Run for Cover/Race with Lust by Roger Normandie (Key Publications, 1956-7)
1957 was a busy year for Orrie Hitt (as were 1958-1962). Not only did he publish nearly a dozen titles with Beacon, he released five hardcover novels that year with the short-lived and mysterious Key Publications, that put out a number of “risque” novels in cloth priced at $2-2.50 (ah the days when a hardcover cost that much!!!) — hell, that was like $20-25 today, what a typical hardcover will set you back nowadays.
But the five books Hitt did with Key were all under two pseudonyms names: three as Roger Normandie (Run for Cover, The Lion’s Den, The Web of Evil) and two as Charles Verne (Mr. Hot Rod and The Wheel of Passion). Why did he use these nom de plumes and not his own, when he didn’t have a problem putting his real name on “sleaze” and “sex” books ? (Although many a folk thought “Orrie Hitt” was a pen name, because it sounds like one. Who the hell is named Orrie?)
Previously, I speculated that perhaps he was under an exclusive contract with Beacon, which is not unusual to keep prolific writers from publishing competing books with other companies; from 1954-1959, ol’ Orrie published almost exclusively with Beacon Books, aside from these five hardbacks; and there was another 1957 title in cloth, Devil in the Flesh, with Valentine Books. From 1959 on, he published numerous books with Midwood, Kozy, Novel Books, Lancer/Domino, Chariot, and New Chariot Library, with one shots from Saber, Ember, and Gaslight.
Having now read one of the Key Normandies, Run for Cover, I am wondering if the assumed name was for protection. This racy novel — reprinted in paperback by Kozy as Race with Lust — is far more explicit sexually than any of his other books. S/M, rape, torture, blackmail and promiscuity are dealt with in greater detail than the usual Hitt novel, pretty bold in 1957 when in the early 1960s book much more tame were in court on obscenity charges.
A hardcover gave a book more validity as literature than a cheap paperback, although Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Lolita and Tropic of Cancer were in the courts at the time, Ulysses before that.
Maybe Hitt was under an exclusive deal with his real name, but it’s possible Key approached him and said, “We’ll let you push the legal envelope and piss off the censors and government, but for your own protection, use a pseudonym, otherwise you might get arrested.”
Perhaps why there is no address listed for Key Publications. Since Kozy reprinted most of these, I wonder if there was a connection in ownership. Hitt’s Kozys were also a tad more explicit than his Beacons.
I started with this one because it appears to be the first of the five Key novels published — the title page states “1956” but the copyright page has “1957.”
Madelyne is young, blonde, “stacked,” from New Orleans, taking the train to Los Angeles to meet her husband, Bob Glynn; she has not seen in over two years — he was in Korea. He’s just been released from the army but doesn’t know it was a dishonroable discharge from AWOL and insubordination — she finds that out later.
She’s excited — and she doesn’t even really know him; it was a quick whirlwind romance before he shipped off, and they married at the last minute, much to the chagrin of her southern family.
Bob has changed drastically, though, claiming war experiences — he’s a drunk who wakes up with the DTs each morning, so needs a shot to start the day. He’s also developed a sadistic side, something he picked up from R&R in Japan: he’s into S/M. He handcuffs Madelyne to the bed, ties her legs, and uses a cat-o-nine tails on her, fifty lashes to subdue her, leading her back and legs a bloody mess. The scene goes on for pages, explicit in a way unlike Orrie Hitt’s other books.
For some reason, she stays with him. They get an apartment. Their money runs out, all he does is drink, so she gets a job at a car hop, where she wears a skimpy outfit. The cover of the Kozy edition depicts a scene where two jackasses tear her uiform off and she stands naked in the car hop lot, lights on her, and then she quickly “runs for cover.” Her boss, acting concerned for what happened, drugs and rapes her, and then wants her to be his mistress.
Like many Hitt women up against the wall, she starts to do modeling for nude photos to make fast cash. She needs money to get a room and get away from her lousy husband, who seems to have fallen in with a criminal element in Los Angeles, loosely connected to the war and some unsavory types he knows from Japan, like the evil Mr. Kim, a true Hollywood-esque stereotype of the Asian gangster.
On one modeling job, she meets a rich sculptor and later moves into an apartment he owns, rooming with another mistresses of his. In a bar, Bob walks in and her new boyfriend and Bob get in a fight; Bob, beaten, vows revenge on his tramp wife.
End of Part One, and then comes the strange Part Two that takes a 180 degree turn in style and storyline. This section of the book feels written by someone else and I think that’s the case — why another writer was brought in who knows, maybe to spice it up.
Bob, somehow going from poor drunk to manager of a mysterious syndicate of kinky rich Hollywood people, blackmails Madelyne into “performing” at a party in the San Fernando Valley. It’s a big orgy really, guarded by half naked men dressed as Greek slaves. She is to put on a “show” as an Arabian slave up for auction. We know that her husband is about to set her up into sexual slavery, that this is no show but an actual slave auction.
Say what? It gets weirder — attending the party is a remnant Nazi from World War II, who talks about “the New Fueher,” and a rich Japanese business men; they seem to be a conglomerate of spies working to re-start the German and Japanese war machine and infiltrate America via Hollywood.
But the law is on to them and the five leaders of this outfit must escape by submarine off the Santa Monica coast; Madelyne is forced to go with them, to be their sex slave…she is tortured into submission (cigarettes burned into her breasts and vagina) by the evil Mr. Kim…and then used by the five men, passed back and forth…
This is Orrie Hittt? No, this is Roger Normandie, a combo of Orrie and someone else — Jack Woodford maybe? Hitt did a collaborative book with Woodford in 1954, Lease, later published as Trapped!, which seems to have a similar themes of a camera club model getting into a strange situation.
The strange second half completely ruins what was a prety good novel. What’s also different for Hitt was the Los Angeles setting, instead of a small upper NY state town or Manhattan, just as the next book on this blog, Man-Hungry Woman, is set in Hollywood (seems The Web of Evil is also in California).
At first I couldn’t put this book down and was impressed, until the crazy second part…who knows what this publisher was thinking. That tossing in spies, intrigue and sexual torture would make the book more commercial?