Archive for Donald Westlake

Lust Kicks by Alan Marsh aka Donald E. Westlake (Pillar Book 808, 1963)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A well-written, page-turning coming-of-age novel from Donald E. Westlake, Lust Kicks tells the tale of two 17-year-old buddies, Mike and Frank, from Ohio, who decide to take off on a summer adventure before returning to high school in their senior year.  Knowing their parents would not approve, they slip away in the night, a few hundred bucks between them.

Their three week road trip, taking buses and hitchhiking, goes from Ohio down to Mexico.  They are both virgins on the outset, but both soon lose their cherries to older women — lonely women, needful women, and then they share a cheap whore, and it’s not the same.

There are plenty of women for them to gain experience. Then they save the life of a young heiress who is grateful and takes them to her mansion, where they meet Katherine, a pretty young maid who has dreams of Hollywood.

Mike falls for Katherine, and agrees to take her to Los Angeles.  She’s full of all the usual delusions:

Mike: “What makes you so sure you’ll make it out in Hollywood?”

Katherine got up and poured herself another drink. “I’ll make out all right. There are two ways to make it.  I know. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about the movies and Hollywood. If a girl has talent, real talent, she has to keep plugging away until she makes it. And even then she has to entertain at least a few men on her back. The other way is to start out flat on your back and love your way to stardom. What’s the difference if it’s only a couple of men or a lot of men?”

“But if you can’t act what good is it?”

“I don’t want to be an actress,” she said, her eyes closed as visions of mink and ermine raced through her mind. “I want to e a star. There’s a world of difference between the two. I don’t care if I never make a picture.  All I want is the publicity and the money. I want to be able to pick up a newspaper and see my name there. And I don’t care how it gets there.” (p. 143)

Or: bad publicity is better than no publicity; as Burt Reynolds once put it:  “I don’t care what you say about me, just say it and spell my name right.”

How many times have we at this blog heard the very same, or close to it, thing from the mouths of those many who head west and later wind up dancing or making videos in a certain field…

Then again, such tactics have worked for the fame-seeking…Courtney Love, Sharon Stone, Marilyn Monroe…

Katherine is vixen and good at manipulation; she almost breaks the friends up as she plays hard to get with Mike but immediately sleeps with Frank.

Frank takes her to Hollywood and Mike goes down to Mexico where he meets Carlita, a 17-year-old virgin who feels it is time for her to know a man; and in bed, Mike–three weeks ago a virgin himself–teaches the girl all he has learned on his road trip.  He comes full circle, no longer a boy, but a man of the world…

There’s more, but you get the gist. Nothing original here, the same ol’ situations in any coming-of-age road book, but the way Westlake handles it is smooth and delightful. You can really tell that, by 1963, Westlake was getting his plotting and dialogue chops down better than his books from 1958-61 for Midwood and Nightstand.

A great little read if you can find it.

Campus Tramp by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Nightstand Books #1505, 1959)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Sheldon Lord, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This was the fifth book William Hamling published at the end of 1959, and the first of many titles that a very young Larry Block furnished for Hamling and his editor, Harlan Ellison.

This is also one of the more hard-to-find Shaws, at a reasonable price, with a but of a cult status among Antioch University alumni from the 1950s and 60s.  Block went to Antioch, later opting out for a career in Manhattan as a hack pulp writer, selling his first novel, as Lesely Evans, to Fawcett Crest in 1958, then to Midwood and Nightstand in 1959-63.

A number of Block’s early books are, well, uneven–they are either good or bad.  Mona was very good and The Adulterers and The Wife-Swappers very bad.  Campus Tramp is not on part with Mona, $20 Lust, The Sex Shuffle, or Candy, but it isn’t bad, and there’s even some sociology involved in the text.

Campus Tramp tells the story of Linda Shepard, a nineteen-year-old young lady from Cleveland, Ohio, who is off to her freshman year at Clifton College, Block’s version of Antioch, a liberal arts institute with a loose structure in experimental (for the time) pedagogy.

Linda is a virgin and has been proud of keeping it that way, as a number of boys in high school tried to claim her cherry but she was firm in her desire to wait until marriage…until college that is. Once at Clifton, she decides that she wants a lover, that she wants to lose her virginity, and while a guy named Joe has his love eye on her, the man she really wants is a senior, Don Gibbs, a sort of bohemian rich boy who edits the college newspaper (as Block did at Antioch).

