Girls on the Prowl/The Wantons by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Nightstand Book 1548, 1961/Reed Nightstand, 1974)
Girls on the Prowl (later, The Wantons) opens with a bang– pun intended. A cab driver picks up a sultry-looking blonde; he’s in 40s, married, and it pains him he could never have a woman likes this. She tells him to drive into Central Park and starts to undress in back; she tells him to stop and asks if he likes her breasts; then she invites him to join her in back for sex. He obliges.
The woman is Saundra Stone, hailing from Ohio where she went to Clifton College.nd works at a pretentious literary quarterly, Agony Magazine (pergaos a take on The Paris Review?) She lives on West 73rd Street in a four-bedroom apartment that goes for a pricey $210/month (this is the early 60s). She has two roommates: Marilyn and Joan. Marilyn is waiting for her, asks her how the fast anonymous sex was. Seems it was Marilyn’s idea, something she likes to do, picking up strangers for quickies and one-nighters. Saundra says it was exciting and fun.
Marilyn is an on-the-rise young assistant editor at a Phulcorte Press, which publishes a variety of magazines and books.
The other roommates, Joan McKay, is a lesbian, but they don’t know that; they would appalled to know that while Joan is just as promiscuous as they are, she sleeps around with women she finds in the Greenwich Village gay bars.
Lynne Munroe has a good summation from his article in el:
Sandy from Clifton College and her two roommates in Greenwich Village. Schwerner. A Sound of Distant Drums. Some great jokes, like a publisher named Phulcorte Press, a night club called Open d’Or, a Chinese restaurant called Haow Naow, a Spanish restaurant called Dolor de Estomago. Harvey Chase’s Agony Magazine is introduced. As Wayne Mullins showed us on one of his excellent Block checklists, two of the characters are anagrams for the author: Cornwall Becke and Lance Brecklow (“Phoney sounding name,” a character says.)
Saundra/Sandy may also be Sandy from The Twisted Ones. Joan, however, does make an appearance in Slum Sinners, which we will discuss next.
Girls on the Prowl is less than a novel than a character study of three sexually free and open women. They do evolve and change: Marilyn finds true love and leaves her career and New York to be with the man of her dreams, and Joan, at the end, fully embraces her llesbian desires, instead of being ashamed of herself and her feelings for the third street.
Again, this Block/Shaw is a bit more sexually explicit than the softcores of the day; the erotic elements are not as subtle and evasive as, say, Silverberg, Westlake and Harry Whittington’s Corniths. It’s not a matter of exact description, but the lewd nature. For instance, Sandy goes to an underground live sex show, which opens with “a Negro and a Puerto Rican girl” going at it n stage, and then they are joined by a young blonde girl that Sandy realizes cannot be older than fourteen, and the man and woman on stage rabish the young lady is a mock rape act. So, here we have not only an illegal public sex act, but a sex show with an underage female…another is the final sex scene, with Joan and a pale woman meeting in the Village, never asking each other’s name, and having intense, kinky lesbian lovin’.
But we understand this pales in comparison with the Jill Emerson 70s novels, The Trouble with Eden, I Am Curious (Thirty) and Sensuous., which we have yet to get to, but will at some nifty point in the future…