Lust for Love by Harry Whittington (Bedside Book 408, 1959)
Here we have Harry Whittington putting his own name on the cover of a “softcore” novel, one of the early titles from Bedside. Despite its title, this reads less like sleaze and more like a book he targeted for Gold Medal or Dell or Popular Library and was unable to sell it there, so sold it for $500 to the sketchy Bedside, a company that put out sloppily produced paperbacks, albeit some really interesting ones.
The novel opens with 17-year-old Lola and 22-year-old David parked in his car and getting hot and heavy with the kissing and petting; they almost do the deed and decide at the last moment they will be moral and “right” by waiting until they are married.
Then three thugs approach the car and tell David to not be a hero or they will kill him; they tell him they plan to rape Lola and make him watch. David manages to start the car and get the hell out of there, dragging the leader for half a mile at high speed, the leader’s hand stuck in the window as he pointed a gun at David’s head. A great Gold Medal set-up… but it later becomes more soft-corey, often Beaconish/Midwoodish.
The experience, and knowing she could have been sexually violated by three dangerous men, oddly excites Lola. She starts looking at life and herself differently; she realizes she has always ated conforming to what society and people think she should be, how she acts, the way she dresses, the way she talks.
Her rebellion against the norm does not sit well with David. When she tells him she has befriended the “office slut” and the two are enrolling in “charm school” together, he blows his lid and gives her an ultimatium: either she quits this crazy stuff or she loses him.
Lola does not want to lose him; she loves David, but she is determined to explore her new self and not give in to the conservative world. Case in point: she poses nude for a photographer just to see what it would be like (a sort of Betty Paige naiveness to her modus operandi) and winds up having sex with the photographer, losing her virginity and loving in.
David, of course, does not know she gave her maidenhead away to a stranger, but Lola is now ready to get down with him. He is not. He dumps her again.
A shady talent manager, Vixen, sees Lola in a small town beauty contest and recognizes the spark of great possibilites. He takes her under his wing, and in his bed, and promotes the hell out of her to Holywood producers. Hr first film role is a two minute walk-on that gets more praise than the stars and the film as a whole-
And so watch Lola-s rise from poverty to riches and fame…the Marilyn Monroe story refashioned, a common theme in sleaze books, like Loren Beauchamp-Robert Silverberg´s Meg.
In Whittington´s´hands, the story has enough film producing knowledge that it reads authentic.
A horrible title, Lust for Love was one of the first titles to come out from Bedside. It is doubtful he wrote this for that publisher, since Bedside paid $500 a book and Whitgtington was used to Gold Medal at $2500 and Ace at $1000…he may have tried to sell it to Beacon or Midwood first.
He put his name on it, though, not using a pen name, so we will assume he was proud of it. It is a good fun read but not Whittington at his best.