Many sociological studies have been conducted over the decade about how wild freshmen get in college, especially in the dorms: they are away from home, mommy and daddy, they have access to alcohol and drugs, they let loose. I remember when I was in the “older student” dorm floor way way b ack when, and the freshmen were all on the eighth and seventh floors, said floors in shambles every weekend, shattered bottles, beer cans, clothes everywhere…rooms where a drunk or high 18 year old was taking on anyone, and guys lining up for a turn…yeah, the good old days. Later, the young girls who did this would experience shame, and they’d leave the dorms or even try to kill themselves, or they’d wallow in booze and cocaine and sleep with anyone who passed by…

That’s what happens to Linda.  She gets Don Gibbs, inserting herself into his life, and when she loses her virginity, and experiences lust, she can’t get enough.  She an Don fuck whenever they can; she spends all her time with him, not going to classes, her grades slipping.

When Don breaks up with her over her ultra possessiveness, Linda sinks deep into debauchery, having sex with any boy or guy or man who wants her, a shabby replacement for Don; she thinks of suicide but getting drunk is better to dull the pain, and there are plenty of older students willing to give her the booze in exchange for a romp in the backseat.

Linda starts to get a reputation as the campus tramp, and guys ask her out only with sex on their minds. Linda doesn’t care what people think of her.  Her roommate, Rachel, is quite concerned, and one drunken night, when Rachel gives Linda a massage, the two girls go at it.  Linda is shocked by what she has done, and her roommate confesses that she’s been a lesbian since she was fourteen.

Then Linda realizes she is pregnant, and she has no idea who the father could be…just as she decides to stop drinking and tramping and get her grades back up, the school informs her that they want her to leave for a year or face explusion…and now she is pregnant…she isn’t getting a break anywhere.

The book doesn’t wrap up as expected — usually these stories, for moral standards, have the wanton floozie realize the errors of her sinful ways, and finds the boy who loves her…we thought it would be Joe, that seemed to be the set up, he confesses his love despite her reputation, but she just fucks him and drops him…

Instead, Linda returns to Don Gibbs and tells him she’s knocked up and needs help.  He’s willing to help because, unknown to her, he broke it up because he was in love and was afraid of the emotion…

Creeping Hemlock Press recently reprinted Campus Tramp as a a trade paperback, with an intro by Ed Gorman and an afterword by Block; the afterword is worth the price of admission: Blocks talks about leaving high school and going to Antioch as a would-be young writer, sellingb his early novels, moving to New York, and being asked to leave Antioch in a way that Linda is asked to leave Clifton.  He talks about the book’s cult status at Antioich, and how some students and faculty thought the book was his way of “getting back” at Antioch.

Clifton College appears in a number of Andrew Shaws, referred to in one Sheldon Lord, and is the setting of one of Donald Westlake’s softcores, as Edwin West.

Creeping Hemlock is set to reprint the Seeldon Lord, April North, which has many similarities to Campus Tramp.

Lust Campus — Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Midnight Reader #408, 1961)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on March 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The third title, along with Crossroads of Lust and Passion Bride, that was deemed obscene in the court case People v. Sikora, 32 Ill. 2d 260, 267-268, 204 N. E. 2d 768, 772-773 (1965), and later footnoted in a 1977 Supreme Court Case, Ward v. Illinois, appealing a conviction for selling obscene materials. Justice Brennan noted in footnote 3 of his dissent:

“`Lust Campus’ by Andrew Shaw is a story of sexual adventures on a [431 U.S. 767, 772] college campus `where even members of the faculty taught sin and evil.’ The book describes homosexuals `necking’ on a public beach; mutual masturbation; self fondling; a circle of persons engaged in oral-genital contact; rape; intercourse; lesbian intercourse; cunnilingus and flagellation; flagellation with barbed wire; an abortion with red-hot barbed wire; masturbation with a mirror reflection, and a transvestite episode.

Yeah, it has all that, but it’s a disjointed book.  Block was at his least when he did multi-character college campus sleazsy books; he was better at the first-person and crime stuff, which he later went on to excel at with Gold Medal and other places.

