Archive for Beacon Books

The Bedroom Route by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block/Donald Westlake?), Beacon, 1963

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on December 7, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The Sheldon Lords are a mixed bag, depending on who penned them  — Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Milo Perichitich, or Hal Dresner.

This one is penned by Block, with perhaps some help by Westlake; I detect two styles from chapter to chapter.  It’s an unbanite story of Madison Avenue ad account junior exec, Mike Hart, and his wife Cheryl.  Cheryl, it seems has become frigid, much to the dismay of her hubby Mike.  But no fear, there are other women, lots of them: his secretary and the lover of one of his rivals at the ad company, sleeping with the woman as an act of revenge and one-upmanship.

Cheryl learns why she cannot enjoy sex with men anymore, when she is seduced by another woman and enters the world of the third sex on twilight street.

Unfortunately, this one is not as good as the Sheldon Lords like the excellent Candy and April North. It’s slow-moving and droll much like Orrie Hitt’s droll Mad Ad novel, Tell Them Anything. This could have been an assignment from Beacon: “Give us a Madison Avenue sex book,” since Beacon published a number of them set in ad world.

It’s okay, the writing is smooth, but it’s just that: okay. There are better Sheldon Lords out there…

Wild Wives by Charles Willeford (Beacon, 1956)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Charles Willeford’s orginal title for this quirky private eye yarn was Until I Am Dead, but Beacon Books re-titled it Wild Wives as the seond part of a double book, the reprint of High Priest of California, which had originally appeared in 1953 as the second half of a Royal Giant digest number.

Since both novels are short — c. 30,000 words — they were suitable for one regular-sized 60,000 word paperback.

Wild Wives is dubbed a “First Award Novel” which a number of Beacons from 1956-1958 were, for whatever reason…one will note that Beacon misspelled the author’s name as “Williford.”

This is my first read of Charles Willeford; people have been recommending him to me for years.  It takes me a while sometimes. He certainly has an interesting history as a writer.  Out of the army, he fancied himself a San Francisco beatnik poet, publishing a chapbook in the mid-50s, then turning to novels at age 30, writing the first few in a cheap room at the Powell Hotel on weekends, soaking up the San Francisco lifestyle.

His aim, like many young pulp crime writers then, was Gold Medal, but his books were too short. He found a home at Royal Giant/Beacon, and later Newsstand Library.  He wasn’t prolific.  He used the money to pay for graduate school.  He later went into college teaching, published more poetry and memoir, was re-discovered in the 1970s and 80s, and hit big time with the bestseller turn into a movie, Miami Blues.  In his autumnal years, he enjoyed his re-discovery as a pulp master, wrote more books, and passed away in 1988, age 69.

Since I have not read any other Willefords yet, I cannot say, but have read that Wild Wives is unlike his other novels, being a more “conventional”  noir/crime/gumshoe tale.

The narrator shamus is Jake Blake, San Fran wise-ass tough guy private eye.  In the first chapter, a 15 year old girl points a water pistol at his head then lifts her skirt and bends over, asking to be spanked — already we know that Willeford’s writing is a bit…off-kilter…

Continue reading

Sinners in White by Mike Avallone (Midwood, 1962)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Midwood - Sinners in White

I’ve had several Mike Avallone Midwoods here for a while, this one and Stag Stripper, and wondered what kind of writer he was.  Avallone was mostly known as a mystery/crime author with his Ed Noon P.I. series andhis active involvement with the Mystery Writers of America, plus he seemed to be fairly full of himself, based on his bio entry at Thrilling Detective, viz:

…he was quick. He once completed a novel in a day and a half. One story goes that he wrote a 1,500-word short story in 20 minutes, while dining in a New York restaurant. One year, he supposedly churned out 27 books. Avallone was a tireless committee volunteer for the MWA, serving on the Board of Directors, as well as editing the newsletter. He was also the chairman of its awards, television and motion picture committees. And he was always quick with a quip. Rumours have it was the Avallone who coined the “Father, Son, & Holy Ghost” line to describe Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald, way back in the early sixties.

He was also legendary for being quick to take offense and quick to lash out, and for his high opinion of himself. An original; a seemingly tireless letter-writer and self-promoter, his own biggest fan, a romping stomping ornery cuss, often charging off in two or three directions at once, at times bitter and spiteful, prickly, opinionated, pounding out white hot attacks on anyone he felt had failed to acknowledge their debt and pay their proper respects to him (never mind that some of these writers never READ him) or in some other way slighted him. He was especially venomous towards more successful writers, notably, supposedly, Stephen King who, Avallone exclaimed at every chance, based every thing he ever wrote on an a Robert Bloch novel.

