Archive for February, 2010

Escape to Sindom – Don Elliott/Robert Silverberg (Leisure Book #686, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, Don Elliott, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on February 25, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

for your reading pleasure…

CHAPTER ONE

THE CELL WAS SMALL, HOT, SWEATY, a box with bars on one end. The lone guard sat sleepily at the door to the jailhouse, with his back to the single prisoner. Inside the cell, Val Sparkman clenched his fists and peered anxiously out, thinking of the lovely, full-breasted girl who was waiting for him down Mexico way. Cindy…

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Summer Romance (Midwood #16, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on February 24, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

One of Hitt’s handful of Midwood titles tackling several pet themes: a summer resort hotel in the Catskills, a May/December marriage between a twenty-four-year-old woman, Ruth, and the fifty-eight-year-old hotel owner, Sam.  Makes no mistakes about this marriage — it’s all about money. Ruth grew up poor and has no desire to be poor for the rest of her life.

She worked as a waitress for Sam and Sam is known for trying to bed every femle employee he can.  She traps him by pretedning to be pregnant and then denying him her body — driving him so crazy that he proposes.  Now, two years later, she cannot stand him, he wants a son, and she has her lovers — their is Eddie, the desk manager, and the new hire, Ted, and assistant manager, whose girlfriend, Peggy, works for the Wildwood Hotel.

Peggy, however, walks the twilight world of secret sex and one night when she and Ruth get drunk and friendly, Peggy seduces Ruth. Now Ruth is confused because she liked having sex with Peggy but does not believe she is a lesbian because she also loves sex with men. She’s bi-sexual but at that time in the 1950s, such a label was unheard of.  You were either straight or queer.

While Peggy has designs on a serious relationship with Ruth, Ruth falls in love with Ted and Sam finds out about Ruth’s trysts with Eddie, threatening to divorce her and leave her penniless. This puts a huge dent in Ruth’s plans. But her luck, Sam gets so pissed off he drinks himself to death — literally, dying in a booth in is own hotel bar.

Now Ruth has everything but Peggy and Eddie blackmail her for pieces of the new pie…

I was surprised by this one by Hitt, it was well written but also did not have the cliches plot twists and events that are in his other resort hotel novels. Maybe because this was a Midwood title.

It also doesn’t have a ppatent happy ending — the ending is rather tragic and sad, in fact, despite all of Ruth’s bad traits, we feel for her plight.  She’s just a poor girl trying to get ahead in what she feels in an unfair world that treats simple, uneducated gals like herself like dirt — you are either a whore or a wife in her world, and she wants to be neither, yet in many ways is both.

This gets a 9.5 on the Hitt Scale.

Liza’s Apartment – Joan Ellis (Midwood #69, 1961)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on February 24, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Here we have a lack of communication between author’s text and the art department — the character in the book is named “Lisa” not “Liza.” Then again, Liza looks more sexy.

And this is one of Paul Rader’s more sexy covers — his art often dons the covers of Joan Ellis’ Midwoods and the combo is a good match.

Liza’s Apartment is one of those fresh-young-woman-from-the-Midwrest-looking-for-love-and-survival-in-Manhattan tales.  When she refuses to take any guff from the bombastic office boss at a job, she quits, and this causes the boss to take notice of a girl who dares to walk away from his business.  So he, a man named Guy, asks her out on a date. He wines her, dines her, beds her, and then offers her a different kind of job — as rental manager of a building with 60 overpriced apartments.

Lisa learns the ins and outs of landlords out to make a buck by cutting back on things, waiting until last minute for repairs, etc.  The building has a fast turnaround and only renting at 60% capacity; Lisa’s goal, and job, is to get it at 90% so client investors start seeing better ROI.

One night she finds a guy, Andy, in her apartment, the lover of the girl who lived there before…and eventually they also become lovers, as Lisa continues to occasionally date her rich boss and see another guy and fend off the advances of every married and single man in her orbit.  She’s a modern girl in the dating world…and then she winds up pregnant. Whose baby is it?  She gets guys to pay for the abortion…

Joan Ellis’ novels are never deep, but fun, with a romantic flair — you know, the young girl in the office romancing the Alpha-Male boss.

I’d give this one a B-plus and recommend for a breezy read.

Summer Hotel – Orrie Hitt (Beacon, 1958)

Posted in Beacon Books, crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on February 22, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

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.

The Sex Peddlers – Clyde Allison (Midwood #73, 1961)

Posted in Midwood Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on February 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

William Knoles was also writing as Clyde Allison for Midwood Books as wel as Nightstand/Cornith/Greenleaf.