I also detect a hint of Donald Westlake’s style popping in and out, but it’s mostly Block done in eight very long chapters.

It opens interestingly — Mike Fisher is on a beach and he thinks, while sunning himself, he is being fondled by a gay guy, and he attacks the person, punching them, but it turns out to be a girl, Linda.  They wind up dating but she won’t give her virginity to him, she just lets him findle her and get her top off.  He tells her he loves her, hoping she will give her cherry away, but she doesn’t.

From there both Mike and Linda go off on various sexual adventures in and around New York City, without cohesion.  In a weird way, this reminded me of Don DeLillo’s style, such as in Players or even the recent Falling Man: an event happens to a man and woman, and then they both go off on their own adventures and travels as a result of the event.

For its place in U.S. court history, the book is worth a read but I can only give it a C+.

All My Lovers – Alan Marshall/Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #15, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Most Donald E. Westlake fans believe his first novel was The Mercenaries in 1960, when in fact his true first published novel was Midwood #15, All My Lovers, as Alan Marshall, in 1959.

This Midwood concerns the tawdry lives of Manhattan’s uppercrust and the art scene. Martin is a 35-year-old successful stockbroker whose only intimacies is paid sex from his many immigrant maids, cleaning and servicing in his Park Avenue digs.  His wife, Eloise, has her lovers, and calls herself Lou outside their home — she pays for a Greenwich Village pad to house her lovers, who all have to be artists.

The current lover if Jeffrey, 23, whose been a professional gigolo since he was 18 and discovered that lonely widows, divorcees, and married women were willing to support him in exchange of sex.  On the gigolo grape vine, he heard about Lou and that she only wanted artistic lovers, so he pretends to be a would-be writer working on his first novel.  Living in the Village pad and getting money, clothes, and food from Lou, he sits behind a typewriter now and then, acting like he’s hard at work on this grand novel.

The marriage between Martin and Lou is for show; they seem to still love each other, or are pathetically co-dependent, and while he allows her lovers, he’s not very happy about it.  We later learn that they have never slept together once, so it’s a wonder why they are together.  It’s not just the money and status for Lou, because she does at times seem to be genuinely concerned for Martin; she’s just not interested in him sexually.

The reason why Lou demands her lovers to be artists is an attempt to replace the absence of a painter she was madly in love with, a man called “Bastard.”  He left for Europe and asked her to come, but she couldn’t leave Martin.

Martin hires call girls to beat and whip and be mean to, as surrogates for Lou, to express his anger and pain, just as he likes his maids to be submissive to his wants.  He’s a manipulative man; he sets up a weekend jaunt to “the Wood,” up in the Catskills, with Lou and her lover, Jeff, and a  mutual friend, Paula.  There, Martin tries to make Paula, she denies him, and she makes the move on Lou, confessing she’s admired Lou all through high school and college, and that she’s a lesbian.  She tries to convince Lou that men cannot love women the right way, only women can satisfy women.  Lou doesn’t go for it.

Jeff and Martin get in a physical fight and all fall apart but this is what Martin wanted — to get Lou to drop Jeff and to have Paula make the moves on his wife.

Then Bastard shows up, back from Europe, thwarting Martin’s plans.  While Martin takes it in stride about Lou’s various lovers, Bastard is a threat, because he knows Lou still loves him.

It’s a complicated story of a lot of hurt and lost people, people who don’t understand their own drives, needs, and emotions; people who last out at one another when hurt.  They are miserable and unhappy Manhattanites.

For a first novel, it’s not bad. It’s slow at times, then builds up tension, then gets slow again, but the writing is pretty good, and shows how the early Westlake was honing the craft of narrative.

It’s  a rare and pricey book — in fact, since Westlake’s passing in Dec. 2008, many of his early pen name works have shot up in price.  I’ve seen All My Lovers run between $50-70.