“A few times,” Avallone’s son, David, admits, “he substituted himself for Bloch, but this was mostly to drive King fans into rage. Most of his “ornery cussedness” had a pretty simple intention; to piss people off and get attention. Once when I was a child and we were in London, he calmly threw into an interview that he thought Arthur Conan-Doyle must have known exactly who Jack the Ripper was… otherwise he wouldn’t have avoided writing about it. This managed to get him into all the other papers, with headlines like “Yank Writer Says Sherlock Was Jack The Ripper”… My point being (one that seems to be lost on a lot of folks) I don’t think Dad particularly believed King plagarized him any more than he believed Conan-Doyle knew the Ripper. He just got a huge kick out of the reaction it caused when he said it.”

Certainly, Avallone had a high opinion of his own work. After his death, the quips and stories rolled out. “He never wrote a book he didn’t like.” “He rewrote one book three times, and sold each version, once as a mystery, once as a romance and once as a horror story, to three different publishers.” “In making a list of the ten best mysteries of all time, he included one of his own books.” “Reading him may have sometimes been a dubious pleasure, and dealing with him an onerous task, but I was glad I knew him. He was his own best character.”

I enjoyed his essay in Paperback Parade #33, talking about the books he did for Midwood and Beacon in the early 60s.  He had lost his editor at Gold Medal, and new editor Knox Burger (later a powerful agent, and famed for having given his old army buddy Kurt Vonnegut his first publishing breaks, buying stories for Collier Magazine and buying Vonnegut’s first two novels as paperback originals in SF with Dell) didn’t want to work with him, so Avallone started to seek new publishers for his work; his agent suggested Midwood. I liked how Avallone was not afraid to put his real name on his “sex” books, wasproud of them, and even dedicated some to family members — Sinners in White is dedicated to his sister, “who would have been a fine nurse.”

Avallone (“Avo” to friends)  claims he wrote his books in a week, some in 3 days.  Seems he’d take on any job, writing many tie-ins for Man from UNCLE, Mannis, Hawaii-5-0 and The Partridge Family (!).

Since I was on a vintage nurse novel kick this week, I decided to sit down with Sinners in White, not knowing what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised — this little novel is no work of art, but it was smoothly written, fast-paced, and entertaining.

It opens absurdly, with three nurses being interviewed for jobs by one Dr. Stryker, who presents himself completely naked when they walk in.  Only one nurse, Kelly Connors, starts to remove he clothes, assuming the interview involves sex.  The other two have different reactions.

Stryker is eccentric and wants to see their reactions — he’s kooky in a Dr. House sort of way.  All three nurses pass the test and are hired. Avallone gives each a chapter about their past, and what led them to the nurse field:

Kelly Connor — prety much a slut nad failed actress, an incident of delivering a baby and helping an accident victim leads her to nusring…

Fran Turner — girl from NY tenement slums, wanting to better herself, get away from her prostitute/drunk mother and the thug who wants to marry her…

Kate Orley — Innocent little rich girl and psychology major, she gets car jacked and raped repeatly for 18 hours by a man. She was a virgin. She does not blame the man, thinking he just needed help…so she decides to go into nursing to help people and deny her debutante life…


From there it gets soap opera-ish with all the dirty little gioings-ons within the hispital staff — from the one womanier doctor who has to bed every nurse to a love affair between Nurse Turner and Dr. Stryker, to Striker’s invalid wife hiring a private eye to pregnancies and car crashes and emegercy room surger to the head nurse’s gabling problems…

Not bad, not bad, a B-.  I will definitely read more by Avallone.

The Lady is a Lush by Orrie Hitt

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on September 22, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Hitt - Lady is a Lush Reviewed here.

The Widow by Orrie Hitt

Posted in crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on September 20, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

hitt - widow Reviewed here.

The Passionate Professor by Brian Black

Posted in Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on September 17, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Black --Passionate Prof

A disappointment, especially when I was curious about Brian Black and his books.  I couldn’t get past page 50.  It was trying to be cute, about the academic trysts between profs, grad students, and undergrads, but there were too many character shifts and it tried too hard to be a comedy.

Lucy by Kay Addams (aka Orrie Hitt), Beacon Books #308

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on September 12, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Hitt - Adams Lucy

A couple people asked me: “Does Orrie Hitt write difffrently under a female pseudonym or with his other pen names?”  Good question. Some writers do; some don’t. Some try; some don’t care, and some have no choice such as those who wrote for Nightstand and had house names like John Dexter and J.X. Williams forced on their work (not that they cared much, when the books were done for money rather than  literary prosperity).

