Several recommendations for Ennis Willie came in the past month or so…these used books are all pricey but managed to find a few on eBay in lots from people who didn’t know what they had (I got this one plus four other Merit Books for $9).
Merit Books evolved from Novel Books, both in Chicago, both boasting to publish shocking in your face novels “for men.” On the cover spine reads: MERIT BOOKS – UNCESORED OFFBEAT NOVELS FOR SOPHISTICATED ADULTS. Both were published by Camerarts, owned by Joe Sorrentino.
Orrie Hitt and George H. Smith were Novel regulars, but did not publish with Merit — some suggest that authors did not like their books re-issued with unauthorized new titles.
Ennis Willie published most of his books with Merit, and one with Sanford Aday’s Vega Books, Vice Town. Willie had a series character, Sand, who is the “hero” of Warped Ambitions (“A Sand Shocker”).
I didn’t need to read the previous Sand novels to get the gist of what was going on — Sand is a former syndicate knockaround guy who left the mob for moral reasons and is now on their hit list, but every time they send assassins, things get bungled. I felt, half-way through, having read the first few Sand books would have been good, to get a better “feel” for Sand — he’s basically two-dimensional, your run of the mill killer with his own moral code not unlike Andrew Vachss’ Burke.
Warped Ambitions opens with a botched hit on Sand on the street; a passerby gets the bullet, an old man who, dying, makes Sand promise to “find Sarda.” He later learns that Sarda is his daughter and they are carny people…and later he finds out Sarda is The Monkey Girl — she has a disorder where thick hair grows all over her body.
With “a blood oath” on his conscience, he sets out to find the Monkey Girl — was she kidnapped or did she run away, now that she has turned 18? Sand uncovers info that Sarda was actually the daughter of an old time mythical mob boss who gave her up for adoption because of her condition, and has left her $250,000 for her 18th b-day.
There are stereotypical thugs and hitmen, the stereotypical overweight detective who is pissed that Sand is always leaving bodies around, and the usual gorgeous blonde rich woman who has a thing for apes and simian rights.
Despite the stereotypes, Willie is a remarkable writer — he is spare, minimalistic, violent and witty. This book clocks in at 125 pages in large type and wide margins, probably 25-30K words long, far too short for commercial publishers like Gold Medal or Pyramid, where one mght expect gangster noir titles would come from.
Thee are some annoying issues with logic and continuity, however — if Sand is being hunted down by the mob, why do they have trouble killing him when he’s always out in the open, walking the streets, lives in a hotel room that everyone knows he is at? In one chapter he takes taxi cabs, in another he has a car — why? And the detective and cops just let him roam about with his gun, playing tit for tat…well, this is fiction.
In fact, the world Sand lives in is an alternate universe, much like Sin City — Sin City types of fiction ans film and many other dark crime works, even Andrew Vachss and Joe Lansdale, follow in Ennis Willie’s shabby footsteps.
I’m not sold on Willie yet. I need to read more, especially non-Sand books. There is much to admire but there are some major flaws in the story-telling — but did that matter for a “sleaze” adult book? This is not erotica or softcore, this is crime noir in the Manhunt vein with sleazy and dirty situations (a woman stripping in a private party to pay off her gambling debts), kinky encounters (a naked whore waits in Sand’s room as a gift to him, and she is surprised he does not take her as his slave), and warped ambitions (the rich woman wishes to have her favorite gorilla mate with the Monkey Girl and create a new species, which would be genetically impossible, but she does not care for facts).
Willie wrote 19-20 books it seems, and then stopped, taking up the fine profession of printing, or so I have read. He apparently is still alive and kickin’ and there seems to be a call to put his work back in print. His books tend to be scarce and pricey to find.
Now, as for Merit Books — in this lot I got are some curious gems that I will talk about later, from writers Jerry Goff, Jr., Herb Mongomery, and Bill Lauren…I love finding these obscure writers who are obviously pretty damn good, lost in Amercan pulp literature’s margins…
This is one hilarous book, from William Hamling’s Greenleaf as it headed into the 1970s under the helm of Earl Kemp.
Jane Long is, I think, Linda DuBriuel…reads like her style.
This is a faux “sex study” where the author interviews various housewives to find out how they get off while the hubby is away and all they have at hand are common household items.
Many women in my life have confided to me their discovery, a teenagers or earlier, the certan joys of shower nozzles, candle holders, and kitchen utensils. These things happen. Read this confession from this book:
I was vacuuming out the bedroom, I remember, and I was in my usual summertime house-cleaning costume, which is to say, I was nude. Okay, there’s my narcissism coming out again, I know, but it’s just the way I like to operate. Well, there I was stripped to the buff and whirling around that apartment like nine devils were after me. I hadn’t realized that I had this erotic mood coming over me until all of a sudden I looked up and saw myself in the mirror, across the bed. I had the vacuum cleaner tube in one hand; I’d been vacuuming off the baseboards.
I’ll have to admit that I do think I have just as nice a body as those girls who pose for magazine centerfolds. Not that I’ve ever actually seen any of those models in the flesh, but lots of the men passengers leave their magazines behind, you know, and some of them have mighty revealing pictures.
Anyway, as I was saying, I stood there turning this way and that, admiring myself in the mirror. I moved over closer to the mirror so I could see more detail, especially down between my legs, the part I most like to look at. You see, I have this peculiarity: I have a lot of hair up high, on the love mound itself, but I’m nearly bald, I guess you’d call it, down where the lips and clitoris are. It’s odd, or I think so, but it makes it handy for viewing, if that’s what a person likes—and I like it.