The Many Faces of John Dexter #5: No Longer a Virgin penned by Lawrence Block/Donald Westlake (Nightstand #1513, 1960)

Posted in Lawrence Block, lesbian pulp fiction, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Lynn Munroe  suspected that either Block or Westlake or both penned the very first John Dexter novel, the 12th book William Hamling published, edited by Harlan Ellison, No Longer a Virgin:

Lawrence Block says he never wrote as John Dexter, and while I wanted to note that first, we should remember that he is the author of a book called Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. He also told me he never wrote as Sheldon Lord, etc. So this one is just conjecture on my behalf. One thing I noticed in my research of the Nightstand writers was that every single one of them told me that sometimes their books would come out under a house name like John Dexter. The only authors who claim not to be Dexter are Block, Westlake, and Dresner. The Alan Marshall books are full of references to Dexter. One of them mentions a playwright named Dexter St. John. Nightstand editor Earl Kemp told me that whenever they had two manuscripts by the same writer, they would stick a house name like Dexter or J.X. Williams [after that pseudonym was abandoned by John Jakes] on the second one. It is obvious when reading Dexters that they are the work of a wide variety of writers.

Everybody, at one time or another, was John Dexter, so we can deduce that Block was probably Dexter too. Then there’s High School Sex Club (NB1517) […] which lists [Andrew] Shaw as author on the cover but Dexter on the title page. Is this a typo, or were Shaw and Dexter linked somehow?

Block later admitted to one Dexter: Shame Dame, that I discussed here.

After reading No Longer a Virgin, I can confidently say this is another early Lawrence Block with the aid of Donald Westlake — published the same year as A Girl Called Honey, the narrative voice is the same and the female protagonists are somewhat alike…the breaks in style and dialogue are obvious, just as they were in Honey...

In Crossroads of Lust, the character Beth remembers reading No Longer a Virgin and how by chapter three, the girl in the story loses her virginity in a motel room with an older man; variations on the name “John Dexter” pop up now and then in Andrew Shaw and Alan Marshall books.

The heroine of the tale, Ann,  discovered the wonders of physical contact with boys youug…

She liked the feeling of men’s hands on [her breasts]. She liked it from the beginning, when she was twelve years old and they were already strongly building, and the boys used to rub them in the darkness of the neighborhood movie theater during the Saturday matinee.  Even then, she liked the touch of their hands on her breasts, and she liked to be kissed.  But she never let any of them touch her below the waist. (pp. 5-6)

Ann was determined to remain a virgin until her marriage. Even with her high school beau, Dan, “sex” was mutual masturbation.

That changes when she heads to New York City after graduating high school, with some stenography classes under her belt, and a typing certificate of 50-words-a-minute.  On the bus she meets 35-year-old Roger, an ad guy coming back from St. Louis. She lies and says she’s 20, and they share a motel room at a stopover.  She doesn’t want to seem inexperienced so she goes to bed with him and, as the title states, she’s no longer a virgin.

The innocent girl seduced my the men of New York is a common story in sleazy books of the 1950s-60s — sometimes they become prostitutes, sometimes they become tramps, sometimes they meet bad ends, and sometimes they seek redemption after months or years of sin.

She soon finds that men try to make her every way she turns — there’s the Broadway producer, Barry, and he has her strip to her underpants during a job interview; and a fat slob of a building manager who talks her into a quick bout of sex in exchange for a one year lease on a nice Brooklyn apartment.

Women, too.  She first stays with a girl from back home, Janet; one day she comes home drunk and lets her know she’s a lesbian and has designs.  What happens is basically a lesbian rape scene, but Roger arrives in time to save her, punching the lesbian out after a boxing match between the two.

She likes Roger a lot — why not, he took her cherry and was her knight in armor, saving her from forced twilight perversions.  But Roger is a “forever bachelor” at 35; he doesn’t want to get married or share an apartment with her.  Still, she refers to him as her “boyfriend” to others.

Then she learns he has  wife and kids, the hard way…

She learns that men are liars.  But is she. When Dan shows up out of the blue, missing her badly, she does everthing she can to keep Dan from finding out about Roger, from knowing the truth — she even has sex with Dan and makes him believe he just took her virginity, but it all backfires her and she loses both men in her life.

But she knows the city is full of men to sleep with; there may not be love or commitment or even truth,

but I won’t be alone, she thought. Never that.  At least I won’t be alone. (p. 191)

Not a remarkable story, and very little “story” at that, but it does end on a bleak note, rather than the typical romantic ending where the wanton girl finds true love and is happy. This one is more, well, realistic.

