Summer of Sin – Orrie Hitt (Beacon, 1961)
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.