Passion Pirate – George Baker (Bedside Book #1228, 1962)

It seems Bedtime/Bedside Books had three owners in its short life from 1959-1963.  It was a pioneer in sleaze, and Robert Silverberg’s association with them as David Challon and Mark Ryan was impetus for William Hamling to start Nightstand Books, starting with Silverberg’s Don Elliott novel, Love Addict.

Owned by Valient Publications, when Hamling bought the company out in 1961, Bedstand was changed to Bedside and was owned by Pert Publications, one of Hamling’s many shell companies. Looking at Victor Berch’s Bedstand/Bedside Checklist in Books Are Everything#20, the Haling run started at #1201 with Silverberg’s Don Elliott Woman Chaser, and went to #1224, Lawrence Block’s Andrew Shaw Gutter Girl . All the bylines were Cornith regulars: Dean Hudson, Alan Marshall, Clyde Allison, Al James, etc.

From  #1225 to #1251, the books were issued by EKS Publishers (seems to be the same as LS Publishers, with Bellringer and Gaslight Books) and the bylines were different.  My theory has been that Hamling still owned the imprint but changed the shell company and pen names to keep the feds off his back for them.  This seemed apparent to me with #1225, Sin Professor by Frank Peters, that read a lot ike Hal Dresner’s writing and had a character named Poltnik in it, for Dresner’s buddy Art Plotnik.

The bylines for Bedside’s end run seemed to all be generic names like Peters, and David Andrews, David Spencer, Jack Lechien.  The only names that I have seen with other publishers is Monte Steele and William F. Frank.

I have purchased a number of these, looking for Cornith styles. When reading Passion Pirate, I at first thought this was an Lawrence Block — it opens, in tight Block-like prose, with two broke drifters seeking out women to use and live with, scouring Greenwich Village.  They are Sebastian Wolff and Earl Dreggs.  They seemed a lot like two similar Lotahrios in Block’s Sheldon Lord Pads Are for Passion.

Reading further, however, I realized this was not Block, and when I got to a scene where a character puts on a record by an Albany-based singer named Plotnik, I realized George Baker was the same as Frank Peters, and this wasn’t Hal Dresner but Art Plotnik.  Plotnik was indicating that he was the author by adding himself in, and making fun of himself, as a character mentions having seen Plotnik in person and was “kind of weird.”

Plotnik was handled by the Scott Meredith Agency, so Bedside was getting its books from the same wellspring as Midwood and Nightstand and who-knows-who-else.

Passion Pirate was surprisingly good, a terse tale with real-feeling characters. Sebastian is the ladies man, a sly devil who seems to be able to hypnotize any woman who crosses his path, causing them to become submissive and hand over their pads, money, and hearts.  His sidekick, Earl, is a lug who seems to only get the leftovers and broken hearts — you know, the fellow who takes advantage of women hurting and on the rebound.

At the top, Sebastian picks up Christine, a 22-year-old Village nowhere girl whose rich Boston daddy is supporting for her a year as she writes poetry and tries to make a name for herself.  Sebastian wiggles his way into her pad and her heart, promising her he knows a literary agent who can get her poems published.

The agent is Cynthia, a married older woman who had a one night stand with Sebastian two years ago and still yearns for him.  She agrees to handle the poems if he agrees to fuck her twice  a week.  She claims her husband or no man has been able to please her since her once time with him.

Many women  seem to be the same. Sebastian is not only a lover, but a fighter, defending the honor of women with his fists, “speaking like an actor,” moving like a panther through the Village streets and bars.  Despite living with Christine, Sebastian can pick up women within an hour, make them fall in love, and break their hearts.  One is Ginny, that Earl runs into — Ginny was Earl’s ex-girlfriend that Sebastian has seduced.  Ginny lets Earl move in with her but she really wants him to get Sebastian back.

A lot of libertine sex goes on, including one gang bang scene with Christine as she fucks five guys in a row to get back at Sebastian’s infidelity.  The scene is more sad than erotic.

The novel ends in that weird way some of early Block books do, but this isn’t Block. I am convinced it is Art Plotnik now.

3 Responses to “Passion Pirate – George Baker (Bedside Book #1228, 1962)”

  1. Christopher Reed Says:

    Who did the cover art for this, and many other, Bedside/Bedtime books?

  2. “Passion Pirate” wasn’t one of mine, unfortunately. By the names of the characters, I’m sure the author was David Case, a friend at the time and a fine writer who deserves credit for any of the book’s merits.

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