I accidentally touched the vacuum cleaner tube to the skin of my thigh as I was standing there admiring myself. It attached itself to my thigh, right on the inner side, about halfway between my knee and my crotch. I pulled it off, impatient with myself for dawdling around, but then I realized it had felt sort of good when I tried pulling it off. Even my thighs get very sensitive to the touch when I’m excited like that, and I saw that I’d hit upon something very interesting.
A recommnded funny sleaze read, and example of Greenleaf Classic’s heydey. It’s hard to find and pricy but seems Olympia Press has turned it into an e-book over here.
Sex doesn’t always have to be dark and serious. As my colleague Larry McCaffery has often said, “Too many people never appreciate how humor there is in sex.” He’s right: when you think about it, all that groping and coupling is hilarous.
Jan Hudson was one of George H. Smith’s nom de plumes (his middle name Hudson) that he did a few books under, most notably the highly collectible Those Sexy Suacer People from Greenleaf Classics.
Smith also wrote many Nightstands as Don Bellmore, and some scince fiction titles. His stuff tends to be comic, playful, and whacky, such as this one.
This is Boudoir #103. The first, #101, was The Wife Traders by Loren Beauchamp, reviewed here in July. Boudoir was a short-lived imprint of Imperial Publishing aka American Art Enterprises, a shady Los Angeles outfit.
Girls Afire opens with protagonist Jeremy Fargo at a Venice Beach party that has been going on for three days. People are drunk, high, having sex, reading poetry aloud — they’re all beatniks too, proto-hippies in L.A., and they see Jeremy as a “sqaure” but he’s there.
Jeremy is a frustrated novelist, once a Madison Avenue commercial artist, following his dream to be a, um, writer of great Ameican literature. His first novel was published but the critics found it bleak and sales weren’t good, so his publisher has rejected his second novel and Jeremy doesn’t know what to do — maybe write a more commercial, upbeat novel?
He has left rainy San Francisco and move to sunny Los Angeles to write. He has rented a room out in a house. The landlady, a good looking woman whose husband is often away, suggests he might pay his rent in trade — that is, sex. He thinks it might work.
At the party, he meets a girl named Deirdre and takes her home. Deidre thinks he may be The One, even if he is a sqaure, but he is a writer. She’s going with a friend of his but he convinces the friend to dump her, that she’s no good; his friend does, leaving a clear path for him.
Then he meets her sister, Jean, and falls in love with her. As much as Jean tries to resist, she succumbs to Jeremy, much too Deirdre’s hurt and anger.
Giving in to his landlady’s reqest of sex for rent, the two are at it when her husband walks in and catches them — he wants to kill Jeremy, and so does Jeremy’s friend when the guy learns Jeremy took Deirdre as a lover, and now Deirdre wants to kill him for taking her sister.
So he has three people after his hide…
It’s funny and short. It’s okay. I’m not much into comic sleazecore. I prefer the serious and dark stuff.
Have no idea who JohnTurner was; he did a handful of Midwoods (exclusively, it seems) like Greg Hamilton, Jess Draper, Vin Fields, Grant Corgan, and Max Collier did. In fact, I suspect that Collier and Turner were the same person, as the writing style is similar. I’m not sure of this yet — need to read a few more books from both to determine this.
The sex is heavier than most Midwoods of this time, like Collier, and the book is well-written, like Collier. While there are no graphic descriptions, Turner lets us know that unusual kinky things are going on “with hands and mouth” that most “normal” people do not experience in bed.
Bob Harper is a businessman in his late 20s, married, no kids. One day he’s in his office and an old college flame calls, Carole — she’s in Boston and wants to see him. Last time he spoke to her, she broke his heart in college by taking off tio Europe and marrying a Swedish guy and having a baby.
Now she has fled Europe and is in Boston, divorcing her hubby, baby in tow, and she wants to rekindle the romance from college with “Robbie.”
Bob is floored — she was the love of his life that he never got over; she showed him kinky and strange things in bed that he’s never asked his wife to do.
He goes to see Carole and of course she seduces him into her hotel room bed — she knows what buttons to push, she knows he is still in love with her and never quite got over her.
Only, he still loves his wife. To make matters worse, his secretary has the hots for him and offers herself in his office. He fires her. To get back, she calls his wife and tells the wife about Carole.
Bob is a mess — he wants to tell Carole to go away but he’s pussy-whipped and weak. His wife decides that the only way to keep him is to do the kinky stuff “with my hands and mouth” that Carole did, and show her husband she can be just as dirty as his old flame.
We never see Carole’s baby — she’s in a hotel room the whole time, but the baby is never around, but may be at her mother’s house, as her mother lives outside Boston.
A curious love-triangle story with an ending that is not quite “happy” but not quite expected either. A recommended vintage relationship novel (not “sleaze”)…I will be reading more Turner, such as The Captive, The Sinners, Christine, and Soft in the Shadows — all which have enticing-sounding story lines.
If anyone knows who John Turner really was (and Max Collier), please speak up!
The Round-Bed Chick is a new novella done as an e-book by Olympia Press, and can be seen and ordered here.
About: A former Army Ranger becomes a reluctant hit-man, earning the possession of a sultry slave–a round-bed chick who pledges her body and soul for the freedom of her tawdry and painful past of sin and debauchery.