Archive for December, 2010

Campus Doll by Edwin West aka Donald E. Westlake (Monrach Books #485, 1961)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on December 30, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Donald Westlake did a handful of titles for Monarch as Edwin West (a play on his middle and last names, obviously) and this one, Campus Doll, is set in the Andrew Shaw Clifton College universe, with a mention of The Sound of Distant Drums and other little quips found in many Shaws.

Jackie is a student who lives comfortably with her MG sportcar, a four room apartment off campus, and a weekly check from her father–until his income vanishes die to economic circumstances. How is she now going to pay tuition and live the life she loves?

Sex, of course. She becomes a hooker.

This is an awful book, so badly written that it is understandable why Westlake would not want his name associated with it.

The Edwin West titles tend to go for high prices on the collector’s market.  This one has been reprinted as a ebook from World Publishing.

She Got What She Wanted by Orrie Hitt (Beacon Books #101, 1954)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on December 28, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

She Got What She Wanted was Hitt’s fourth novel (I’ll Call Every Monday, Love in the Arctic and Cabin Fever the first three) and, more significantly, the very first Beacon Book (although Universal Publishing had previous imprints, like Uni Books). Like Shabby Street (Beacon #104), it is 90,000 words, longer than your usual 50-60K word paperback of the era. Unlike Shabby Street, the extra words makes for unneeded padding and banter.

The novel opens the way a good number of Hitt tales do (Sheba, Carnival Girl, Ellie’s Shack, etc.), with a finance company collector coming by the house looking for money, or for things to take to satisfy an account.  Della Banners, a buxom blonde 20 year old, has good-for-nothing parents who leach off her meager earnings, a mother who is lazy and a father who is a fast talker and owes a lot of people and companies money.  The collector wants to take the car but Della owns the car and she is not a debtor. She is sick and tired of her home life — the back cover states “Della was white trash” and promises to be a sordid yarn about a girl from the wrong side of the streets who uses her body and sex to manipulate men to get ahead.

Well, right and wrong. Della does learn how to use her womanly charms to get ahead in life, but this is no sleaze novel, not in the genre sense and not like the books Hitt did in the 1960s. This is as close to a literary or morality novel as Hitt ever got…this is a work of actual literature, with a couple of snide remarks about boobs and some sex scenes tossed in to make it a classifiable sleaze book.

Like in his 1958 book, Sheba, Della quickly learns the art of sales for her lack of years and experience. While Sheba was about selling used cars, She Got What She Wanted centers around door-to-door sales of roofing shingles, a job Hitt actually had (and like his other books that give intricate details of insurance sales and food distribution and hotel management, Hitt made good use of personal experience).

Della leaves home and goes to another city, sells her car and looks for work. She forgets to sign her pink slip right and a man comes by her room to get her right signature, a man named Jack who is a smooth operator and roof shingles salesman.  He tries to make some moves and she resits; he tells her he could hire her as a “canvasser,” someone who does feeling around for potential customers, and then Jack goes in later to close the deal. Jack says women are best used as canvassers, for their looks, of course.

Della proves to be good at it, and a month later she finds that Jack is not the smooth and confident salesman he made her believe — he has his moments, but at times he sinks into despair and drinks too much and vanishes and messes up sales. She soon realizes that she has her shit together better than him, and the manager makes her a closer, and later recommends the home office that she manage a new office in another city.

Now, she is barely 21, and they have never had a female manager before. She meets the boss, Roger, at a party, and he takes her back to his room, drunk.  She encourages Roger to drink more whiskey, and she lets him paw her and make suggestions before he passes out.

Here is where Della gets shifty and uses her good looks to manipulate herself into a better job. She undresses and gets into bed with Roger. When he wakes up, Roger does not remember a thing and here is this naked female employee…she acts like he forced himself on her and she is shocked…and he is married…and he secures her the manager job as long as she “forgets” about his drunken fuck up…

So Della runs an office, and Jack is now her underling, and they do well. Like the narrator of Shabby Street, she becomes a hard-ass boss, firing people without a thought to their personal issues and need for work. And then she and Jack come up with a plan to swindle some side money from the company, by having their own little company supply materials for jobs; the swindle is a little complicated, like the case with Hitt’s wonderful novel Pushover.

Della is obsessed with money and the gaining of it, of buying things, of the material things in the world, typical of a person who comes from a poor childhood.  Even Jack thinks she has become too superficial:

“You’re always pricing things,” he said. “No matter what it is.”

