Archive for Hal Dresner

The Girl Takers by Don Holliday (Art Plotnik), Midnight Reader #407, 1961

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on December 13, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

In his whimsy memoir/book of essays, Honk if You’re a WriterArt Plotnik devotes a chapter, “Sexual Solitude in a Fool’s Paradise,” to his time as a sleaze writer, which he took up after several years as a professional journalist.  Like many reporters, he secretly wished to become a novelist.  His old college buddy, Bill Coons, told him of a chance to “ghost” a Don Holliday book for Hal Drenser. learn the craft of sex books, make some needed money, and perhaps make it a gig: the composition of “potboilers.”

Posing as literature, potboilers skirted  the obscenity laws and could be sold on newstands and drugsore racks as well as shops specializing in “one-handed magazines.”  Titles often sold in the 100,000-copy range.

No one has to write potboilers; virtuous writers can always starve or sell Tupperware. But since the opportinity was there, many good fiction writers turned to potbpoilers to make ends meet. (p. 74)

Plotnik is one of the few writers of the 1960s sleazecore who didn’t try to hide the fact he was doing this for money.  He saw himself as a craftsman, a professional doing a job for a buck; feeling that the writing would hone skills for later, more serious commercial fiction, the way Donald Westlake, Evan Hunter, Larry Block and Bob Silverberg eventually did…and Dresner, too. He took a pragmatic view of work-for-hire:

As Plotnikov began his next book, he thrilled to the idea that eachpage completed was money earned — $4.28 to be exact — and that when he pumped out two pages of orgiastic cries in thirty minutes, he earned the then-dizzying of $17.12 an hour or $684.80 a week! (p. 77)

Not bad wages — in 1961 money, that was $170 and hour, and about $6,000 a week, the salary of a good lawyer.  That’s what TV writers get these days…but no most fiction writers, for sure.

The Girl Takers took “Plotnikov” two weeks to write; according to him, it was based on some real events in his life, “a cross-country fling taken six years earlier” (p. 75). This little book does have a weird “feel” of the autobiographical in it, although it is not written in the first person.

John is a big beefy ex-sailor driving from Montreal to New York, having left one of many girls there in Canada.  He’s a free-wheelin’, free-lovin’ guy out to explore all the women the world has the offer. But he’s heading to New York to see his ex-girlfriend, Sheila, that he still has a yen for — he broke up with her a year ago when she pressured him for marriage.

He sees a guy hitchhiking and picks him up. He’s William, also escaping a woman — a girl he was dating since he was 16, but who turns out to be frigid and less than loving.  William is still a virgin at age 21, so the women worldly John, age 25, talks William into traveling around with him, and he will teach William how to pick up and bed all the millions of girls out there in 1960s America.

In a weird way they are like the low-rent versions of Kerouac’s Dean Moriarity and Sal Paradise, driving fast across the country in search of experience and truth.  As On the Road was at its height of popularity among all young men at the time, it seems this was Plotnik’s intention.

The cover art is actually a scene from the book, for a change in sleaze.  John and William share a room and across the way, they often see a woman walking around in her underwear — and then one day she is naked and dancing in front of a mirror.  Turns out she’s a stripper, and William decides she must be the first woman, she must take his virginity.  Being a good friend, William sets this up, after paying her — she is a stripper and a working girl. “I need the dough.”

After a brief reunion with Sheila in New York — she still wants marriage — John and William set off to California, on the road, meeting a variety of women, yet still drawn to their pasts and wondering if they both chose the correct road to travel down.

A whimsy read, nothing heavy here. A 7.5.

Only the Bed by Don Holliday (Hal Dresner), Midwood #19, 1959

Posted in crime noir, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

UPDATE NOTE (3/8/2011) After looking at one again, we don’t believe Hal Dresner wrote thus, it is not in his  style or that of other Holliday-penned books. This one actually reads more like early Block or a Block/Westlake collaboration. The narrator’s voice is a lot similar to the voice in Grifter’s Game.

The original Don Holliday was Hal Dresner, a Scott Meredith stable writer, who — along with fellow Meredith writers  Robert Silverberg, Donald Westlake, and Lawrence Block — provided manuscripts out of Meredith’s “black box” for Midwood, Beacon, and Nightstand, using various interchangeable pen names.

Later, as Dresner got busy with other work, he hired ghost writers to meet his monthly title deadline, such as Art Plotnik…and by the mid-60s, Holliday was a house pen name, turning to gay fiction written by Victor Banis.

(See here for a nifty review of Holliday/Dresner’s Sin Ring.)

Dresner excelled at absurd comedy, as seen in the classic The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books (see also Dresner’s Sin Professor as Frank Peters) and his employment by Jack Lemmon to write material and screenplaysOnly the Bed, and other early work, is serious, or not humorous like later Ninthstands; it’s a crime/sleaze novel with apparent influence from his buddies Block and Westlake (aka Sheldon Lord/Andrew Shaw and Alan Marshall) and their penchant for sleaze novels that were also crime books.

