Archive for the Beacon Books Category

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…

Pick-Up by Charles Willeford (Beacon Books, 1955)

Posted in Beacon Books, crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A strange and amazing tale of alcoholism, failure, suicide and crime, and probably the most depressing vintage softcore novel we have come across yet.

Harry Jordon, the narrator, has given up pretty much on all things in his life.  He is a failure as a painter and hated teaching art at college because , well, “those who can’t instruct others.”  So he drinks. To havce money for booze, he works the counter at a small San Francisco diner.

One day, a pretty blonde woman, Helen, walks into the diner. She’s hungover and doesn’t know how she wound up in San Francisco, by bus or train, and her purse is missing. Harry takes her out for a drink, many drinks — they are both alcoholics so have that in common.  She’s escaped the clutches of her wealthy, overbearing mother in San Sierra, whom she lives with as a virtual emotional prisoner after her failed marriage…her estranged husband is somewhere in San Diego, she hasn’t seen him in ten years…

Helen moves in with Harry; he lives in a rooming house and they pass off as man and wife, to keep things “moral.” Helen finds her purse with $200 of traveler’s checks which they use for plenty of booze.

She talks him into painting her nude portrait. He resists, but gives in, and while everything seems like lover’s paradise, the portrait — good in a medicore way — reminds Harry that he’s a failure: “Why couldn’t I be one of the 1 out of 100 who makes a living painting?”  Facing his failures makes Helen face hers and the two fall into a manic depressive state. They are both bi-polar before that symptom had a description.

With no money left to drink, they decide to commit suicide together. They cut their wrists and lie down to sleep and die, but they both wake up only to find the cuts healed and they  feel light-headed. They didn’t know they had to severe arteries.

So they decide to go to a hospital and admit themselves into the mental health ward, the bughouse as it were. Deeming themselves dangers to society, they are admitted on the taxpayer’s bill. After three days, however, Harry leaves but Helen is kept for a weak for more observation.

Reunited, they drink more and get manic. He gets various jobs but he can’t leave her alone in the room otherwise she will go out to bars and have men buy her drinks and he has to fight off angry army guys and sailors.  There’s a lot of graphic violence as Harry fights off other men — he slices up a sailor’s face with a broken beer bottle, and when one man makes a snide remark about Helen, he does considerable damage to the man’s face and bones that the man searches them with a gun, wanting deadly revenge. When he finds Harry and Helen, Harry and Helen tell him to go ahead and shoot them and put them out of their misery. The man is confused, that is not the reaction he expected. He tells them to beg for their lives but they simply turn their backs and say, “Shoot.”

This is one dark novel, not to be read if you are feeling down. There’s a few detailed sex scenes for the sake of Beacon’s genre needs, but, like many of Willeford’s wonderful books, this is 1950s American noir existentialism at its bleakest core, about what happens to thirtysomething men and women who fail at their dreams and wallow in self-pity and gin.

The last paragraph is a nod to Hemiongway’s A Farewell to Arms, and the second to last sentence…well, it throws you off and makes you re-think the whole narrative, and certain passages starts to make more sense…

Black Lizard Books reprinted it in the 80s, calling it “psychological suspense.” Not sure if that’s it, more the tale of bi-polar horror.

Black Mask Books also has an edition.

The Schemers (Beacon Signal, 1963)

Posted in Beacon Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on September 17, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Although The Babysitter was a pretty good book, these other Vin Fields novels have fallen short on keping the pages turning.

The Schemers is about an a PR guy after the fast buck so that he and his female partner, also his lover, can have enough money to run away and live the life they ream of, the easy street, with cash to spend…and he wants this so he can leave his wife and kid because family domesticy is not his bag of tea.

The plot is confusing andyou do not care what happens to these people…and for a sex books, there is little to entice…a dud.

Too Hot to Handle by Orrie Hitt (Beacon, 1959)

Posted in Beacon Books, noir fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on September 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This may be one of Hitt’s darkest novels. The keyhole peeper cover suggests this might be a peeping tom book but it’s not. Too Hot to Handle focuses on one of Hitt’s pet themes: young women in the 1950s who, out of bad circumstance, need, and blackmail, wind up as call girls, street hookers, or nude models.

Kay comes from the wrong side of town, Orchard Street, the red light district of sin and booze and crime. At fourteen, she is seduced by a friend of her father’s named Lucky. After teaching her all about sex, he tries to enlist her as a call girl for his operation. She had no idea he was a two-but pimp. She refuses.

At nineteen, she gets a job in a law office and winds up marrying the boss’ son, Burt, much to the boss’ chagrin — Kay is from Orchard Street, she’s not Ivy League class as he had hoped for his son, who just finished law school.

Burt tries opening his own office and they are poor, struggling, unable to meet rent on their West End Avenue apartment. To make matters worse, Kay’;s mother gets stomach cancer and the hospital wants to be paid or else no care and surgery (perhaps a political statement on Hitt’s part about the lack of universal health care).

