Brutal Passions by S.N. Burton (Bellringer Books, 1964)
A reader of this blog recommended I check out sleaze pulpist S.N. Burton. I’m glad he did, and I am glad I did.
Wow. Here is another one of those travestities of the slewazecore — a gem of a well-written novel packaged as softcore and forgotten ten minutes after it hit the newsstsands.
Brutal Passions was published by Bellringer Books, an imprint of L.S. Publications, that also published Gaslight Books. The company was very short lived. I have no idea who “S.N. Burton” may have been and it seems like he (has to be a he) published only 3 books with the company, all in 1964. If he published elsewhere under another name, I don’t know yet, but would love to track him down.
This is a portrait of an emotionally and spiritually tormented young man, Kirk Wade, age 27, a blue collar construction worker who moves from town to town where the work takes him, living in boarding houses, whooping it up on weekends, sleeping with whatever floozies and bored wives hang around the local watering holes. He works on a pipe-laying crew for new housing projects, driving a Caterpiller tractor, a but of a specialized job whereas the other guys just dig ditched and put pipes into the ground.
Burton writes like a combination of Cain, Thompson, Hitt and Brewer, getting the voice of the working class schmoe down pat with terse, tough guy prose that is sleek and tight.
At one boarding house, he gets involved with the daughter of the people who run it. He and his co-workers Benny and Coombs are in the house. The girl, 20 year old Marla, sneaks into his room each night, into his bed, but claims to be a virgin who will only give him the “prize” until she has a ring on her finger. They kiss and pet and talk of the future, and it drives Kirk crazy. When he calls her a teasing evil bitch, she likes it, and wants him to call her names as he begs for her body…this is Kirk’s first forway into sadism…
I was out of my mind in love for her…I’d already consented to quit pipelining, to settle down in Sanford, to become a meek, docile construction cat driver — to push meaningless little piles of dirt and gravel around for the rest of my life. (p. 55)
But Marla has been playing him. He has paid $500 for a diamond ring ($5K in then-time cash, so a nice one for a homeless blue collar man), and then he finds out the whole time she has been fucking his buddy Coombs…he walks in on them going at it as Coombs “slams” it to her. Coombs knew he was planning to marry her. They both have betrayed him.
Kirk beats the crap out of Coombs and Marla cliams she was raped but Kirk won’t have it. He realizes that Marla is indeed an evil bitch and has been playing mind games for her own sadistic amusement.
Kirk goes on a woman-hating rampage. His heart broken, his spirit shattered, he believes all women are like Marla so sets out for revenge. From town to town, he beds drunken whores, sluts, tramps, trollops, syrumpets, wenches, mavens, married women, any woman he can get his hands on; he butters them up with sweet talk and once in bed he’s brutal and sadistic, leaves them feeling like trash, calls them names, all in an act of revenge against women in the name of Marla’s sins against his heart.
All through the act I’d curse and call the woman every unprintable name that came to my mind. Afterwords they lay there sobbing, feeling sorry for themselves because they had been taken in, because they had been brutalized. Used. Just like Marla had done to me. (p. 70)
This is an uncommon element of sleazecore novels — to delve into the psychology of what makes a guy become a misogynist, a woman hating heel. Yet we do not see Kirk as a bad man, just a tormented guy haunted by this pain of betrayal. Kirk knows that what he does is wrong, and he feels bad later, but every time he sees a woman he remembers Marla and what she did and he gets angry and violent.
He meets Vicki, the sweetest, most inncoent virgin possible. He feels if he does this one last act, to ruin an innocent girl rather than a bar slut or a cheating wife, he will be free from his demons.
So he strategically seduces Vicki. He knows all the right words, despite her stand that she will not sleep with any man until she is married. But she likes Kirk, likes his kindness — he’s fun and romantic and has no idea she’s being played. He pays a bartender at a restaurant to make her drinks twice as strong so she will get drunk and she does…she lets things get too far…he claims he loves her and will marry her and believing this, she gives up her virginity; but after the act, he laughs at her and calls her trash, a slut, tells her he was playing her all along…she is so destroyed that she lets him have sex with her a second time, and then he leaves her like that…
I felt strangely relieved. For the first time in months I was rid of the coying hate for Marla. I should love Vicki. She had helped me purge myself of Marla’s degenerative influence. (p. 86)
All seems well until one night he meets Laura, a school teacher, at a bar, and goes home with her. She says she’s a virgin and chose him. He doesn’t believe her. He continues to see her and she falls in love and he feels the same, but the love makes him remember Marla and he starts to hate, he’s afarid Laura is lying to him…he tells her about Marla and loses his cool. He hits her and she tells him to hit her if it makes him feel better. Laura is willing to become a masochist, a punching bag for his demons.
He realizes that he needs to get revenge on Coombs, not women. Coombs has become the foreman now on the pipeline gang, and the two insult each other all day, the situation of Marla between them. Seems Coombs dumped Marla but she left home and kept following them from town to town like a love-sick dog. In a way, Kirk feels good that Marla got hers, but Coombs hasn’t…
Seems Coombs is wild about some diner waitress named Stacy and wants to marry her. Kirk sees the path. He secretly puts on the charm to Stacy, asking her out, despite her protests that she has a boyfriend. But Kirk is better looking than Coombs, and Stacy is an average girl, easily charmed by his words…when he beds her, he steals her panties and bra an d hangs them on the flagpole at work, for Coombs to see and know that someone has made his love…
But even the revenge I’d made on Coombs didn’t help to relieve the bitter despair that seemed to grow daily more intense in my mind. I was an incomplete man, empty, void of all emotion…What was the missing fragment, the spark that would make my life worth living again? (p. 139)
He knows that what’s missing is Laura, he has to go back to her and trust her, marry her…that is, if Coombs will allow it to happen when he gets his revenge…
Is revenge a dish best served cold? Once revenge is gained, does it really make the hurt revenger feel better, or worse? Heavy questions for what was sold as a right-hander book.
It all ends in violent acts of revenge, men against men for the acts they do against women.
I read this in one sitting — it was that damn good, and its’ short, c. 40,000 words in a samll paperback format, 192 pages, wide margins. How the hell it got lost as an obscure paperback is anyone’s guess — some good writer needing quick cash, perhaps. This could have been a Gold Medal or even a Nightstand, where it would have reached a wider audience.
I will most definitely read and review the other two Burtons, Slaves to Sin and Forced to Sin. Cheesy titles, but if they are as good as Brutal Passions…