Suburban Wife by Orrie Hitt (Beacon #162, 1958)

All of the prolific softcore writers have a “suburban sins” type book, probably at the direction of the publisher since the dirty infidelities of those suburbanites, ever since Payton Place,  was (and still is, look at Desperate Housewives) a hot topic.

Orrie Hitt wrote half  a dozen with suburban in the title, and has a few others that are suburban-esque, like his Kay Addams’  novel, Lucy, and Twisted Sinners.

The first in line: Suburban Wife, and early 1958 title with a nifty Beacon template cover. This tale tells the yarn of Millicent Ford, a young desperate housewife whose husband, Andy, works in Manhattan long hours, sometimes weekends, and there are business trips.  A neighbor, Bill Ramsey, is married to Grace, a career woman who is also away a lot.  Bill and Millicent often take the same train and get to talking. They are both drinkers. They get together and drink. They start having an affair.

Millicent feels quite a bit of guilt until she discovers that Andy and Grace are often on business trips in the same cities, in the same motels…Bill has known all along that Grace has been unfaithful. So what they are doing ins’t so “sinful” after all. When Andy catches them, doing the hypocritical yelling, he’s cut down when Millicent informs him that she knows about Grace–so where the hell does he get off?

The story is also about alcoholism, as Millicent sinks deeper and deepers into needing a bottle of rye or whuskey for comfort, drinking recklessly all day and going into bars, which often leads to trysts, like one she has with an insurance agent who gets possessive of her after a one-nighter.

To stave off suburban boredom, Millicent often heads charity drives; she just did a successful one for the Red Cross, “borrowing” some of the collected money when she needs to, always putting it back though. She is approached by a local wealthy philanthropist who asks her to exec man a drive to build a rec center for the local youth, a place to keep them from joining gangs, doing robberies and rapes and other juvie crimes.  It’ll be a lot of money to handle, plus she will be paid a salary, rather than this being a volunteer effort.

The first problem is that money, mixed with her drinking, mixed with the impending divorce and the end of Andy’s money for her lax time, like drinking,  It is inevitable that she will embezzle or misuse the funds, a common set-up in Hitt’s books.

She tries asking for money from guys she sleeps with but that doesn’t pan out the way she hoped.

Enter the crime element and a murder, makes for a good read.

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