Candy by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block), Midwood #40 (1960)

Lord - Candy

Early Lawrence Block is always a mixed bag of good and not-so-good, such as some of the very early Nightstands. Midwood published Block’s first book as a Sheldon Lord, Carla [Midwood #7, 1958]  (later reprinted as Puta), although his first sale was the Lesley Evans lesbian novel, Strange Are the Ways of Love, for Fawcett Crest, 1959.  Seems Midwood had less turnaround time from manuscript sale to publication.

Evans - Strang are the ways of love

Lord - CarlaBock excelled in the lesbian themed novels as Sheldon Lord, some Andrew Shaws, and as Jill Emerson, who went from sleaze paperbacks to several mainstream novels with Putnam in the 1970s.  Many critics were convinced that Jill Emerson was actually a woman, and has been included in some lesbian pulp fiction anthologies without a mention that Emerson is really a man.  Block was more convincing a female writer than Silverberg.

So Block continued to write more books for Midwood, most lesbian themed works, and one he collaborated with Donald Westlake, Of Shame and Joy.

Candy is considered a lesbian novel, or a novel with lesbian sex going on…an instance where the woman, Candy, leaves the narrator for what a wealthy Park Avenue lesbian has to offer a sexy girl from the backwoods of America.

Candy is also one of Block’s finest Sheldon Lord books and early works, better than April North, better than the Sheldon Lords that Hard Case published. His early Nightstands were about college kids and young sexuality, and then he started to move toward crime noir/erotica, like Shame Dame as John Dexter.

In one typical Block line, he has a character reading a book by Alan Marshall (Westlake), with one hand in his pocket…

Jeff Flanders is 34 and works at a finance company that gives personal loans with a high rate of interest.  They are basically legal loan sharks without the leg breakers.

One day a sexpot 19-year-old blonde from the sticks, now in the big city, wanders into the finance company looking to borrow $1000.  She has no job, is new in New York, and no credit or collateral, but she figures her looks and sexuality will get her the loan.  She suggests Jeff co-sign her loan and in exchange he can have sex with her….

She says her name is Candace Cain. Candy Cain. Right.  The “Cain” seems to be a nod to James M. Cain, just as Orrie Hitt names his hero “Kane” in Two of a Kind, also a Midwood. Both books are about what the sexuality of a minx can do to a dumb man’s head.

Jeff has been married for four years to a woman named Lucy but things have dulled. He’s bored with his going-nowhere life, waking up every day to go to the same job, going home the same time to the same wife to the same married sex…

So Candy offers him excitement.  He agrees to loan her $1K from his savings and she can pay him back. He doesn’t expect to see the money back., but he does expect sex and she gives him that, plenty of it.

The novel opens with Lucy confronting him — she knows he’s been seeng another woman, there are all the telltale signs: coming home late, lack of martial sex, the smell of another woman on his body…

But the novel is really a long confession/suicide note from Jeff, as he chronicles what happened…

For several months, he “kept” Candy; being a girl from the mountains, she didn’t know much with her little-girl voice and need for sex and food.  As long as Jeff gave her $70 a week, paid her hotel bill, bought her food and took her to the movies, she was content.  Until one day she wanders up 53rd Street and toward Park Avenue…

There she sees all these women in mink coats and sable shaws, walking little dogs, reeking of money, and she knows what they are: that they too are kept women, but their men have much more money than Jeff.  She knows she is better looking than these women, and better in bed, and that she could find a man worth millions who could give her minks and sables.

Just as Jeff is about to dump her because he’s going broke taking care of, Candy dumps him and that does’t bode well for his ego — nor does her contention that while he’s great in bed, he’ll never have the income that she requires in a man.

Jeff finds that Candy was a drug, and without his drug, he’s in withdrawl and needs her.  But she vanishes, having found her sugar daddy…

A while later he spots her and follows her to a posh West Side building. He later finds out what apartment she’s in, and a way to spy on her from the next building. Playing peeping tom, one day he sees her in the apt.naked — with another woman.

Candy has a sugar momma, “a flat-chested boyish woman with n arrow hips.” The woman is Claire Lipton Christie, of the wealthy Lipton Family (Lipton tea?)

He goes up to the apartment and confronts Candy’s lesbian keeper, to get Candy back — he’s lost his job, lost jis wife, lost his rspect — what does he have to lose?  The millionairess mocks him and he loses control — he punches her, hits her, drags her to the bed and rapes her.

Then Candy calls him…she needs to see him…he does…she wondere why he did it…in an odd way, she is flattered that he would go to such measures for her…

And she says he killed Claire.  Kill her?

They have to run…

Kill her…how did he kill her…and when the news says the woman was killed by a knife after rape, Jeff knows he never used a knife on her…

Block was firing on all pistons here: clear, concise prose, masterful pacing, a few curve balls…

A 9.5 for sure, and a recommedned read for all Lawrnece Block and 60s sleaze and Midwood fans.

4 Responses to “Candy by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block), Midwood #40 (1960)”

  1. […] Candy by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block), Midwood #40 (1960) « Those … […]

  2. […] this one is not as good as the Sheldon Lords like the excellent Candy and April North. It’s slow-moving and droll much like Orrie Hitt’s droll Mad Ad novel, […]

  3. […] was a page-turner, one of Block’s best early work on par with The Sex Shuffle or Candy.  And maybe a tad […]

  4. […] Lust, $20 Lust, for Nightstand; April North, The Sex Shuffle and Pads Are for Passion for Beacon; Candy and A Strange Kind of Love for Midwood — we see the seeds of the writer and style Block was […]

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