Sin on Wheels – Don Elliott/Robert Silverberg (Nightstand Books #1516, 1960)

In 1960, Robert Silverberg published two books titled Sin on Wheels — this one and one as Loren Beauchamp with Midwood.

The Midwood book has a classic Paul Rader cover and is a much sought-after collector’s item, the first edition often going for $70-100, the second in the $50-60 range.  This Nightstand  title also tends to have a high price on it (I got it for $7 on ebay, actually).

This Sin on Wheels is told by 24-year-old Fred Bryan who is working as a driving instructor and enjoying the attentions of the rich older women he teaches how to drive cars — somewhat the same set up at Orrie Hitt’s Hired Lover (as Fred Martin), but not exactly the same; in this one, the driving school is just a front for a gigolo service for society women.

Fred is recently discharged from the army, wondering what to do, when while in New York City he crosses paths with a guy he knew in his unit who is working at the driving school, making good money and having lots of sex.

The same day Fred gets the job, he meets a girl in a diner, Nina, and picks her up — or she picks him up, it’s never quite sure, and they go from a one-nighter to a relationship.

Fred has some sexist, 1950s double-standard ideas when it comes to women, or marriage:

I told myself not to be a damned fool. Nina was a great girl, a looker, vivacious, good in bed. She had been around.  For one thing, I wasn’t interested in settling down and getting married for a long, long time. And, for another, I didn’t want my wife to be some Greenwich Village artist who had probably been laid by half a dozen guys a week before we met […] I knew what kind of wife I would want when I was ready to get married. She would be about nineteen, maybe twenty, demure, a virgin. That was important. I wouldn’t touch her until our wedding night, and then I’d teach her about sex.

I guess I was being hypocritical. I mean, for a guy who had been laying girls since the age of sixteen to want a virgin for a wife. But that was how I sincerely felt.  I wanted to be the first and only man in the girl’s life […] A girl like Nina was swell to pal around with, but not so promising as material for  a wife. (p. 59-60)

This sort of attitude is not only so 1950s but present day in certain religious and puritanical thought.  Ideal, maybe, but the usual double-standard — a guy can learn about sex with harlots and tramps, but the wife has to be pure.  Incidentally., Silvererg wrote, as L.T. Woodward, M.D., a faux “study” called Virgin Wives, about what men go thorugh when marrying a woman who has xero sexual experience.

The novel is really about the two of them, Fred and Nina, and Fred’s sexual adventures on the side.  He doesn’t tell her about the rich older women, he doesn’t ind a need to — he has sex with them during the day, with Nina at night.  Nina days she wants a so-string-attached open relationship — they’re friends who have sex, nothing more.  She’s a painter, a wanna-be bohemian with liberal thoughts.  They even get an apartment together.

But soon she breaks down and tells Fred she’s pregnant, and not by him.  When she met him at the diner, she was already quite along, carrying the baby of a rich playboy who has dumped her. (In an unlikely coincidence, this playboy happens to be the brother-in-law of one of her rich older lady clients.)

Nina is ready to leave but he won’t let her, he has fallen in love with her.  He helps her get an illegal, expensive abortion, and vows to marry her and quit his gigolo job — he seems to have forsaken his initial ideal in a wife, and accept Nina’s past with his love for her.

There’s problems. though, like one of the husbands finds out, and one of his “pupils,” an Amazon-like 44-inch bust six foot heriess nympho becomes possessive and threatens to expose him as a male whore — or is that manwhore?

This is actually, in many ways, a dark novel, a novel about lonely people with basic needs, how money does not buy happiness for the rich, how people make terrible mistakes in the name of lust more than love, how people ind love in the most unusual circumstances…

An excellent one from Silverberg, an A grade for sure, and a good one to be reprinted some day.

The 1973 Reed Nightstand imprint was re-titled The Instructor with pretty much the same cover, except the woman is wearing hot tight pink pants rather than a tight skirt, and she has a halter on, rather than being topless. The car in the background has been updated from a 50s jalopy to a 70s Ford model.  The guy seems to be the same.

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