Kay meets a married woman named Iris who seems to have a lot of money; she tells Kay she secretly works as a call girl for this “rich” old woman, Mrs. Gordon, who only deals with high-end executive businessmen who pay top dollar for the best girls — $100 an hour, when most hookers can only get $10-15 (and 100 is like $1500 in 1959 money).

Kay is facing too mnay bills — rent, groceries, her mother…so she does it, and finds she likes it after a few drinks until later when the guilt sets in. The men give her high marks — she’s so on sexual fire that she’s, yes, too hot to handle; when she tries to quit, Mrs. Gordon threatens to tell Burt what Kay is doing, so Kay is blackmailed into staying a call girl, although she does like the money. She also has a lesbian fling with Iris, after a bad drunk night when she has sex with five businessmen and passes out and they leave her alone in the room, and she didn’t get paid.

She felt the pain and she knew that he was taking her. She moaned, crying for herself and what she was, and she felt his lips on her mouth, lips that were filled with the wildness of passion, lips that became more furious…

She remembered little after that, except that men came to her, and went away.

“Wonderful,” she heard one of them say.

She didn’t know who said it and she didn’t care. She was earning money, earning it the way some girls did on Orchard Street, and that’s all she knew. (pp. 86-87)

Iris dies in a botched abortion (a common occurrence in Hitt’s and other sleaze books) and Kay has to hire a young girl, Debbie, to take care of her mom, only Debbie seduces Kay’s drunk father and blackmails Kay – the dad either goes to jail for rape or pays $2500 to settle.

The atmosphere of this novel is bleak and depressing, more than the other books Hitt did with this theme. Kay is faced with no-way-out situations.

When she wasn’t working or with Iris she would drink alone and it was then that a wave of disgust and self-pity needled her. She was married to a man that didn’t give a damn  about her. She was a call girl. And, if that wasn’t enough, she was a lesbian. (p. 100)

This is true “sleaze” because none of the sex is exactly sensual but acts of drunken desperation and sad loneliness. Sex becomes nothing more than a business transaction for Kay, and soon she’s working sidelines at bars, having men every hour, her husband finds out and leaves her, and Kay keeps drinking more and more until she’s a complete lush and gets arrested by the vice cops…

After reading a slew of Hitt duds (to be expected from any prolific writer) this one was a vibrant read and enforces our contention that Orrie Hitt is a long lost pulp master who needs to be revived…and soon will be from Stark House which will issue an omnibus edition next year (with an introduction from Michael Hemmingson).

Lawrence Block Seeks Lost Pulp Sleaze Novel

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Beacon Books, crime noir, Lawrence Block, Midwood Books, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Sheldon Lord, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on August 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Great essay online by Lawrence Block.

Call Me Bad by Orrie Hitt (Beacon Books, 1960)

Posted in Beacon Books, crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on July 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

After reading a slew of bad Orrie Hitt titles recently, it was good to pick up a decent one.  This is another novel centered around one of his favorite settings, a sleazy hotel where illicit crime happens, mostly prostitution.  A woman named Ma runs the hotel and several girls who live there, with the help of the elevator boy who procure customers for the girls.

One is 20 year old Sherry Jenkins, who sells her body because she was gang raped at 17 and vows all men must pay…except for this married traveling salesman she thinks she is in love with, and he has no idea what she really does.

Sherry takes care of her alcohlic father, why she does not know because he says he was never sure if he was her father.  Then her father fgets an 18 year old girl pregnant and she puts up the money for an abortion, which is botched, and the girl dies, and the police start doing a crack down, and she gets arrested…

There are some flaws in this short novel but they are minor, so it is a good read. Like many Hitt characters, the people in this book are all desperate, in pain inside, and down in the gutter…kind of a sad read.

Wayward Girl – Orrie Hitt (Beacon #288, 1960)

Posted in Beacon Books, lesbian pulp fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This one is far better than Orrie Hitt’s other juvie novel, The Torrid Teens — both published in 1960 although Wayward Girl was a month or two before Torrid Teens, as tis is Beacon #288 and Teens #294 (we’re talking a month difference here).

The wayward girl is  young Sandy Greening and he white trash nowhere life — she was raped by a neighbor at 14 but liked it, started running with a gang and prostituting at 15, got hooked on heroin (but not too badly) at 16.

Her father is in prison for trying to hold up a gas station and her mother is a lush who runs around with criminals and bad boys.  She in turn runs around with a street gang, is not quite a “deb” but makes herself available for the use of the club house, where she sometimes brings her johns.

She works part time in a deli, where she meets out of town men or dock workers who pay her $5-10, sometimes $20, for a lay.  She believes in giving men what they pay for and sometimes enjoys it.  She wants to work her way up to a high class $100/night call girl and lead a nicer life.

One night an older man offers her $25 and she goes to his hotel room but it’s a police sting and she’s arrested.  She was witness to a murder in a rumble the night before (a rival gang gang-raped one of their debs) but she plays dumb.