“And why not?” she demanded. “The price on anything, no matter what it is, is never right.  It’s either too high or too low, depending on what you’re getting.  You have to make up your own mind if a thing you want is worth the price you’ve got to give.” (p. 205)

Unlike 1960s Hitts, and Beacon titles, there is no romantic wrap up, no happy ending…we were expecting it, that perhaps Jack and Della would wed in bliss, but that doe snot happen — in fact, the ending is quite tragc, almost like a Russian novel, where Della’s obsession with monetary gain, and her treatment and manipulation of others, would make She Got What She Wanted to She Got What She Deserved

We won’t spoil it for you, other than to say what happens to Della is just terrible — but did she deserve it?  Perhaps.

On the Hitt Scale, a 9.5. This is a fine novel, sleaze paperback or literary. A good number of Hitt motifs or thematic set-ups are in this book (thankfully not nude photos) and foreshadow his pet obsessions, mainly how difficult it was for a woman not to have to resort to using her body and sexuality to get ahead in life…

Flesh Pawns by Don Elliott aka Robert Silverberg (Sundown Reader #525, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, Don Elliott, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on December 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Like Gutter Road, there’s a sexual blackmail con scheme at the center of this little crime noir softcore.

Charley is grifter making his way from New York to Florida for the winter, to pull some jobs.  In a Delaware roadhouse, he spots waitress Janey and knows she has what he needs: she can look fifteen or twenty-five with her looks, lack of make-up or too much make-up…

He picks Janey up in his smooth way, beds her, invites her to come with him Miami.  She has nothing better to do, so why not.

Charley tells her his con game: she dresses up nice, hangs out in hotel bars, acting like a sweet young lady who likes older men, men with money. She does not charge them, she is not hooking.  The men have a great time with a hot young number. The next day, Charley shows up to the mark’s hotel room and Janey is wearing bobby sox, pony tail and no-make up, looking like jailbait. Charley acts like the appalled older brother whose kid sister was seduced; he then says he will go to the cops unless the men pay up, say $500-1000.

Janey thinks it’s a good grift.  She’s hooked before so she’s no stranger to crime.  They make some money in Miami and all is well for the two crooks, but eventually they meet other people who lead them astray — Janey a more suave guy and future real romance, Charley two teen vixens who lead him to a bigger gutter road.

Not the best of the Don Elliotts, but even these lesser titles are often better reads than 75% of the sleaze published back then and even now.

Tramp Wife by Orrie Hitt (Chariot Books, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on December 15, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This one is basically a re-telling of Hitt’s first novel, I’ll Call Every Monday.  It’s first person, about an insurance guy who gets involved with a married woman whose husband (not older this time) is in the nudie photo racket, and the woman, Sheba, wants to pull an insurance scam and murder.  The narrator jumbles two other women, as all Hitt heroes do, and there are some illegal shnanegins going on within the office and insurance salesman cons.

Had I not read Hitt’s first book, I would have gotten into Tramp Wife more. Despite the horribly tiny type, it’s a solemn, well-paced book, and as usual, Hitt’s deatils of how insurance companies worked back then are fascinating.  Being a rewrite, it is predictable.

Hot Cargo by Orrie Hitt (and ???) (Beacon Books, 1958)

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A little different from the usual Orrie Hitt novel we often expect…and somewhat the same…the setting is different, in a foreign land, having to do with gun-running…a bit of style nod to Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not — the hero here is named hank Storms.

Hitt did another Hemingway homage with Add Flesh to the Fire.

Hitt did not write this one alone; he switched off with someone else, as there are chapters in a completely different writing style than Hitt’s. We believe it may be the same person Hitt collaborated with on his Roger Normandie and Charles Verne books, and his one novel as Fred Martin, the excellent Hired Lover, which also has style flip and flops like Hot Cargo….We think Hitt may have paired up with Joe Weiss on those.

Alas, this one is not as fun and good as Hired Lover, or the Roger Normanies. This one was not a pleasure to read, but maybe we are missing something.  James Reasonor liked it. Three stars at Good Reads.

We LOVE the cover, though! Classic sleaze…

Campus Tramp by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Nightstand Books #1505, 1959)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Sheldon Lord, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This was the fifth book William Hamling published at the end of 1959, and the first of many titles that a very young Larry Block furnished for Hamling and his editor, Harlan Ellison.

This is also one of the more hard-to-find Shaws, at a reasonable price, with a but of a cult status among Antioch University alumni from the 1950s and 60s.  Block went to Antioch, later opting out for a career in Manhattan as a hack pulp writer, selling his first novel, as Lesely Evans, to Fawcett Crest in 1958, then to Midwood and Nightstand in 1959-63.

A number of Block’s early books are, well, uneven–they are either good or bad.  Mona was very good and The Adulterers and The Wife-Swappers very bad.  Campus Tramp is not on part with Mona, $20 Lust, The Sex Shuffle, or Candy, but it isn’t bad, and there’s even some sociology involved in the text.

Campus Tramp tells the story of Linda Shepard, a nineteen-year-old young lady from Cleveland, Ohio, who is off to her freshman year at Clifton College, Block’s version of Antioch, a liberal arts institute with a loose structure in experimental (for the time) pedagogy.

