From Door to Door (Beacon #304, 1960)

Hitt - Door to Door

After the disappointment of Tell Them Anything, it was good to get back to the Hitt we best love — the tawdriness of a womanizer with his back against the wall.

This is about those nifty folks who go door to door, office to office, selling magazine subscriptions, and the prostitution that happens in that biz.  Les Drake is a unit manager working smaller New York State towns, who has the chance to become head of all of New York, where he can make good money.

Here is Les: “I’m six-two, weigh one-eighty, and I’m twenty-six years old.”  Your typical Hitt narrator/hero! He was double-crossed by his wife and busienss partner before — they ran off together when she got pregnant, cleaning out the bank accounts of the business and marriage, leaving him broke.  After a bout of booze time and near suicide, he got ino the magazine-selling biz and is good at it.

Les is till a hard drinker because he’s in a pickle: he’s been sleeping with a 19-year-old member of his team, Ellen, for quite a while; to him it’s just good sex, he has no intention of getting serious with any woman, not after what his wife did.

Until he meets 22-year-old June, daughter of the guy who owns Fairweather Productions, the magazine subscription service.  She’s engaged to a dork, and he knows he can have her.  She has joined the team to learn the footwork of the biz, because her father wants to reture and have her run the biz with her fiancee, soon to be husband. Seems the would-be husband’s father owns 51% of the company and there is no choice here.

Les eventually gets June into bed. She claims to be a virgin, she “kept her virtue” in college and she has no desire to have sex with her fiancee, or even marry him.  But she does want to run the biz.

Ellen isn’t too happy about June taking her place, so she blackmails Les: she tells him that she lied about her age, that she’s not 19 but 17, and she will put him in jail for statutory rape if he dumps her. Plus, she seems to be 2-months pregnant, so she wants Les to marry her.

This is a monkey wrench in Les’ new plans: to marry June and take over the company and run it with her.

June has other ideas, too.  She has found out that one of the girls in the team uses her body to sell high bulk subscriptions. She will get $50-70 orders for having sex with men, plus some extra on the side.  She’s an ex-beauty content queen who is angry at all men — she slept with all the judges and got nothing, so now she refuses to have sex without being paid.

June thinks this is the best way to increase sales, so she hires girls she finds in bars, girls who have sex or booze and money, girls who have dead-end jobs, come from poor family, come from broken dreams.  Soon their sales records sky rocket.

What’s Les to do?  He knows it’s illegal, they could get busted, but the high sales secures his new job as head on New York, and keeps June happy…

Ellen’s appendix ruptures and he finds out she’s not pregnant after all, it was a ruse.  And one of the girls gets busted by the cops, so Les and June are arrested, and the papers pick up the scandal…

Like all his Beacon titles, there is a moral ending: Les and June repent their sinful ways, get married, stop drinking, and after the scandal dies down, take over the business and have a baby…

From Door to Door is an interesting peek into what lower-class or uneducated women have to do to make money in the 50s-60s, and holds true now.  It’s so secret that the magazine subscription biz has been, was, and still is a good front for prostitution.  It generally lures in young people with no expereince or job prospects. I almost got sucked into doing such when I was a kid, among other crooked telemarketing schemes.

I was also sexually propositioned by a young lady selling mag subscriptions once.  Did I take her up on it?  Let’s say she was pretty, and let’s say I will not say what I did, and maintain my moral virtue on this blog. The point is: this stuff still happens.

You feel for these characters who can’t find better work, who know nothing else but fast-talking sales, who live day-to-day on what money they make that day, who go from one tawdry town to the next shabby street.

This is classic Hitt.

3 Responses to “From Door to Door (Beacon #304, 1960)”

  1. […] From Door to Door by Orrie Hitt Review here. […]

  2. J. Wellington Thorpe Says:

    This part of your review, “…the tawdriness of a womanizer with his back against the wall…” is why I think you’ll like Rotten To The Core, after the bland prose of Tell Them Anything (or, in my case, Tell Them Anything and Playpet). The 1st-person narrator of Rotten To The Core is another classic Hitt heel and sociopath extraordinaire, juggling his sex life with numerous women and a financial scam (rigging tv quiz shows)without letting any balls drop (no pun intended). And, of course, is 6’1″ and weighs 190 lbs.

  3. orriehittfan Says:

    Tawdry is a new catch word here…my agent and I are shopping an anthology project called TAWDRY TOWN, it would be a book of original fiction written in 50s-60s sleazenoir style. See if anyone bites…

    But last night I had a dream I wrote a novel called MY LIFE ON SHABBY STREET IN TAWDRY TOWN.

    I’m working on getting either Hard Case or Black Mask (or both) to reprint some Hitts — maybe a Starkhouse omnibus?

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