Wine, Women, and Love by Adam Snavely (Kozy Books #160, 1962)
When I previously examined Adam Snavely’s The Big Flick, I was impressed and wondered who this guy was, or whose pen name it was and to date I still don’t know (I have heard Adam Coulter, but I don’t know who that is either). “Snavely” published seven books with Kozy, the rest are Bait, 2-4 Sex, Love Drive, Pool Side Pushover, and Split Level Love. I will get to them all eventually — they are all set in Los Angeles, so that’s one clue; the writer was probably L.A.-located.
Wine, Women and Love is a subtle suspense thriller involving domestic espionage, blackmail, and a group of shady government operatives. The protagonist is a woman in her mid to late 20s, Peggy Porter; the first chapter opens with her in bed with some drunk man, a man who is important in some way. She has lured him to her hotel room. Just as the clothes are off and they are in the middle of coitus, several men burst into the room and start taking photos.
The intention here: blackmail the guy.
At first you think they’re grifters targeting rich men, or private eyes, but we get the sensation — it’s never quite said, only hinted at — that Peggy works for these government agents who target certain “key” men in Los Angeles with blackmail and extortion, to make use of at a later date. The group is headed by a sleazy suit named Al Manning, who seems to be power hungry in the political arena. Is he an operative of . Edgar Hoover? The operation sounds like the sort of illegal doings Hoover had FBI agents do in the 1950s-70s.
Peggy isn’t an agent; she seems to be a woman with some sort of criminal entanglement, possible conviction, and she herself is under extorted measures: she is doing this to keep out of prison. She’s not the only one; the group has several women working undercover to get dirt and sleaze from various people….
We don’t learn about her past until half-way through the novel: she was a high school teacher and there was a scandal with three teenage boys, perhaps sexual, something about “corrupting minors.” She was also seen going to meetings of “dangerous liberals,” some who were once connected to Communist groups, so a bit of McCarthyism Cold War red scare is at play. Such information could ruin a person’s reputation and/or job, such as a scientist she’s been dating and going to meetings with.
These gov spook agents seek out women who are on the verge of incarceration, for connections with Communist groups to prostitution and embezzling.
For Peggy, it’s the combo of the school sex scandal, the meetings, and threatening the cushy scientist job her boyfriend has.
The story centers on Monte Rhone, a scuzzy guy in a leisure sit who owns several nightclubs in Hollywood. Her assignment is to get a waitress job in the more ritzy club, The Split-Level, frequented by Hollywood stars, millionaires, and politicians. Rhone is known for hiring only women who will succumb to his sexual desires. Peggy, being leggy and busty, is fir for the job. She hates it but goes through with it, as she seems to have no choice: do it or head off to the pokey, have her name smeared, and have the scientist’s career ruined.
She learns of the humility and depravity that Manning has other women in his grip do, such as putting on sex shows at parties in mansions. She knows she has to get out of this racket before something bad happens. Rhone would probably have her killed if he knew she was a spy.
It’s not certain why the spooks want Rhone in their pocket — he has influence, money, or perhaps it is his access to important and rich people in L.A. She later learns that Manning’s group is called the Constitution Protection Committee — hmm, sounds like Homeland Security.
There’s a great deal of paranoia in the book. Peggy is never sure what is what, why she’s being followed…people she knows are turning up dead, made to look like suicide: another woman who wants to get out under Manning’s control, and then the scientist she once loved…
Mysterious deaths by suicide — sounds familiar.
The ending is subtle, like The Big Flick had — and like that other Snavely novel, both of these do not seem to have originally been written with the sleaze paperback in mind. I’d dare say that Snavely or whoever wrote these couldn’t sell his manuscripts to mainstream publishers so turned to Kozy, maybe adding in a couple sex scenes. The sex in both is arbitrary, but fits: The Big Flick being about Holltywood movie makers, Wine, Women and Love (a title that doesn’t really fit) about a woman using her sex appeal to entrap men in blackmail.
Definitely looking forward to the other Snavely novels, if they are written by the same person. The name could be a house name — for instance, Love Drive was credited to Orrie Hitt in the ozy catalogue, and on the title page of the book, but has “Adam Snavely” on the cover. But is it Hitt or was it a printing mistake?