Orrie Hitt — Who Was He?
The name Orrie Hitt has come up several times the past week that I thought I’d address the topic briefky.
Like Max Collier, Mike Avallone, Carter Brown, Don Elliott, J.X. Williams, and John Dexter, Orrie Hitt published hundreds of sleazecore novels in the mid 1950s to the early 1970s.
In an email, Barry Malzberg wrote to me:
Orrie Hitt was a real guy in Mississippi, big jolly fat guy Gil Orlovitz told me who wrote this stuff to put his daughters through college. They got through college and he quit. Later he died (in his 50’s). I don’t know if that’s true but it sounds reasonable.
(A curious side note: a fellow Malzberg fan told me that a bookseller we shall not name once had a Mel Johnson/Orrie Hitt Softcover Library double novel set at a high price and would not slash the price down, claiming that Malzberg penned the Hitt book, that Malzberg was (1) either Orrie Hitt or (2) borrowed the pen name. “You’re getting two Malzbrgs in one book!” said vintage bookseller who apparently did not know his vintage writers. Malzberg has confirmed to me that he did not pen any Hitt book, like others penned Carter Browns or John Dexters.)
Doing the nifty Google search, one hit on Hitt from a blog has this to pontificate:
Orrie Hitt Wrote the Great American Novel– Over & Over/ Why “Confidential” Continues to Thrill/ The Sweet Ride of Mail Art/And Which Mayors Are Married to the Mob?
Who the Hell was Orrie Hitt? Orrie Hitt wrote “racy” pulp fiction in the 50’s and 60’s. Most of it published in PBO’s (paperback originals). Skipping the hardback route, premiering in ephemera that sported covers alive with totally killer babes and guys in various states of mayhem. Married with children, Hitt wrote from a trailer in upstate New York, tossing back iced coffee and tapping out classics of sleaze on a battered manual in a matter of days. Meanwhile, angst ridden authors in cultural Meccas sweated bullets to produce a novel every seven years or so. God made the world in six days but Hitt made his in less. Again and again.
Here’s a Hitt bio in less than 100 words:
Hitt had a grinding regimen, twelve-hour days in front of an aged Remington Royal perched on the kitchen table, surrounded by iced coffee, noisy children and Winston cigarettes, pausing only for supper or to watch wrestling or Sergeant Bilkoon the television.
Hitt produced a novel every two weeks, for which he was paid as little as $250.
—Lee Server in Over My Dead Body: The Sensational Age of the American Paperback: 1945-1955
Another blogger writes:
…How many young men in the 1950s and 1960s poured over the Orrie Hitt novels published by Beacon and Midwood with titles like DORMITORY GIRLS? I went on line and found a Orrie Hitt novel titled THE SUCKER. The back cover blurb had the headline “One Damn Girl After Another.” In this day of explicit sexual content on television, it is hard to imagine the time when this sort of thing was borderline legal. On that back cover there is the wonderful rundown of the women the hero knew including one with whom he “…conspired by day and perspired by night.” My goodness, the writer who came up with that should have been carried out of the room on the shoulder of his or her peers.
For years I assumed that Orrie Hitt was a “house name” as it seemed unlikely that any writer could be that prolific. Few writers put their real names on Beacon or Midwood paperbacks. Michael Avallone was one exception. Mike came up with the best soft porn title THE CUNNING LINGUIST but he did use his Troy Conway name for that one.
So years ago I was surprised to learn that Orrie Hitt was a real person
You get the pic, dig on the Hitt.
I’ve heard mixed things about Orrie Hitt. Gil Fox, talking to Lynn Munroe, said: “Orrie Hitt wrote absolute drivel! Have you ever tried to read an Orrie Hitt book?” Hmm…Gil Fox wrote as Paul Russo, Kimberly Kemp, and Dallas Mayo, and some of them aren’t all that good, and some are pretty good. Any prolific writer is bound to be a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly — true for Earl Stanely Gardner, Issac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, Barry Malzberg, and Lawrence Block.
Hitt wrote for just about every sleaze paperback publisher — Beacon, Softcover, Newsstand, Kozy, Midwood, Boudoir, Saber, Novel, Chafriot, Oracle, and I think he did a couple for Nightstand. Most seem to be for Beacon and Kozy. He used the pennames Kay Addams an Nicky Weaver, yet preferred his own name on the covers, without an agent, typing away at home and sending his stuff out, starting out at $250 a book in the mid-50s (about $2000 in then-time money). I guess he didn’t have any fear of the FBI coming after him — “Orrie Hitt” sounds like a pen name, like Saber Books’ “A. Bunch” or Cornith’s “A. Schole.”
The Promoter came in the mail today.I have a few others (see below). Glancing through them, Hitt has a hardboiled voice wth snappy dialogue and shame dames in trouble. The men tend to be blue collar workers, sleaze masters, cheating husbands, with come cheating wives, hookers, and lesbians. Hitt write three or four peeping tom books, perhaps a passion of his? I will be reading him and adding him to this blog soon.
I got The Cheaters for the Rader cover alone. Seems to be about a hardboiled bartender and this married woman…
And how could books with these titles and covers be ignored?