Catskill hotels, resort hotels, and shabby hotels and the people who work in such places are one of Orrie Hitt’s obsessive themes — seen in Hotel Woman, Hotel Hostess, Hotel Girl, Shabby Street, and others.
Hitt knows the ins and outs of hotel management well, from renting rooms to keeping the food stocked to dealing with the petty ways workers make extra money and make each other in the off hours.
The narrator is McKenzie Osmund, “Mac” to people, who worked as a professional hotel manager until recently, when at one hotel his lover and some other guy she was seeing, an old con pal, set him up as the fall guy for running prostitutes out of the hotel. No one could prove it, nor did anyone believe his story, but now he can’t get a job in the hotel industry where he was used to making $150-180 a week. Instead, he is making $50 a week as a short-order cook in a greasy spoon, a job he hates. He gets fired from that job too.
He does find a job at the Parsons Hotel, with summer looming, despite the scandal — the property was recently taken over by an odd couple: Jack is an overweight, lazy diabetic and his wife, Diana, is young, 22, vibrant, sexy, with red hair and long legs. We’ve seen this badly mixed marriages in Hitt’s books before — in this case, Jack was a friend of her father’s who promised to look after her…and boy did he by getting her drunk, taking her to bed, and convincing the naive virgin girl she was pregnant and had to marry him…
So here we are, Mac working for them, Mac has eyes for her, Jack is impotent and low-energy. Mac starts to sleep with Diana; Diana tells him about a $25,000 life insurance policy on Jack, and the hotel, and how they would be better off is Jack was not around.
Mac reads in a medical book how diabetics can accidentally die if derpived on insulin…
Yep: he’s thinking murder for the woman and money. We’ve seen this James Cain-like set-up in too many Hitt novels, but since this is from 1958, this is actually not yet old hat in Hitt’s publication timeline.
Still, it is predicable in some ways, and in others not. Mac isn’t the heel some Hitt heroes are; he’s actually a good guy. But when he pays the hospital bill for the daughter of the woman he rents a room from, a teenage girl who is pregnant and doesn’t know who the father is (or so she claims) and loses the child to still-birth, the girl’s mother accuses Mac of being the father — why else would a man pay a big hospital bill like that?
Then the girl falls in love with him, and he gives in and has sex with her, but knows it’s a big mistake. So she’s the second woman; the third is a waitress at the diner he worked at, but it’s just a romp in the car and he gives her money after. Mac isn’t jumbling the three like some Hitt heroes tend to do.
Then he discovers that Diana is running hookers out of the summer hotel — girls who work as waitresses or maids but make money “on the side” with forty percent going to the hotel. Mac is worried the cops will come down on them, especially since he is plotting a murder. But the place starts to look like a roman orgy:
It was an assortment, I tell you. We had everything at Parson’s Ranch. Guys held hands with guys and girls held hands with girls — or something else. I don’t know. I didn’t watch them. (p. 170)
Is he a sucker like some Hitt heroes, duped into committing a crime by an evil woman? Why spoil it for you…
It has a happy ending.
Summer Hotel is a good read — on the Hitt Scale, an 8.5.