The Lady is a Lush (Beacon #342, 1960)

Hitt - Lady is a Lush

This is  a dark one, a very good one…no happy endings here…this is Orrie Hitt at his bleakest noir.

Andersonville, NY, another small upper NY state town, aother masked version of Port Jurvis.  A town of hopeless, dreamless people, blue collar workers, drunks, whores, tramps, lushes, heels and cads.

The narrator: Chip Collins, mid-20s, six foot something, a truck driver.  His wife, Amy, is a boozer who sleeps with other men she meets in bars, bringing them home when he is away driving.  He doesn’t care. He met her when she was 17, married her at 18.  She’s now 20 — two years of a worthless marriage When she turns 21, she gets an inheritance of $25,000.  He keeps with her for the money; she has agreed to invest in his own trucking company.

He picks up a hitchhiker in the rain while on a route: 19-year-old Joy, a blonde bombshell, a hopeless, failed actress.  Her summer stiock experience was a bust and she is trying to get back to New York City but every man who offers her a ride tries to make her.  She feels okay with Chip.  Chip wants to make her but acts like a gentlemen.  He takes her to a truck stop/motel and helps her get a job as a waitress, because she has no money.

Later he goes back, they go on a picnic, they have sex, he keeps seeing her, they fall in love, and then she’s pregnant.

She doesn’t know about the wife.  She doesn’t know Chip is also sleeping with Gloria, the daughter of the boss of the trucking company.  The old guy has a heart attack and Gloria is left to run things, asking Chip to help manage things.  She’s only 19 — why are the women in Hitt’s books, and many of these “sleaze” novels, always teenage girls, or barely 21?  Anyway, he starts up a thing with her.

Chip is no heel, he’s actually an honest hard-working man, abandioned by his tramp mother when he was young, having lived on the streets and hand-to-mouth.  He’s a cad.

He’s jumbling three women and none of them know of each other. He spends his weeks going from three beds and back…even though Amy is a whore and a drunk, and he doesn’t care about the other men, he has a hard time pushing her away, and sleeps with her…and Amy…and Gloria…and some woman at a rooming house too…

Chip gets a lot of tail, but in the end, as we know it will happen, it all blows up in his face.

Joy, pregnant and trusting, thinks she will be his wife soon, and they will have a happy family…Gloria thinks Chip will divorce Amy and marry her and they will run the company together…Amy tries to sober up and re-kindle the marriage, confessing she only drinks and sleeps with other men because he is away so much and she’s lonely and needs him…

And then Amy follows him to the rooming house he has Joy holed up in and catches them…

Hurt and angry, she takes off in their car and goes to get drunk…

And now Joy knows the man she loves and whose baby she carries has been lying to him all the time, and she does’t really know who he is or what she wants to do.

Amy gets drunk, crashes the car, and dies.  Sorry for the spoiler.

Chip feels guilty — he has now inherited her inheritance, but at what cost?  “I grew up that night,” he writes.

He thinks about the child, what if it is a girl and 20 years from now some bum does to his kid what he did to Amy?

Joy, taking is hand, assures him that will never happen. “Maybe I still love you,” she says.

Maybe.

Probably not.

Love does not exist in an Orrie Hitt universe. People pretend at love, through the haze of booze and fornication and poverty.”Poverty and sex went hand in hand on the South Side” is one line, and that seems to sum it all up in this bleak but great little lost novel of a lost American literature.

6 Responses to “The Lady is a Lush (Beacon #342, 1960)”

  1. […] The Lady is a Lush by Orrie Hitt Reviewed here. […]

  2. M,
    Very nice review. I own this book but haven’t read it yet. I’ll have to give it a higher priority on my TBR pile.

    • orriehittfan Says:

      Have you read any Joe Weiss? Seems his work was a big influence on Hitt, or so a dedication in THE LION’s DEN (Roger Normandie) indicates…

      Will read some Ennis Willie soon…couple other writers I’ve come across that look interesting: Arnold Marmor, Adam Snavely.

  3. M,
    I’ve read “Gang Girl” (published by Beacon) by Joe Weiss, and part of another book (also published by Beacon; I can’t remember the title and can’t look it up because I sold it). Terrible. Boring. No panache. No brio. No nothing. Weiss later branched out into hardcore territory. I don’t own THE LION’s DEN; what does the dedication say?

    Adam Snavely is an interesting story. I bought a book called “Love Drive” (Kozy) where Snavely is listed on the cover as the author. Then inside, on the title page, Orrie is listed as the author. I was excited at first; thought I’d found an unknown Orrie. But it wasn’t no Orrie, as far as I’m concerned. Writing style was different, whereas other books Orrie wrote under pseudonyms still sound like Orrie when I read them. I can’t remember the plot. I read about half of it, then got bored with it; I later sold it. It wasn’t terrible, better than Weiss, but not interesting enough for me to finish.

    The two other Roger Normandie books I’ve liked quite a bit, especially “Race With Lust”. It’s written in the third-person, and is one of the many Orrie’s about a girl who’s trying to climb the ladder to a higher station in life, but gets screwed-over at every rung.

    I ordered “Hired Lover” but it hasn’t arrived yet. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

    I think you’ll speed through the Ennis Willie books in about an hour. I’ve got twelve and they’re all 128-129 pages pages, except for one book which was only 99 pages. “Sand–the man nobody walks on”. Great blurb.

    B.Ritt

    • orriehittfan Says:

      It was common for these books to have one name inside and the other on the outside, when they decided to use another name, usually because they had too many by one person, didn’t want market saturation — however, I have heard Snavely was connected to Hitt, or a house name…will have to look closely at the two I have.

      About to read LOVE IN THE ARCTIC which looks to be very different from his others, probably why it was never picked up for paperback.

    • orriehittfan Says:

      RACE WITH LUST is, I believe, a reprint of the Normandie hardcover RUN FOR COVER.

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