The narrator is Cliff Varner, the cabana manager at the Royal Hotel, a Miami, Florida vacation resort — a combination of Gil Brewer and Orrie Hitt territories  here.  Like Hitt’s hotel managers, Cliff tends to have sex with the guests, often as a gigolo, much like the characters in Loren Beauchamp’s Midwood title, Another Night, Another Love.

Cliff has a big problem, though: he owes his bookie $1600 for bad bets he made, he doesn’t have it, and his bookie is leaning because the local Miami syndiacte mob guys want their dough.  He knows if he doesn’t pay, something bad will happen to him, and a beefy hood who hangs out at Dino’s Pizza Parlor tells him so — Friday.

Cliff has a week.  So the book is all about Cliff’s frantic running around trying to drum up $1600–old loans he made, card game debts owned, fifty here, twenty there; he borrows from several loan companies, using the employment contract of a sous chef at the hotel. He even resorts to blackmailing rich teenage lesbians who came down without their parents knowing…he cheats at card games and sinks low enough to set up the forced sexual experience of a virgin girl staying at the hotel, all for the last $300 he needs.

The set up is a tried and true oldie: put a fellow in a corner with a great trouble and watch him try to squirm out of it.

Cliff’s not a good guy; he’s desperate and scared.  He could always skip town, but his bookie is a friend and he doesn’t want to put his bookie in a bad spot that might get him hurt.  $1600 is nothing to the mob, it’s the principle of the matter: if they let one person get away with not paying a debt, others will; if they make an example out of Cliff, people will know that the mob guys mean business.

Ad for all his sins, Cliff pays the price, espcially when his ex-lover, a nympho stripper named Doris, rolls back into town.

A swift, good read, on the verge of a Gold Medal, and may have been targeted for that market and sold by Meredith to Midwood when/if Gold Medal rejected it and  Midwood was looking for material in 1959, perhaps with some added sex scenes, like this clever, sunbtle-hinting description of cunnilingus:

…my lips left her breast and moved down onto her stomach. It was cold and smooth and still damp […] my tongue licked at the cool wet skin.

“Now!” she said. “Start now!”

There was a swelling pounding at my head and it built as I felt her body vibrating wildly, passionately under my mouth.

“Oh God!” she cried.

Then her hand fell open and I had the money.  (p. 83-84)

For all that licking, he gets a whopping $200.

An 8.5 and recommended read if you like these kind of suspense/crime stories.

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

Sin Professor by Frank Peters (Bedside Books #1225)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Sin Prof

Frank Peters is quite an obvious pen name.  As I was reading, the style seemed familar…then a character named Anton Plotnik showed up…but this was not Art Plotnik, it’s Hal Dresner (aka Don Holliday) — it has Dresner’s whacky, playful style throughout.

Makes sense since Nightstand and Hamling purchased Bedstand in 1961, and after book # 1201 (Don Elliott’s Woman Chaser) many Bedstands were penned by Nightstand writers.

The sin prof is Boris Marholt, libertine English teacher, philopsher, and roustabout who has devised the theory of The Whole Man: a man who does as he pleases, takes as he pleases (women, wine, song) without a care for society, decorum, or the law.

He’s been fired from his teaching post for growing his beard long and shaggy.  Seems the university has an anti-beatnik policy, and no men can wear long beards. A student, Anton Plotnik, had previously been expelled.

Boris refuses to shave his beard. He leaves, but before he goes, he whisks off with an 18-year old student, Lydia, who was tormenting him in class with her mini-skirts, flashing him in class.  She falls for him, but can’t go to New York City with him until the semester ends.

Boris heads to Manhattan to look up his ex-girlfriend, Lisa, whom he lived with before.  She’s not home so he breaks in and helps himself to her scotch.  When she comes home with a man, Boris frigtens the man off and Lisa finds this delightful. They rush to bed. She says he can move back in with her.

Boris wreaks havoc across the city, picking fights in bars, picking up women in the streets, sleeping with his friends’ wives, and getting his heart broken by a vixen named Rosemarie.

Then Lydia shows up…he is living with a woman, having several affairs, and now he has this lovelorn teenage hottie to contend with…

A crazy, short and fun novel about a man spiraling downward after losing his job and his way, living in denial and masking his fear in a nutty philosophy of life…when in the end, Boris is just a loser who needs a good woman to steet him right.

The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books by Hal Dresner

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

Dresner - Man Who Wrote Dirty Books

Hal Dresner wrote this novel about a dirty book writer that got him out of the dirty book business. Simon and Schuster bought it, a Broadway produced optioned it, and he was hired by Jack Lemmon to be the actor’s main comedy writer.  Drenser moved to Hollywood and his pen name for Nightstand, Don Holliday, was taken over by others c. 1963 — Art Plotnik, William Coons, etc.