One thing is certain: Block, with Westlake, were the first faces of the prolific sleazemeister  John Dexter.

Sin Alley by Andrew Shaw (Lawrence Block and ?), Lesiure Book #613

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Shaw - Sin Alley

The cover alone is worth the price of admission.  It’s such a cool cover that, like Midwood’s Sin of Wheels art by Paul Rader or Gil Brewer’s The Bitch, it’s been reprinted on matchbooks, keychains, coffee mugs, and posters.

paul-rader-sin-on-wheels Brewer - The Bitch

 

 

 

 

 

The cover also reminds me so much of this former dancer at L.A.’s Jumbo’s Clown Room. When I showed her this cover (she no longer dances, but is an esatte chef in Bel Air) her eyes popped and she said, “That’s me!” Really — same body type, same hair, same lips.  Strange.

There’s no date on this, but as a Cornith Leisure Book, it would date between 1965-66.  It is on Lynn Munroe’s list of “are they or are they not” Lawrence Blocks from his article,”The First Andrew Shaw.”  There’s also question as to whether or not Block continued to write for Hamling and Kemp after 1963, when he and his agent split from Scott Meredith — after all, Meredith contracted all titles to Hamling & Kemp via The Black Box.

I think I’ve become adept at spotting Block’s style.  For one, in general, both his and Westlake’s Nightstands and Midwoods are between 9 and eleven chapters, often ten.  It’s a pragmatic thing — to get a 50,000 words manuscript, you do ten 5,000 word chapters, or nine 6,000 word chapters, and at on chapter a day, in less than two weeks you have a finished book. (Robert Silverberg’s were all fourteen chapters, until after 1965 when Greenlead required all books to be an exact 12 chapters).

Block also has a way of writing about Greenwich Village, a section of Manhattan that he obviously loves.  This is how Sin Alley opens, with colorful depictions of the the streets, trees, and builings of the Village, as well as its doomed youth in th streets:

It is a tough neighborhood.

They fourteen they have smoked their first marijuana cigaratte; by age fifteen they have taken their first hit of H; by sixteen they have graduated to sin-popping and by sixteen they are ready to shoot with medical hardware.

They have already had their first love by age twelve. In the basement or boiler room or hallway or on a fat rooftop, with a girl who is a known tramp, someone from the crowded apartment next door or the street. They start early and soon learn all about that. They know how to get their kicks. (pp. 6-7)

That passage is pure early vintage Block, as if taken from the pages of Pads Are for Passion.  In fact, there are a lot of “pads,” man, in early Block, and, like, beatnik lingio, Daddy-O.

In Sin Alley, The Pad is a special place, a cool space, it is “five rooms on the top floor of a four-story brick painted apartment building” (p. 8).  No one lives there and some think it is a myth; only those with a key, or know someone with a key, can get in.  No one knows who pays for it.  But The Pad is a safe place to take a chick and make her, smoke M or shoot H, play jazz and trip and float and ride the reefer wave.

So happens with a girl named Marion in chapter one; she meets a sexy beatnik trumpet player, they have dinner, he gives her booze and speed, and they go up to the pad.  He tells her to never talk about The Pad and to deny being there if ever asked. She’s too high to remeber anyway.

Chapters two and thre are in completely different writing styles which causes me to think this is a collaborative novel.  Chapter two reads like Westlake’s dense early style and I believe chapter three could be William Coons, who was already ghosting Andrew Shaws as of 1962.

This is a multi-character book, almost a collection of stories, a biout various people in the Village finding their way to The Pad and experiencing mind0-blowing sex and drugs and music.  We don’t get back to Marion’s story until chapter six, and back to Block’s writing — in fact, his chaptrs are choppy, stucatto, single word paragraphs that flow like jazz riffs, returning to themes — the way we return to Marion half way through the book.

It’s an okay book, I’m not a fan of multi-character novels or collections disguised as a novel, because you don’t get to know the characters or even care for them.  Plus, the different writing styles throughout make it an nerratic read.  But like I said at the top, the cover is worth the price of admission into this pad, Daddy-O.

