The Widow (Beacon Books #222)

hitt - widow

Ah, back to the Orrie Hitt I like — the wayward dames, the cheating wives, the drunk husbands, the working class heels, the down and out, the nude models, the virgin nymphs, the fist fights among the drunken heels, the ass-grabbing by brutes, the shabby sex and sleazy plots conspired by sleazecore couples late at night with their naked sweaty bodies clinging to one another like two slimy slugs on a leaf.

But this is also Hitt playing around in James M. Cain country — which is all right, many others (like Harry Whittington) did so too back then.

Setting: Sayville, NY, an area called “The Dell…one of those out of the way places that often get caught in the middle of a construction project and prospers as  a result” (p. 7).

The narrator: Jerry, big hard-working, hard-drinking guy going nowhere, forever haunted by the ghost of his wife, killed in a a car accident. When she died, so did he — this seems to be a reoccuring thmeme with 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 crash).

The women: Linda, the married woman Jerry starts sleeping with. When her drunk husband smashes his car into a tree, she become the widow in the title.  And Nora, a teenage nude model from New York, whose father is none too pleased at what she’s doing.  She may pose in the nude but she’s a virgin and Jerry takes her one night.  He is going from Linda tom Norma through the book, with a one-night stand tossed in.

The same women’s name keep popping up in Hitt’s books: Norma, Wilma, etc.

The catch:  Linda stands to inherit the Dell if her old mother-in0law keels over.  The old woman runs a restaurant, a motel of cabins, and a small store…being they are the only place out there, the road crews all ciome to eat and sleep there.

Jerry was on the road crew making $4/hr, or $200 a day, good money then.  He gets in a fist fight with th boss” “Old man Sparks fired me the fourth day on the job” (p. 7).  Just as he’s about to head for the road, he meets Linda hang-drying her clothes and panties. She tells him about a job opening in the restaurant: $40/week plus room and board.  He takes it since Linda was giving him the vibe.

Eventually she talks him into helping her kill the old lady.  An oil company wants to put a station in the Dell, since a freeway will be built by it. They are offering $50,000 and she refuses to sell. If Linda inherits, she will get the property, the $50K, and the $10K the woman has in the bank.

The problem: Linda seems to expect marriage, and Norma expects him to marry her for forcibly deflowering her.

The double-cross:  when Jerry kills the old woman and makes it look like an accident, she turns on him and tells the police how he killed her mother-in-law and how he made it appear to be an accident.

But Linda gets a surprise when she finds out that her good ol’ mom changed her will that day, giving all she had to church, to repent for the death of her son, which she feels is the price for her sins of not going to church.

No standard happy ending for this Beacon book…Jerry is telling this story from prison while waiting to be electrocuted. I was surprised — usually the Hitt male would’ve marry Norma, having gotten her pregnant or something, and he would repent his hound dog ways…not this time.

Lots of fast, telegraphic dialogue, sometimes a bit repetitive, saying the same things they said 20 pages back, but that’s real life (as opposed to crafted fiction).  Even though the narrator is a drunken cad, we feel for him because he occasionally talks to his dead wife, and is always thinking of her; obviously her death derailed him and haunts him.  We can suppose he will meet her in the afterlife when he’s executed.

A good hard-boiled yarn in the Manhunt vein.  On the top of my Hitt list for now.

One Response to “The Widow (Beacon Books #222)”

  1. […] The Widow by Orrie Hitt Reviewed here. […]

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