This is an epistle tome, a novel made up of correspondence by a reclsuive author in Virginia, Mason, who wrtites under the name Guy LaDouche, and his editor at Sceptre Books, a few friends, his lawyer, a man suing him and the man’s attorneys.

He is being sued for libel for his Sceptre Books title, The Flogged Flesh, by a retured Naval commander, Dibbs, on behalf of Dibbs wayward daughter, whom Mason apparently used in the book, with a tell-tale birthmark and family history.  Dibbs is also an eccentric Nazi hunter and believes Mason is also an ex-Nazi who stole an American’s identity and is posing as a porn author.  Dibbs manges to get the FBI involved.  We soon discover that Dibbs, through his letters, is an insane paranoid.

A lone FBI agent shows up at his cabin, 10 miles from civilization, in the snow, and Mason befriends him, while “under arrest and surveillance,” they get drunk in Jack Daniels with the local sheriff, and absurd conversations abound — all told in letters to Mason’s lawyer, a nam with a curious name: Michael Westlake.

I can’t held but think that Dresner was making fun of the absurdity of the FBI and Hoover’s surveillance and harassment of Nightstand Books and William Hamling.

This is a crazy fun book, sometimes it does’t make sense, and you wonder: what is the point of all this?  But that’s exactly what Dresner wants you to think.  It was the early 1960s, Kennedy had been killed, postmodernism had rushed in, and little made sense in a crazy nuclear war fearing nation.

In the end, Mason only finishes 22 pages of the novel his editor keeps asking for, and quits the biz.

Highly recommended.

Hired Lover by Fred Martin (Orrie Hitt), Midwood #13

Posted in crime noir, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

midwood - hired lover

Accoridng to Lynn Munroe’s richly informative article on Midwood’s beginnings:

Amazingly, just 5 men wrote almost all of the first 40 numbered Midwoods. This hard-working group (Beauchamp, Lord, Marshall, Orrie Hitt and Don Holliday) carried and established Midwood until [Harry] Shorten was able to build his own stable of regulars –- names like March Hastings, Dallas Mayo, Kimberly Kemp, Joan Ellis, Jason Hytes and Sloane Britain.

Beauchamp was, of course, Robert Silverberg, Lord was Lawrence Block, Marshall was Donad Westlake, Holliday was Hal Drenser, and Orrie Hitt was himself.

Hired Lover is Midwood 13, published in 1959, although there are some early un-numbered Midwoods. Fred Martin was a one shot name for Midwood (and seems to have written one for the short-lived Magnet Books), and the style is easily identifiable: this is an Orrie Hitt book.  You can’t mistake Hitt for anyone else: the set-up, the dialogue, pacing, wrap-up.  Silverberg also did an early one shot, Immoral Wife by Gordon Mitchell (Midwod #11), that I discussed in this blog a while ago.

The question is: why these one-shot names?  Was it Midwood’s idea, to look like they had more than the same writers, or Scott Meredith’s, since the mauscripts came from the agency blinded as to the true writer’s identity. After all, Silverberg did an early Midwood, #7, Love Nest by Loren Beauchamp (see my review), and Beauchamp was his continued name for a dozen more titles from 1960-1963.

Munroe also notes:

Although nobody at Midwood knew it then, most of the books were by the same writers turning out the Nightstands. For example, Loren Beauchamp (Robert Silverberg) would become Don Elliott a year later at Nightstand, Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block) would become Andrew Shaw. Some of the writers, like Alan Marshall and Clyde Allison and Al James, used the same name for both.

Midwood - Call Me MistressI have another early, un-numbered Midwood, Call Me Mistress by Tomlin Rede, and I wonder who wrote this one.  I haven’t read it yet but on quick glance, the style seems like early Westlake/Alan Marshall.

Call Me Mistress is a crime noir set in Hollywood and among syndicate crime lords, wuth a dash of lesbiana tossed in.  I will be getting to this book soon after I do my reading stint of campus sex books and lesbian titles.

Back to Hired Lover — yes, one of many Orrie Hitt’s novels but the name is not listed among Hitt’s pen names (Nicky Weaver, Kay Addams).  I Feldspar - Squeeze Playhave two Kozy Books by one “Walter Feldspar” (Loose Women and Squeeze Play) that look like they may be Hitts (there’s also a Beacon Hitt book called Loose Women) — Feldspar only penned two books, and for Kozy, and Hitt wrote many for Kozy as himself, Weaver, and Roger Normandie…like Lawrence Block and Robert Silverberg and others, there are pen names used that are not always associated with these writers, either overlooked by bibliographers or not admitted to by the writer (or remembered).

