Sex Bum by Don Elliott aka Robert Silverberg (Midnight Reader #489, 1963)


Rumor has it this one may soon be reprinted.  It’s a Syndicate crime novel in the Manhunt or Trapped style. It could have been a Gold Medal.

Johnny Price is 22 and a big-strapping guy working for fifty bucks a week and tips as a grocery delivery guy in Reesport, NY, an upper state small town in the Orrie Hitt tradition, where girls dream of being high class call girls in Manhattan and boys dream of being made men.

Johnny gets his chance to prove himself to the two local mob hoods when he stumbles upon a kill of a rival in a pool hall and helps the local wise guys, Lurton and Kloss, take down their target and two of his henchmen.  He’s offered a job to work with them, mainly as muscle, and collecting weekly “protection” from local businessmen.  He even brings a girl he met, Elle, who wants to be a Syndicate hooker, into the fray, proving his worth.  Beyond his base pay of ninety a week (ah, again, 1960s money!) he learns how to “earn” — collecting the extra $5-to-10 “tips” on his collections, or that “extra protection.”

Johnny Price has plans, though.  He doesn’t want to be a hired hand all his life, or even a year; within six months, he schemes to betray his bosses and take them down, and take their place.  He makes good with one of the New York City bosses, Rizzo, and lets Rizzo know that Lurton and Kloss are skimming off the top of their monthly payments.

There’s plenty of sex, with the call girls, such as this subtle scene hinting at anal sex:

“I showed you a trick that day. Want me to show you another one?”

“I’m game,” he said.

She wriggled up against him.  The firm cushion of her buttocks pressed against his thighs. She thrust one hand around behind, seized him, guided him.

Johnny frowned. “There?”

“Sure,” she said. “I like it there just like the regular way.”

“Can you feel anything there?”

“If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t do it. I feel different things there.”

“But doesn’t it hurt?”

“Only the first couple of times. Not anymore. I’ve been a busy little girl.”

“I bet you have,” Johnny said. (p. 121-2)

He falls for Rizzo’s main whore, too, Marie, too high class for him, and a wrong move, just as betraying the men who gave him a job was a dumb move.  Johnny Price is not the smart thug he’d like to believe he is.  “You gotta be careful when you play around with razor blades.  You can get cut” (p. 167) is advice he doesn’t heed.

Like all of Silverberg’s sleaze paperbacks — all of his work, in fact, i whatever genre or form — this is compulsively readable, but not the best of the Elliotts.  It’s predictable, Goodfellas way before the movie, where betrayal and loyalty in the mob is a fine line.

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