“Kay Addams” is both a character and a pen name for Mr. Hitt — the books My Secret Perversions and My Wild Night with Nine Nudists are (both from Novel) written “as told to Orrie Hitt.”  This one, Lucy, and the lesbian novels Three Strange Women, Queer Patterns, and The Strangest Sin (all from Beacon) are “by” Addams.

Addams - Secret Perversions of Kay Addams

Lucy is about hopeless lower middle-class people who cannot pay their bills on time, never have enough money for anything, and drink too much to numb reality.  They have lousy jobs and sex gets them into trouble.  In many ways, this novel is like a Raymond Carver story — not that Hitt has the refined literary blue collarness of Carver, but these charcaters defintely live in Carver Country and the subject matter is something Carver would have tackled had he ever wrote a novel.  In fact, the “voice” reminded me of when Carver writes in the female first person, like his stories “So Much Water So Close to Home” and “Chef’s House” — you know this is not a woman writing, it is a man trying to see things through a woman’s eyes.

Lucy Corbin is married to Dale Corbin, a sorry fellah who manages his father’s insurance agency office in Manhattan.  His father is none too pleased with Dale because Lucy was a secretary there and he has a rule against employees dating, nonetheless marrying.  Lucy was married once before as a teenager, pregnant to a boy whose family tought she was poor white trash.  She lost the baby and lost the husband. She moved to New York City, got a job at an insurance agency, dated the office manager, and now here she is: living in the suburbs outside Manhattan in a place called the Hallows, a development part of the town Crestview with track homes sub-divided by economic class: lower-mid, middle, and upper crust middle dwellings.

Dale makes $200 a week. He gives Lucy $80 a week to which she uses to pay the mortgage, pay the various bills, buy groceries and booze, and more booze.  Often bills will go late in favor of booze.  She has not been able to buy herself any new clothes or shoes in three years.  She wants a baby but can they afford that?

Lucy is also a looker with a 40-inch bust.  Does any woman in Orrie Hitt’s universe have C, B, or A cups?  All his ladies are always overtyly busty, but this time Lucy mentions she feels she’s too big and wishes her boobs were smaller.

What does Dale do with the other $120 a week?  He says he needs it to take out clients, hotel rooms when he stays late and doesn’t catch the last train out of the city.  She knows he is having an affair but keeps quiet, until one day he gets drunk and confesses that he has been carrying on with a 17-year-old girl in the office — seems she is pregnant and if he doesn’t give her money for an abortion, or to live on, she will tell his father and he’ll lose his job, and she will put him in jail for statutory rape.  She wants $5,000.  It’s blackmail, obviously.

Lucy’s reaction is to drink. So does Dale. They get roaring drunk, fight, scream, have drunken sex like two Carver characters.  They drink when they wake up, drink all day until they pass out.  They drink with the neighbors who are just as miserable. They sit in bars with miserable lower-class people who talk aout how miserable their lives are and how many unpaid bills there are. To “make things even,” Lucy sleeps with two men in Crestville: the new neighbor and the guy who cleans the windows.

The teenage girl goes to Dale’s dad and tells him her son got her in a family way and dad fires them both.  She says she will go to the cops and have him arrested — she’s 17 after all.  Dale disappears when he catches Lucy with the neighbor.

Having to fend for herself, Lucy sells comestics door to door; at first she does well, but when she runs out of customers in town, ot ready for new orders, her income falls to nothing.

Addams - Lucy

There’s a rich woman who owns all the houses, who has their mortagge, Mrs. Williams — she married the developer and when he died, she inherited over 100 houses and collects all the mortgage payments. She tells Lucy there is a better way to make money and many of the good-looking local wives do it: in her 12-room mansion, Mrs. Williams runs a part time brotel, catering to well-to-do business men she knows.

Giving in to economic reality, Lucy agrees, but on her first day, the place is raided by the cops and she gets arrested.

Her husband shows up in court.  She gets off with probation.  Dale tells her that the girl got in a car accident and it was found out she is 19 an wasn’t pregnant, so he is off the hook.  They decide to give a go at their marrage again. Happy ending?  “We’ve learned that you don’t buy happiness,” she writes at the end. “You live it. And you live it together” (p.155).  Also like a Carver ending.  Was Carver reading Hitt in 1960?  he could have been.

Hitt tries for a little more sympathy and tenderness writing as a woman, but the Hitt misery and sleaziness is present.  I wonder now how he writes as Roger Normandie, Nicky Weaver (private eye stuff) and Charles Verne.

Weaver - Hitt - Love or Kill Them All