The Many Faces of John Dexter 0.5: The Bra Peddlers by Robert Silverberg (Nightstand Books #1568)

Dexter - Bra Peddlers

When Robert Silverberg wasn’t Don Elliott at Nightstand, he was sometimes John Dexter, like every other writer in William Hamling’s stable was at one point or another.  People must have thought Dexter — like Don Pendelton  or Ellery Queen — was the most prolific pulp writer in the galaxy.

While Joan Ellis’ Gay Scene had bra models, The Bra Peddlers is about Madison Avenue ad men scheming to sell a new product from Venus Bras: the Up-Cup, a falsie bra that will make flat-chested woman rise, or women who are too big squished down to conventional, less “cow-ish” size.  The material, when touched with clothes over, will fool any person that it’s a real breast — they even have nipples!

Ted Griffen gets the account, moved from sporting goods — it’s a big promotion, and he’s in line to take over the company when the Boss retires, or keels over.  Thing is, he soon finds out that part of the unspoken deal is that Ted’s wife will sleep with the Boss whenever he feels the urge.  Seduced by big money and a future mansion, Ted and his wife, Hazel, agree to this, much to Hazel’s dismay.  But she fears her husband may get fired if she says no, and she does want a better life for her kids.  This is a common softcore theme: women sleeps with the boss or clients so better her husband’s job position…one of Silverberg’s Mark Ryan books, Company Girl, is about this, which I will get to next month, I hope…

Ryan - Company GirlBesides, she has cheated on Ted and he knows…she doesn’t know that he has regular extra-marital sex: there’s his secretary, who comes in and lays on the couch when he needs it…Ted justifies sex this way: with his wife, it’s about ten years of marriage and love; the secretary is just for tension release in his high-tension job.

There’s the occasional woman here and there, too, like one of the senior copywriters, now on the Up-Cup account, who wants to re-kindle an affair that ended three years ago.  Ted has no interest, so this woman sets out to destroy him.

Another copyrighter, a 26-year-old “frigid virgin,”  breaks down at the Christmas party after too much booze, wondering what is wrong with her, why he goes frigid whenever a man tries to make her.  Plus, she feels digusted by the whole advertising biz and the lies they push on the public.  All she wants is to be a houswife and mother, but how will she ever get a husband and have kids when she is afraid to try sex, or has no desire for it?

Ted, drunk too, says he will de-flower her in his office for her own good.  At frst she resists but then gives in, and feels disgusted after.  Over the holiday weekend, she commits suicide.

There seem to be a lot of suicides (Sin Servant, Convention Girl) or attempted suicides (Connie, Unwilling Sinner, Party Girl)  in Silverberg’s softcores, not unlike the suicide in Thorns and other SF works.

The Bra Peddlers is not as good as his other Mad Ad men novel, Woman Chaser, reviewed here, but it is a good, very swift read. I got through it during the one and a half hour train ride to Tijuana. Like Woman Chaser and Orrie Hitt’s Tell Them Anything, reviewed here, these books all read like epsiodes of AMC’s Tv show, Mad Men.

After the suicide of the copywriter, Ted does start to garner a conscience and guilt…and when a lab report comes back that indicates the material in the Up-Cup may cause breast cancer, he decides not to bury the info — but Venus Bras and his Boss do: they are willing to take the chance of harming women in favor of the revenue the product will bring in.

Yep, Ted loses his job. He doesn’t care.  He goes home.  His wife thinks he was fired because sh erefused to sleep with the boss anymore, but he tells her otherwise.  They decide to give their marriage a second go without the temptations of money and material things.

The 1973 Reed Nightstand reprint is The Venus Affair by Jeremy Dunn (John Dexter’s 70s name).

Nightstand - Venus Affair

2 Responses to “The Many Faces of John Dexter 0.5: The Bra Peddlers by Robert Silverberg (Nightstand Books #1568)”

  1. […] Silverberg did a few as Dexter, such as this one, Sin Festival (NB # 1572) and The Bra Peddlers, reviewed here. As Dexter, he also wrote Stripper! and Sex […]

  2. […] all the sexual shenanigans that happen there, found in Savage Love and Company Girl (Mark Ryan), The Bra Peddlers (John Dexter) Convention Girl and Woman […]

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