Loser’s Lust by Alan Marsh (Donald Westlake)

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on November 6, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Marsh - Losers Lust

There’s no date printed in the book but most likely it’s 1963, for that brief period  that Bill Hamling and Earl Kemp published the Ember and Pillar titles with house names slightly changed — Dan Eliot for Don Elliott, John Baxter for John Dexter, Andrew Schole (A. Schole?) for Andrew Shaw, Alan Marsh and Alan Marshall…

Apparently it had something to do with a court case that was going on.  It’s never been clear why…

Mona ended in Las Vegas and Loser’s Lust begins in Las Vegas.  I can’t say much because I was unable to get half0-way through this one. It was just…boring…this was not one of Westlake’s best early efforts.  It centers around three characters: a woman who has come to Nevada to file a divorce, a career black jack dealer and woman player, and a waitress in a casino.

Perhaps I am too used to funny Westlake. I like Westlake’s humorous crime books.  He went through periods — I’ve yet to read his noir period stuff. In this one, the action was slow (and the sex scenes come in rather late, surprusing for a Cornith which relied of x number of sex scenes every 18-20 pages to give it “flip appeal”).  The inside information of casino workings, and how black jack delaers operate the game, was cool, but I didn’t care about the charcters and I wasn’t clear on the point of the story.

Maybe there is non point — people go to Las Vegas for many reasons: for fun, for profit, for crime, for divorce, for loneliness…

Westlake fans will find this interesting for hois early voice.

Adios, Scheherazade by Donald E. Westlake (Simon and Schuster, 1970)

Posted in Midwood Books, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Westlake - AdiosDonald Westlake, RIP, wrote this funny book around the same time that Hal Dresner wrote his funny book, The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books, both novels about the sleaze publishing racket, both published by Simon and Schuster.  Both wrote for Midwood and Nightstand as young writers needing money experience, both were contracted out by Scott Meredith, both went on to bigger and better careers, both got a funny book out of the experience.

The narrator of Adios is a writer, 25, with a wife and kid and dreams of graduate school someday, knocking out a book a month for a New Orleans paperback house as Dirk Smuff.  The pen name used to belong to his friend Rod, who now has a spy series with a better house at $3,000 advances, publishes articles in Playboy, and has a movie deal in Hollywood.  The smut publisher still thinks they are getting Dirk Smuff novels from him, not knowing he has “a ghost” as they call it.

adiosP

His cadre of writing friends all have ghosts, collecting part of the $1,200 per book minus the agent’s commisson; they all have better careers and magazine or mainstream book writers. All except the lonly narrator, who is having a hard time getting his monthly books in on time…first two days late, then three, then four, then nine…the agency tells him if he’s late one more time, they will replace him with an eager writer who can do the work.

Continue reading

Candy by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block), Midwood #40 (1960)

Posted in crime noir, lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Lord - Candy

Early Lawrence Block is always a mixed bag of good and not-so-good, such as some of the very early Nightstands. Midwood published Block’s first book as a Sheldon Lord, Carla [Midwood #7, 1958]  (later reprinted as Puta), although his first sale was the Lesley Evans lesbian novel, Strange Are the Ways of Love, for Fawcett Crest, 1959.  Seems Midwood had less turnaround time from manuscript sale to publication.

Evans - Strang are the ways of love

Lord - CarlaBock excelled in the lesbian themed novels as Sheldon Lord, some Andrew Shaws, and as Jill Emerson, who went from sleaze paperbacks to several mainstream novels with Putnam in the 1970s.  Many critics were convinced that Jill Emerson was actually a woman, and has been included in some lesbian pulp fiction anthologies without a mention that Emerson is really a man.  Block was more convincing a female writer than Silverberg.

So Block continued to write more books for Midwood, most lesbian themed works, and one he collaborated with Donald Westlake, Of Shame and Joy.

Candy is considered a lesbian novel, or a novel with lesbian sex going on…an instance where the woman, Candy, leaves the narrator for what a wealthy Park Avenue lesbian has to offer a sexy girl from the backwoods of America.

Candy is also one of Block’s finest Sheldon Lord books and early works, better than April North, better than the Sheldon Lords that Hard Case published. His early Nightstands were about college kids and young sexuality, and then he started to move toward crime noir/erotica, like Shame Dame as John Dexter.

