Diploma Dolls (Kozy Books, 1961)

Hitt - Diploma Dolls

Talk about sleazecore and tawdry!  Every character in this book is dispicable, slutty, white trash, crooked, drunk, smelly, and desperate for a quick buck…and  hopeless.

Diploma Dolls is quite similar to From Door to Door — instead of selling magazine subscriptions, they sell bogus diplomas from what are known as “diploma mill scams” or “correspondence courses.”  Instead of knocking on every door, they run ads on the radio and in newspapers of the towns they hit, and go to see people who contact them.  They promise low-rent, destitute blue collar or unemployed people who never finished high school or went to college better jobs or raises or advancement with that diploma.  The cost: $200 for the diploma and the by-mail courses.  The salesman or woman gets $50 for each sale, the boss gets the rest.

The boss is Jimmy Wade, “a big man” over six-feet tall, a ladies man with a chip on his shoulder to get back at the world:  his wife and her lover were killed in a car accident and then he got suckered into buying a worthless diploma, thinking he could get ahead in the world.  He figured there were other suckers out there, he learned about the biz, fund  printer to print the diplomas, hired some sales folk, and started going from town to town, preferring factory worker towns, poor towns filled with lonely, drunke, desperate people who would fall for a better future for $200.

Jimmy lives with Gloria, a girl he picked up six months ago.  She doesn’t sell for him, she keeps him company in the hotel room and hands out leads to other sales people.  Jimmy knows the best way to drum up more biz is to hire girls who will sleep with men to make a sale — $50 per sale/lay is better than they get on the street ($10) or a brothel ($20); in fact, Jimmy goes to a brothel to recruit some girls.

The other woman is Lily, a 19 year old blonde waitress who doesn’t know who her father is because her mother is a hooker — still is, at age 39, a cheap $10 a lay floozy.  Lilly has been having sex for a while and was knocked up at 15 by “an old man” who denied the baby.  She lost the fetus at six months.  She has a “boyfriend” and sleeps around with men who are nice to her and/or get her drunk, except for the fat sweaty heel who runs the diner who keeps grab-assing her and propositioning her when things are slow.  She finds him gross but she needs the job. She also works seven days a week and he refuses to give her a day off. She wants out of this shabby town she lives in; she wants out of her nowhereville life.  She sees Jimmy’s ad for salesgirls and goes to see Jimmy and signs up.

Jimmy is up front with her about sleeping with customers if it means a sale; she figures why not, her mom does it, and she does it for free, and $50 is good money.  She winds up doing 2-3 men a day, making $100-150, which ain’t bad for the times.

Jimmy has a yen for Lilly, and Lilly has feelings for the good-looking tall boss…soon Gloria is out and Lily is sharing his bed.  Gloria starts to sel but she won’t have sex to get a contract signed.

Where is Gloria to go?  She buys a train ticket home, but changes her mind.  Maybe, she thinks, Jimmy will realize she is the one, not Lilly.

Here is where we see the difference between a Kozy title and one from Beacon: no editorial pen, and Hitt needs it.  There is a lot of repetition, some dialogue is needless banter, some doesn’t make sense.  It’s not horrible, and any decent editor would have trimmed it down.

While it doesn’t have the complete moral ending as a Beacon book, at the end it seems people turn a new leaf: Lily’s mom decides to stop whoring, Lily leaves Jimmy and goes to New York with a photographer she meets in a bar…Jimmy, after being arrested, pays a $1000 fine and tells the judge he will start a legitiamte school, but he doesn’t seem sincere…he does go back to Gloria and proposes to her.

The book leaves you with an itchy, grimy sensation — or maybe it’s this old yellowed, pugnent paperback I bought.  But Hitt does a good job making you see and feel the sweat and grime of the cheap diners, the dive bars, and the crappy hotel rooms. You can almost smell the yawdry perfume and cologne these people must wear, and feel the fabric of their sleazy clothes on your skin.

None of these characters are likable, really — you don’t root for them.  Lily and Gloria may be babes, but they’re stupid, trailer trash women who come from the gutter life.  After all, what kind of dame runs off to New York with a nude photographer she meets in a bar, thinking this is love?  What kind of woman goes back to a heel who kicked her out of his bed for another gal, only to go back when that gal splits town?  “Marry me!”  “Oh Jimmy!”

Plus, how awful lives real people who did this stuff (and there were, and still are) live, with no home, going from hotel to hotel, town to town, always on the road and living off a con game to get by.

I have a feeling Beacon may have rejected this one, so Hitt went to Kozy. Not to say this is a bad book — it’s a sleazy read, just needed about 20 or 30 pages removed.

4 Responses to “Diploma Dolls (Kozy Books, 1961)”

  1. <> Ah…Music to my depraved ears! A song of profane poetry crafted with cunning care by the Hittster! Such sublimely sordid melodies make life worth living.

    I find that Hitt’s prose and characters in Kozy’s “Campus Tramp” conjures forth similarly enticing tones.

    B.Ritt

  2. Oops, I fogot to put this quote from your review at the beginning of my post:

    “Every character in this book is dispicable, slutty, white trash, crooked, drunk, smelly, and desperate for a quick buck.”

  3. […] Hitt’s anti-heroes: the guy in The Promoter also lost his wife to death, as did the guy in Diploma Dolls (though his wife was ith her lover during the […]

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