Hidden Flames – Victor Jay/Victor Banis (Brandon House #988, 1966)
Victor Banis is better known for his gay novels, having convinced Earl Kemp and Greenleaf that there was a strong potential gay male book market, first with The Why Not, and heading the force of gay writers that came out of Greenleaf in the late 1960s and 1970s. He also wrote a few for Maurice Girodas’s American Olympia Press, such as the classic The Gay Haunt.
But before that, Banis wrote straight sleaze as “Victor Jay” for the North Hollywood-centered Brandon House, that published his first novel, Affairs of Gloria.
Brandon House was one of the leading West Coast sleaze paperback houses, paying $600 per book to hungry writers like Victor Bais.
Banis writes about his long career in sleaze, and the court cases he was involved in, in his memoir, Spin Intact, Some Creases, currently available from Wildside Press/Borgo.
Hidden Flames tells the story of Laura Anderson, a young woman who has traveled from Terre Haute, Indiana, to Los Angeles, to marry her beau, Neil, who is back from a war — Korea? Vietnam? It’s never identfied which war. But Neil breaks down and says he cannot marry because, much like Jake Barnes in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, he suffered an injury that makes him incapable of sexual intercourse — did his balls get blown off like Barnes, or did his penis? It’s never said.
Laura tells him that does not matter to her — she loves him no matter what, and she has waited a long time for him to return from the war.
She’s a virgin, what does she know?
So they get married, rent an apartment, and soon get to know the neighbors — two, Eve and Hank, happen to be swingers, and show an interest in swapping with Laura and Neil…but of course Neil cannot perform, and he gets jealous of his wife’s obvious attraction to Hank.
Neil starts to drink a lot, bitter and angry and scared about their sham of a marriage.
“You’re sorry?” He spat the words at her. “What did you think it would be, a bed of roses? Did you think I’d hire a couple of studs to take care of you while I sat back and watched the show?”
The words stung. She bit her lip to hold back the tears.
“We can have the marriage annulled,” she suggested as clamly as she was able.
“Oh sure,” he snapped viciously. “Tell the world that Neil Abbott isn’t a man anymore! Why don’t you hire a publicity agent? Maybe you can get it in the headlines while you’re at it […] I’m sorry, baby,” he whispered, “I should have never let you marry me when we both knew it couldn’t work.”
His breath was strong with liquor, his actions clumsy and riough […] Not again! she thought in anguish […]
“There are other ways,” she said in Neil’s ear, before she took time to consider her words.
Neil stiffened. His hands froze on the flesh of her breasts.
“What do you mean?” he asked hoarsely.
“There are other things we could do…”
He pushed her roughly away from him.
“What the hell do you think I am? Some kind of sexual pervert?”
“It isn’t perverted, she sobbed, crying openly. “I’ve read books. Married couples do things together. It’s all right.”
“Not for me it isn’t!” he shouted. “When I want a woman I want her my way — the right way. It’ll be the right way or not at all — and that goes for both of us, my hot little wife!” (pp. 63-65)
She seems to be indicating cunnilingus and, true to the times, Neil finds that to be “perverted.”
Eve is also bi-sexual, and lets Laura know this, and while Laura flat out refuses at first, she is evntually seduced by Eve and shown that sex with women can be wonderful and all that.
“That’s it, baby. Easy now,” Eve crooned. She was a virtuoso and Laura’s body was the instrument on which she played her serenade of love.
Each touch, each motion, skillfully increased their friendly ardor. The consuming fire of youthful passion blazed wildly within laura’s body […] She could do nothing but surrender herself to delight and happiness that became almost unbearable. (p. 69)
An appropriate page for such a scene! Was this perhaps intentional?
The story set-up is hardly new in sleazecore — theunfulfilled marraige, swingers, bi-sexuality and lesbianism, all within a city or suburban dwelling. Knowing that the writer is a gay male, and the dedication states “to one who understands,” one wonders if Laura’s probelms and seduction into lesbianism isn’t a disguised version of a gay male in a straight world and his hidden…flames.
A quick read at only 30,000 words. Nothing new, but not that bad. A B-.