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.
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.
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.