Archive for syndicate

Warped Ambitions by Ennis Willie (Merit Books, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

willie - WarpedAmbitionsLrg72

Several recommendations for Ennis Willie came in the past month or so…these used books are all pricey but managed to find a few on eBay in lots from people who didn’t know what they had (I got this one plus four other Merit Books for $9).

Merit Books evolved from Novel Books, both in Chicago, both boasting to publish shocking in your face novels “for men.”   On the cover spine reads: MERIT BOOKS – UNCESORED OFFBEAT NOVELS FOR SOPHISTICATED ADULTS.  Both were published by Camerarts, owned by Joe Sorrentino.

Orrie Hitt and George H. Smith were Novel regulars, but did not publish with Merit — some suggest that authors did not like their books re-issued with unauthorized new titles.

willie - vice townEnnis Willie published most of his books with Merit, and one with Sanford Aday’s Vega Books, Vice Town. Willie had a series character, Sand, who is the “hero” of Warped Ambitions (“A Sand Shocker”).

I didn’t need to read the previous Sand novels to get the gist of what was going on — Sand is a former syndicate knockaround guy who left the mob for moral reasons and is now on their hit list, but every time they send assassins, things get bungled.  I felt, half-way through, having read the first few Sand books would have been good, to get a better “feel” for Sand — he’s basically two-dimensional, your run of the mill killer with his own moral code not unlike Andrew Vachss’ Burke.

Warped Ambitions opens with a botched hit on Sand on the street; a passerby gets the bullet, an old man who, dying, makes Sand promise to “find Sarda.”  He later learns that Sarda is his daughter and they are carny people…and later he finds out Sarda is The Monkey Girl — she has a disorder where thick hair grows all over her body.

With “a blood oath” on his conscience, he sets out to find the Monkey Girl — was she kidnapped or did she run away, now that she has turned 18?  Sand uncovers info that Sarda was actually the daughter of an old time mythical mob boss who gave her up for adoption because of her condition, and has left her $250,000 for her 18th b-day.

There are stereotypical thugs and hitmen, the stereotypical overweight detective who is pissed that Sand is always leaving bodies around, and the usual gorgeous blonde rich woman who has a thing for apes and simian rights.

Despite the stereotypes, Willie is a remarkable writer — he is spare, minimalistic, violent and witty.  This book clocks in at 125 pages in large type and wide margins, probably 25-30K words long, far too short for commercial publishers like Gold Medal or Pyramid, where one mght expect gangster noir titles would come from.

Thee are some annoying issues with logic and continuity, however — if Sand is being hunted down by the mob, why do they have trouble killing him when he’s always out in the open, walking the streets, lives in a hotel room that everyone knows he is at?  In one chapter he takes taxi cabs, in another he has a car — why?  And the detective and cops just let him roam about with his gun, playing tit for tat…well, this is fiction.

In fact, the world Sand lives in is an alternate universe, much like Sin City — Sin City types of fiction ans film and many other dark crime works, even Andrew Vachss and Joe Lansdale, follow in Ennis Willie’s shabby footsteps.

I’m not sold on Willie yet.  I need to read more, especially non-Sand books. There is much to admire but there are some major flaws in the story-telling — but did that matter for a “sleaze” adult book?  This is not erotica or softcore, this is crime noir in the Manhunt vein with sleazy and dirty situations (a woman stripping in a private party to pay off her gambling debts), kinky encounters (a naked whore waits in Sand’s room as a gift to him, and she is surprised he does not take her as his slave), and warped ambitions (the rich woman wishes to have her favorite gorilla mate with the Monkey Girl and create a new species, which would be genetically impossible, but she does not care for facts).

EnnisWilliePhoto72Willie wrote 19-20 books it seems, and then stopped, taking up the fine profession of printing, or so I have read.  He apparently is still alive and kickin’ and there seems to be a call to put his work back in print. His books tend to be scarce and pricey to find.

willie - TwistedMistressLrg72

willie - Haven_DamnedLrg72

willie - scarlet goddess

Willie - Sensual Game

Willie - Luscious

Willie - erotic_search

Now, as for Merit Books — in this lot I got are some curious gems that I will talk about later, from writers Jerry Goff, Jr., Herb Mongomery, and Bill Lauren…I love finding these obscure writers who are obviously pretty damn good, lost in Amercan pulp literature’s margins…

Goff - Wanton Wench

Goff - Rocco's babe AGoff - Strange LoversNovel Books - Torrid Wenches

You’ll Die Next! by Harry Whittington (Ace Double, 1954)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

whittington - youll die next 2

Previously, I had talked about Harry Whittington’s first Nightstand novel, Lust Farm.  He wrote 39 for Hamling, listed by Lynn Munroe over here.

He also wrote softcores for Bedstand under his name and as Shepard, and nurse novels under a female pen name and even his own name, like The Young Nurses. Westerns, movie tie-ins, Man from UNCLE books, Whittington wrote anything for a buck — a true hack’s hack.

Whittington - Naked Lust

Whittington - Prodigal Nurse

I had heard about how wild and good You’ll Die Next! is, so I pciked up the old Ace Double and read it in an hour — it’s that short (c. 35K words) and fast-paced.  At the time I’m sure this was crazy crime fiction; today’s it’s ho-hum and has some major plot problems, but it is a fun read if you like that “common man with his back against the wall, let’s see how he squirms out of it” genre.

whittington - you'll die next ace double

Henry Wilson is an average guy, not that good-looking, semi-tough buy not hardboiled, with a sixty-five-dollar-a-week job at the V.A., and married to bombshell Lila, a former club singer and gangster moll (or so it seems).  He has no idea why she loves him or wanted to marry him — cowlick and big ears and all, but he’s grateful. They have a common suburban home and a quiet life, the marriage six months old.

One idyll morning a thug knocks on the door and beats him up and sas more is coming.  He gets a threatening letter from someone named Sammy.  He goes to work and finds out the VA thinks he served prison time in California and ask for his resignation or else face fraud charges for lying on his job application.

He thinks this may have to do with his wife’s previous life among the criminal types, that someone is jealous of their marriage.  He comes home and his wife is gone.  He knows someone was there, though.  He leaves.  His wife is assaulted and in the hospital and the cops think he beat her up.  The cops chase him down and one cop accidentally shoots another and they blame it on him.

Henry is a man on the run, trying to clear his name, with a blind fellow, whose eyes were burned out by acid, wanting revenge for something he did not do: steal money from the syndicate and take off with the woman the blind man, Sammy, was in love with.

He’s being set-up all right, in an almost implausible manner, but it’s still fun to read. The ending is predictable as hell.

Next Whittingon to read: Desire in the Dust, Fires That Destroy, and Blood Lust Orgy.

Whittington - Fires That Destroy

Dexter - Blood Lust Orgy - Whittington

Whittington - Desire in the Dust