In one typical Block line, he has a character reading a book by Alan Marshall (Westlake), with one hand in his pocket…

Jeff Flanders is 34 and works at a finance company that gives personal loans with a high rate of interest.  They are basically legal loan sharks without the leg breakers.

One day a sexpot 19-year-old blonde from the sticks, now in the big city, wanders into the finance company looking to borrow $1000.  She has no job, is new in New York, and no credit or collateral, but she figures her looks and sexuality will get her the loan.  She suggests Jeff co-sign her loan and in exchange he can have sex with her….

Continue reading

The Many Faces of John Dexter #2: Shame Dame Penned by Lawrence Block

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Dexter - Shame Dame

Published in 1963 as Midnight Reader #471, Shame Dame is the only John Dexter book that Lawrence Block has admitted to writing, although there are probably others since in the past he has denied writing any Dexter, and denied writing any Sheldon Lords when he wrote many. His general pen name at Nightstand was Andrew Shaw, with one or two Don Hollidays and J.X. Williams tossed in there, maybe a Alan Marshall collaboration, since Dnald Westlake collaborated on some Andrew Shaws.

A better title for this would have been Bad Wife, as there are two of them.  The novel opens with Frank Fisher, 20s, sitting in a bar on Hollywood Blvd. and celebrating a letter he just got from his agent, stating that a publisher wants to buy his first novel.

He had been working on the novel for several years, since getting out of the Marines, and then meeting Helen, a rich woman who has been his sugar momma.  He feels good that he will have an income now.

He meets a girl in the bar and almost has sex with her but backs out, pissing her off. He has to think of his wife.  But when he goes home to surprise her with the good news, he overhears her and another man talking — her lover, and they make fun of him, and she says she used him for sex but now he isn’t enough, and she ridicules his desire to be a novelist.

Frank sees red. He attacks the other man and beats the other man to such a pulp that it’s murder.  Frank takes off, on the run.

The next chapter opens a year or two later in Fort Lauderdale, FL (Gil Brewer and Harry Whittington country, I can’t help but think Block did this on purpose) with Hank making a meager living as a drifter and boat hand.  His novel was published but he has been unable to collect on the money or else the cops would find him.

A series of strange events happen…this is definitely Block’s style here, and by 1963 he had honed his crime fiction pacing well, publishing alternately between Cornith, Gold Medal, Beacon, and Midwood. There’s plenty of sex in this one, sometimes lacking in his Beacon sleaze books as Sheldon Lord.

Frank has a series of encounters with three women — 30 year old Norma, married to a rich older man (again that theme); her 19 year old stepdaughter, a rebellious wildcat; and a revivalist preacher who was a former stripper and still has a body.  He has sex with them all. he’s a stud.  Norma wants him to knock her up and she will pay him $5K, so she will have something to hold onto her husband’s money…the stepdaughter needs sex because her boyfriend won;t do it until they are married…and, drunk, he rapes the preacher but she gets into it, since she once liked rough sex in her sinner years,  and then she falls in love with Frank…

What Norma doesn’t know is that her rich husband will also pay Frank to knock his wife up, because she does not know he had a vasectomy and he will use it as  a surprise on her plan during the divorce…but seems Norma really wants Frank for something else…she has had a private eye do a background, she knows Frank is wanted to murder in Los Angeles, and she puts it this way: shoot her husband dead or she will turn him into the cops.

This is a fast paced and enjoyable read and with some toned down sex, this could have been a Gold Medal crime novel; perhaps Block gave it to Hamling to meet his contractual obligation.  There are some interesting sub-plots: Hank working on another novel, Hank getting caught up in a student street riot, the preacher woman’s sordid past and her own sins and crimes…

Frank is indeed a “fisher” in Florida, fishing for crime noir and trouble everywhere he turns.  Seems he can’t make a move without having strange things happen.

The ending was a little too moralistic and unrealistic for my tastes — Frank is a likable character and who could blame him for killing his wife’s lover on what was supposed to be the greatest day of any young writer, the sale of a first novel…I wanted to see Frank vanish with his love and the money and getting away from jail…

Two thumbs up as both a Dexter and Block book.