Linda is a virgin and has been proud of keeping it that way, as a number of boys in high school tried to claim her cherry but she was firm in her desire to wait until marriage…until college that is. Once at Clifton, she decides that she wants a lover, that she wants to lose her virginity, and while a guy named Joe has his love eye on her, the man she really wants is a senior, Don Gibbs, a sort of bohemian rich boy who edits the college newspaper (as Block did at Antioch).

Many sociological studies have been conducted over the decade about how wild freshmen get in college, especially in the dorms: they are away from home, mommy and daddy, they have access to alcohol and drugs, they let loose. I remember when I was in the “older student” dorm floor way way b ack when, and the freshmen were all on the eighth and seventh floors, said floors in shambles every weekend, shattered bottles, beer cans, clothes everywhere…rooms where a drunk or high 18 year old was taking on anyone, and guys lining up for a turn…yeah, the good old days. Later, the young girls who did this would experience shame, and they’d leave the dorms or even try to kill themselves, or they’d wallow in booze and cocaine and sleep with anyone who passed by…

That’s what happens to Linda.  She gets Don Gibbs, inserting herself into his life, and when she loses her virginity, and experiences lust, she can’t get enough.  She an Don fuck whenever they can; she spends all her time with him, not going to classes, her grades slipping.

When Don breaks up with her over her ultra possessiveness, Linda sinks deep into debauchery, having sex with any boy or guy or man who wants her, a shabby replacement for Don; she thinks of suicide but getting drunk is better to dull the pain, and there are plenty of older students willing to give her the booze in exchange for a romp in the backseat.

Linda starts to get a reputation as the campus tramp, and guys ask her out only with sex on their minds. Linda doesn’t care what people think of her.  Her roommate, Rachel, is quite concerned, and one drunken night, when Rachel gives Linda a massage, the two girls go at it.  Linda is shocked by what she has done, and her roommate confesses that she’s been a lesbian since she was fourteen.

Then Linda realizes she is pregnant, and she has no idea who the father could be…just as she decides to stop drinking and tramping and get her grades back up, the school informs her that they want her to leave for a year or face explusion…and now she is pregnant…she isn’t getting a break anywhere.

The book doesn’t wrap up as expected — usually these stories, for moral standards, have the wanton floozie realize the errors of her sinful ways, and finds the boy who loves her…we thought it would be Joe, that seemed to be the set up, he confesses his love despite her reputation, but she just fucks him and drops him…

Instead, Linda returns to Don Gibbs and tells him she’s knocked up and needs help.  He’s willing to help because, unknown to her, he broke it up because he was in love and was afraid of the emotion…

Creeping Hemlock Press recently reprinted Campus Tramp as a a trade paperback, with an intro by Ed Gorman and an afterword by Block; the afterword is worth the price of admission: Blocks talks about leaving high school and going to Antioch as a would-be young writer, sellingb his early novels, moving to New York, and being asked to leave Antioch in a way that Linda is asked to leave Clifton.  He talks about the book’s cult status at Antioich, and how some students and faculty thought the book was his way of “getting back” at Antioch.

Clifton College appears in a number of Andrew Shaws, referred to in one Sheldon Lord, and is the setting of one of Donald Westlake’s softcores, as Edwin West.

Creeping Hemlock is set to reprint the Seeldon Lord, April North, which has many similarities to Campus Tramp.

Sin Seer by Andrew Shaw aka ??? (Nightstand Books, 1966)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on December 5, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This one wasn’t penned  by Lawrence Block and there are no clues who wrote this, of the many other Andrew Shaws, such as William Coons or David Case.  It does have some crime elements and the multi-character narrative that Block often used in his Shaw novels.

The setting is Neuvo Lardo, in Mexico at the Texas border; in 1966 it was a haven for Americans to gamble,party, and have sex with a variety of prostitutes; today, of course, it is blood-spattered from the drug cartels.  The novel focuses on a number of Americans who find themselves down south, and eventually their lives cross paths — much like Crossroads of Lust, so this might be Coons imitating Block as he has done in other Shaws.

Sharon is a lost soul who works the bars down south, and seems to have the gift of precognition, hence the title. Eddie and Lee are a couple of criminals on the run, Lee a sadistic psycho serial killer. Kitkat Kelly is a butch lesbian who performs in dyke shows for people to watch, and seduces Mexican girls on the side — she is a female Humbert Humbert, and in one strange chapter she works on a slow seduction of a preteen Mexican girl who seems virgina, although she notes in Neuvo Ladro, any girl keeping her virginity past age seven is rare, and many preteen girls make themselves available to pedophile gringos.

A good read–many of the post-1965 Shaws aren’t–but confusing at times with too many characters. Worth looking at if you come across a copy.