that made me what I am today.
So, basically, Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg started the ball rolling of what is now canonical history in publishing, freedom of speech, obscenity and censorship lawsuits and criminal court cases, and now a niche collectors realm.
Earl Kemp continues:
Toss out the half dozen rather tame sex scenes, Love Addict is an urban novel about a serious drug addiction in the 1950s: heroin, also known as H, horse, junk. It is also a doomed love story.
Jim Holman is an engineer in the middle of a bad divorce. Pissed after leaving his wife’s lawyer’s office, Holman stops off at a Brooklyn jazz club to have a few drinks; there is is mesmerized the 22-year-old woman singing with the band, Helene Raymond. He talks to her, convinces her to let him drive her home…she keeps warning him that she will hurt him, she is no good. She tells him she’s a junkie, and shows him the needle marks on her thigh. She says she has been off junk for three months but knows she will relapse. He doesn’t care; he’s in love…
Problem: the band leader is an ex-boyfriend since she was 17. She has broken it off but he’s possessive and does not like her dating and sleeping with this older man (Holman is 29). Helene is manic and goes back on heroin, that her ex-boyfriend is happy to supply.
Holman tries to help her quit the habit…he takes her for a two week trip to the Adriondacks. He says he will marry her whne his divorce happens. She moves in with him at his upper west side apartment. But her ex-bf tracks her down and gets her hooked again. Holman murders the guy with his own saxophone.
It wasn’t just the sex and the cover that people bought this book: there was the dark forbiddne underside of jazz hopheads, reefer madness, and shooting junk with shared needles (this was pre-AIDS, of course).
The cover is misleading. First, Helene is a blonde and the girl on the cover had dark hair…two, she does not shoot junk in front of him and the man on the cover is not jazzy beatnik enough to be the band members.
It was good to sit down and read the novel that started Nightstand/Greenlead and set off a series of events that have shaped the freedoms of what wrters can write, publishers can print, and readers can read.