She is sent to a special reform school for first offenders, much better she is told than most reform institutes for young women, and far better than prison.  There, she goes cold turkey off the heroin and it’s a hellish two weeks before she kicks it.

Some of the other girls are pregnant, in for drugs or hooking, and half seem to be lesbians or dabbling in the third sex for lack of men.  She vows never to go that route but she is blackmailed into lesbiana by one of the house-mothers, who holds her future well-being in lock.  Still, Sandy finds she enjoys the forced kisisngs and lickings of another woman — “Sandy had never dreamed of the completeness of this kind of love” (p. 92).

She is given a weekend pass to stay with a family in town, only to find that the man of the house — a fat slob of a guy — expects sex from her, or else he will tell the house-mother to give her a bad report and have her sent to regular jail.  He is paying the house-mother $25 for every girl she sends for him to have sex with.  Sandy sees it ironic that she was convicted for prostitution only to be pimped out by the state employees who are supposed to be “reforming” her as a good citizen of society.

The slob’s son, 19, however, falls in love with Sandy and wants to marry her, but she can’t see how he can feel that way for a girl like her, especially if he ever found out she was sleeping with his father.

When Sandy is released, she goes back to work at the diner where men are expecting her to return to doing $5-10 tricks, and where her gang mates expect her to return to the Life of rumbling and shooting heroin.

Sometimes at tad preachy and moral, this is still an excellent read, even with the sappy happy ending.  Hitt seems to be writing a book made-to-order for Beacon, as the storyline is similar to others, but here he does an excellent job.

On the Hitt Scale, a 9.2.

The Needle – Sloane M. Britain (Beacon, 1959)

Posted in Beacon Books, lesbian pulp fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on April 3, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Sloane Britain/Elaine Williams published most of her books with her employer, Midwood, but in 1959 published the novels First Person–Third Sex with Newstand and The Needle with Beacon.

The Needle is unlike her Midwoods — a very dark, passionate story of heroin addiction and taboo sex.

Gina Morgan is a simple Brooklyn girl in her early 20s who still lives with her old world values mom and dad in the working class section and is going to college to have a better future than a housewife or factory worker. Her parents are the type who “image” to their neighbors is important — they never raise their voices s others will hear and gossip, and they like to brag their daughter is at college, unlike most of the girls her age on the block.

Gina is a serious student, a virgin, and naive, until she meets Bob, an intelligent beatnik who woos her with his wild, ardent, and poetic ways.  His mania and depressions are not psychological and she has no idea that he is always high on heroin. When she finds out, she decides to try some herself and she loves the bliss, the escape from reality.

Soon her grades slip and she doesn’t care about college.  Her parents find out she is seeing a man and she tells them she is engaged, but she isn’t, but then she and Bob do get a quick marriage.  Much to her folks’ disamy, Gina moves out to live with her husband, where they do little but get high and lounge around.  To support their habit, Bob starts to sell H, cutting it with barbituates, which leads to the OD of several upper class rich kids, age 15, and the cops start looking for Bob and Gina.

The next thing Gina knows, Bob has turned her into a hooker and she’s turning tricks to support their addiction.  How did this happen?  She doesn’t care about the sex as long as she’s so high she’s somewhere else in her head while men use her body.

She gets hooked ip with Alex, a mob guy and major heroin distributor, in hopes of getting the stuff for free in exchange for sex. But Alex falls for her, and he wants her to go clean.  Bob is arrested and hangs himself in jail while going cold turkey. Alex puts Gina up in a Greenwich Village apartment and slowly weans her off the horse.

But Alex’s striking green-eyed sister, Lois, also falls for Gina. Lois is an Ivy League girl, has been under her brother’s wing since she was 10 and their folks died. She has no idea her brother is a pusher, she thinks he makes his money on Wall Street.

When Alex finds Gina and Lois naked in bed, he joins them, and fucks them both…

Gina goes along with the incest, for a while, until she feels rejected by bother her lovers, this brother and sister, and she heads back to the one thing that will soothe her pain: that white pony.

Like Robert Silverberg’s Don Elliott penned Love Addict, this is a fascinating and literate story of the young female addict, a staple of the dope sub-genre of the sleaze book market.  It may be the best of Britain’s books, next to These Curious Pleasures. The depth of despair and loneliness is heavy in this novel; we really feel and see Gina’s sorry world, a simple girl who falls in love three times and is betrayed and hurt.

An A-minus and a recommended read; however, the book seems to be pricey on the market.

Girls’ Dormitory – Orrie Hitt (Beacon, 1958)

Posted in Beacon Books, lesbian pulp fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on March 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.

Private Club – Orrie Hitt (Beacon Book #232, 1959)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on March 4, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A wife-swapping tale set in upper state NY Catskills around a private upper middle classer club and the lots of land people are building cabins on.

Alas, not Hitt at his best.  Very dry, slow, boring, I couldn’t get past page 40 — similar to Never Cheat Alone, which read the same.

On the Hitt Scale, a 3.