Slum Sinners by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Midnight Reader #499, 1962); rpt as Pity the Damned (Reed Nightstand, 1973)
Two characters from other books appear in this one: Kyros the Greek pimp from The Twisted Ones, and Joan McKay from Girls on the Prowl (with a footnote).
Slum Sinners opens with ffifteen-year-old Monita Ruiz, a Puerta Rican girl who lives in a slum neighborhood up towards 100 Street and Columbia, is bed with a boy in a ratty room. She can’t go through with it.
Then we see Ruth Lansing who lives on the upper West Side; she’s married, has a six month old baby, and is miserable. She really has deep secret lesbian wanton desires and has no idea what to do.
Then we meet Al Carter, newly released from a five-year prison stint for armed robbery. he has ten bucks to his name and needs to find some sort of quick con game to earn quick cash.
We tend to prefer Block’s Shaw and Sheldon Lord books that center on one character, or are first-person, rather than these multi–character stories where everyone’s lives mesh together at a cross in the road; still, this one is pretty darn entertaining and smoothly written as both a softcore and crime novel. Like The Twisted Ones, he gets a little postmodernly reflexive at the beginning when giving a historical account of New York neighborhoods and how they changed racially and economically over time.
Monita decides she needs to lose her virginity and she doesn’t care who does it, so she randomly picks the first good-looking guy she sees on the street, who happens to be Al. She also has another plan: she will blackmail him for statutory rape so he will give her money and she can get out of the slums and start a new life. She loses her virginity quite painfully and she tries her blackmail on Al, he laughs and tells her he doesn’t have a dime, and tells her she’s bad at the con. However, he suggests they could work a “badger” game together….
Ruth goes to a lesbian bar and gets picked yup by Joan McKay…
The first mark Al and Monita get is a Manhattan businessman, who happens to be Ruth’s husband, Glenn. He pays up on the blackmail: $500.
Monita is amazed at the easy money and wants to blackmail more unsuspecting men she picks up in hotel bars.
Glenn, although robbed, has gotten a taste of young girl and wants more. He connects with Kyros, the Greek pimp in The Twisted Ones who specializes in underage prostitutes. He provides Glenn with a number of them, from Canada to Europe to the south, girls 12-14…he so much desires this that he leaves his wife…
Ruth has a short fling with Joan, and some other women, but decides she would rather have men, and begins to let men, any men, pick her up in bars and have their way…
Monita has $3,000 in her bank account and she decides to start life over, changing her name to Mona, leabing Al and going to San Francisco.
Al needs a new girl, but young girls won’t be easy to find. He does find Ruth in a bar, and he talks her into a business deal: he’ll find the men and take them to her, she’ll wait at home, they’ll both make money…
Definitely a fun read. The Twisted Ones, Girls on the Prowl, and Slum Sinners would make an excellent reprint omnibus edition.
Reed Nightstand reprinted it as Pity the Damned.