The Needle – Sloane M. Britain (Beacon, 1959)
Sloane Britain/Elaine Williams published most of her books with her employer, Midwood, but in 1959 published the novels First Person–Third Sex with Newstand and The Needle with Beacon.
The Needle is unlike her Midwoods — a very dark, passionate story of heroin addiction and taboo sex.
Gina Morgan is a simple Brooklyn girl in her early 20s who still lives with her old world values mom and dad in the working class section and is going to college to have a better future than a housewife or factory worker. Her parents are the type who “image” to their neighbors is important — they never raise their voices s others will hear and gossip, and they like to brag their daughter is at college, unlike most of the girls her age on the block.
Gina is a serious student, a virgin, and naive, until she meets Bob, an intelligent beatnik who woos her with his wild, ardent, and poetic ways. His mania and depressions are not psychological and she has no idea that he is always high on heroin. When she finds out, she decides to try some herself and she loves the bliss, the escape from reality.
Soon her grades slip and she doesn’t care about college. Her parents find out she is seeing a man and she tells them she is engaged, but she isn’t, but then she and Bob do get a quick marriage. Much to her folks’ disamy, Gina moves out to live with her husband, where they do little but get high and lounge around. To support their habit, Bob starts to sell H, cutting it with barbituates, which leads to the OD of several upper class rich kids, age 15, and the cops start looking for Bob and Gina.
The next thing Gina knows, Bob has turned her into a hooker and she’s turning tricks to support their addiction. How did this happen? She doesn’t care about the sex as long as she’s so high she’s somewhere else in her head while men use her body.
She gets hooked ip with Alex, a mob guy and major heroin distributor, in hopes of getting the stuff for free in exchange for sex. But Alex falls for her, and he wants her to go clean. Bob is arrested and hangs himself in jail while going cold turkey. Alex puts Gina up in a Greenwich Village apartment and slowly weans her off the horse.
But Alex’s striking green-eyed sister, Lois, also falls for Gina. Lois is an Ivy League girl, has been under her brother’s wing since she was 10 and their folks died. She has no idea her brother is a pusher, she thinks he makes his money on Wall Street.
When Alex finds Gina and Lois naked in bed, he joins them, and fucks them both…
Gina goes along with the incest, for a while, until she feels rejected by bother her lovers, this brother and sister, and she heads back to the one thing that will soothe her pain: that white pony.
Like Robert Silverberg’s Don Elliott penned Love Addict, this is a fascinating and literate story of the young female addict, a staple of the dope sub-genre of the sleaze book market. It may be the best of Britain’s books, next to These Curious Pleasures. The depth of despair and loneliness is heavy in this novel; we really feel and see Gina’s sorry world, a simple girl who falls in love three times and is betrayed and hurt.
An A-minus and a recommended read; however, the book seems to be pricey on the market.