This is my second Allison/Knoles and I am pleased to say it’s a wonderful, humorous, and mature read.  If Knoles had not written this as an assignment from Scott Meredith to provide books for Midwood, I am sure he could have sold thus to a more upscale paperback house like Avon or Pocket or Dell.

This one is about the scummy side of the publicity racket in Hollywood filmmaking.  Roy King, the narrator, is a pure self-made man — a hood from the wrong side of Brooklyn, he took speech lessons from a Shakespearean thespian so he could speak with a slight British accent and claim he went to Oxford and it rubbed off.  With a fake resume and fake letters of recommendation from England, he slides his way into the Madison Avenue game.

The company he works for wants to go Hollywood and buys a small PR firm in L.A. Roy and another guy are sent out to assess the company’s clients and determine what is good and what is bad and what they can fly with.

The major project is a cheesy low budget SF flcik called Amazons from Space, filled with barely-clad day players and extras, women who get completely naked after hours and provide Roy and his cohort plenty of women to paw.

Roy get entangled with two women: an ambitious actress who will sleep with any man who can advance her career, and his young nerdry secretary who looks like a model out of her clothes and glasses.

Roy comes up with all sorts of lies and tricks to get Amazons from Space noticed by the press, and he will stop at nothing to backstab and destroy anyone is his way to success.

Knoles knew the film business well — his family was in it and he was a Hollywood denizen with a slight British accent for his time in England.  Thus it has a ring of truth, and is one hell of a read.  Highly recommended, and I look forward to more Clyde Allison novels.

Summer of Sin – Orrie Hitt (Beacon, 1961)

Posted in noir fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on February 17, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

After several disappointing Hitts, it was good to come back to ol’ Orrie doing his best: stories of ambitious young heels and the women they juggle.

Clem Evans is a big strapping young fellow who sets out to become a businessman, his eye on the summer crowd — he leases out a section of private beach, to charge for access and sell beer, cigarettes, and sodas at a stand.  It’s risky, as the weather tends to be erratic, and he has little operating funds, taking a bank loan for the lease and borrowing from a lover to pay the beer vendor upfront.

Like all Hitt heroes, he juggles three women:

Nan, who breaks up with him because he won’t do good on his promise of marriage for sex, and a wealthy doctor at the hospital she works at wants to date her;

Emily, the town floozie who is convinced the child she carries is his, and also wants marriage;

Gloria, daughter of the woman he leases the beach from, weary of men, but the “bad girl” Clem has fallen for — or she makes him fall for her.  She works at a bikini factory and the owner, an old married man, has his eye on her.  She wants to make money, stop working, so hatches a plan where she will lure the old man into bed and Clem will take photos, and they will blackmail him for $10,000.

And like all Hitt heroes, he is being set up as a patsy.

At the core of this predictable novel is Hitt’s commentary on the struggle of the classes.  We see a mixture of people desperate for money, who work hard and make little, and those who have more money, like the doctor and factory owner, and how those beneath them economically are jealous, envious, and plotting.

Clem also saves Emily from rape by the local thug — he beats the thug up and the thug vows to murder Clem in retaliation, so he’s often looking over his shoulder, waiting for a surprise attack.

On the Hitt Scale, a 7.5 for good writing ad plotting, but has elements we’ve seen in other Hitts.

The 1969 UK Softcover Library edition uses the same cover image they used for Ladies Man.

Swamp Lust – George H. Smith (Novel Books, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on February 16, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

In Paperback Parade #32, there is a letter from George H. Smith, who wrote for Cornith as Don Bellmore and elsewhere as Jan Hudson, and also wrote some science-fiction, that the George H. Smith who published “country and swamp girl books” was a different GHS.  This explains for the difference in styles.

Swamp Lust tells the story of Chad Cain (Cain?!), a simple southern fellow who one day catches his wife, Claudette, in the arms of a sleazy Frenchman, Henri.  In an O.J. Simpson-esque rage, he kills them both and tosses their bodies into the marshy swamp of the backwoods.

The novel deals with Chad deflecting any suspicion of the murders — Henri’s brother comes looking around, wanting revenge, but had kills him too.  And his new lover, Maria, thinks something is — fishy.

And Chad seems to be losing his mind, or is haunting — believing that his dead wife’s decayed body is wandering the swamplands, just to torment.

A fast and cheesy book, nothing great, decent entertainment with a great cover.