Hitt - Loose Women

Hired Lover is a first-person tough guy story — Mike has left Los Angeles after a bad incident and is in Chicago, where he has ties.  He’s working as a driving instructor when one day a gorgeous dame in her mid-20s, Kitty, is his student…she takes him to her mansion, gives him booze and fucks him.  She’s married to a rich old man — short fat,bald and ugly — whom she met when she was a nurse and he was in the hospital in diabetic shock.

As luck would have it, the rich man’s chaueffer just quit and he needs a new driver. Kitty suggests her hubby hire Mike — he can live in the apartment above the garage, where she can visit him for illict sin and lust.

While Kitty and hubby are away on a trip, Mike looks up an old business buddy who runs a stripper club.  One of the strippers has her sister, Ruth, with her — new in town, fresh from Ohio farmland, 18, a virgin, and ignorant of the big bad ol’ world of strippers, whores, booze and crime that her sister is involved with.  Mike manages to talk her out of going down that road — he’s no hero, since he also gets her drunk and takes her virginity, being 10 years older than the girl.

Right off, we know that Mike will end up with Ruth as his wife in the end.  This is typical of Hitt’s novels, mostly for Beacon — similar to the set-up of The Promoter, that I talked about last week.

(An aside: Beacon and Softcover seemed to require, as with lesbian novels, that the hero or heroine redeem and depent tgheir sinful ways by book’s end, married and in the arms of someone good, man or woman.  This does not seem to be the case with Hitt’s titles for Sabre and Novel Books — in fact, Novel gave Hitt carte blance to “take the gloves off” and write what he wanted, free of market and genre constraints.  I will be talking about a few of those in the near future.)

The set-up for Hired Lover isn’t new in sleazecore: the wife convinces the lover that they have to murder the old rich husband so they can be together and get rich.  That never works out, of course, and the wayward wife gets hers in the end — in this case, she has set up Mike in cahoots with the head butler/valet of the mansion. And the hero repents and finds love in the arms of a younger, less gutter-drivem woman, in this and other Hitts.  Mike, on the run from the set-up murder, is aided by young Ruth.  The cops wind up arresting the wife and the valet, but Mike is still guilty for the murder, and had helped plan it.  He married Ruth, but is dying from tetnus due to a untreated gun-shot wound.  The novel ends with Mike on his deathbed, confessing the murder to a Catholic priest, and holding his young wife’s hand, whom he has impregnanted so she will have something of his left.  It’s a sad ending, in a way.

Hired Lover is a great read, however, and if you dig Orrie Hitt, you will dig this — and it’s too bad that Hitt fans may miss this one,  so this blog/review will serve as a pointer for anyone doing research on Hitt.

Now that I am an Orrie Hitt fan  (where was he all my life?), and have bought several dozen books now, expect much discussion of his work here.

I have also found another promising sleazecore writer, Brain Black, who wrote a handful of Beacons, pen names for Western pukp writer Robert Trimnell. The books look good on first glance:

Black --Passionate Prof

Beacon - Unfaithfuil

Black 0 Jeanie

Recursive Novels About Writing Sleazecore

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Nightstand Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I recently came across the term “sleazecore” and I like it.

I have obtained copies of two novels that are recursive of the vintage sleazsecore writing career:

Dresner - Man Who Wrote Dirty Books

Westlake - AdiosDresner wrote as Don Holliday, John Dexter, and Andrew Shaw, but mostly Holiday, before selling this novel and heading to Hollywood as Jack Lemmon’s lead writer.  Westlake wrote as the second Andrew Shaw, Alan Marshall, and Sheldon Lord now and then (toss in a Dexter or two), and then flowed into his career as a mystery and crime writer.

Both novels draw on their experieces working for/with Scott Meredith and writing for Nightstand/Greenleaf.

Well, at least these guys got something mainstream out of those many hard (no pun) hours at the typewriters.

There are some memoirs/autobios out there too, such as Victor Banis’ wonderful Spine Intanct, Some Creases (about leading the gay pulp era with Greenleaf, and dealing with the feds and prosecution); CharleGirl Who Writs Drty Bookss’ Neutzel’s Pocketbook Writer (about the Los Angeles-based sleazecore industry);  and Linda deBruiel’s The Girl Who Writes Dirty Books (about the some 300 she wrote, for Greenleaf, Leisure, Dorchester, and others).

The SpreadI would probably toss in Barry Malzberg’s The Spread as well, a novel about a sleaze tabloid publisher cracking up, because the basis is the sleaze publishing industry in general, and Malzberg’s short stint as editor for low-tier men’s magazine, Escapade, and his early Mel Johnson stories for Knave and others.

There are probably others I have not seen yet.

Online, of course, there is Earl Kemp’s e-journal/memoir, el.