Twin Beds (Chariot Books, 1962)

Hitt - Twin Beds

This is a somber one, and ultimately disappointing, as it began with good promise and then sank into predictability.

Jay Carver, the narrator, is a bit different than your usual Hitt hero — he’s 30 and has a 12 year old son, a teenage high school mistake: he got his 16-year-old girlfriend Nan pregnant and they both had to drop out of school, get married, and become what they are now: two miserable people in a sexless, loveless marriage.

They sleep in twin beds, hence the title.

Jay makes his living as a traveling salesman. He sells anything there is to sell.  He also has a small store that sells various things, a store that barely breaks even and is more a place for Jay to hang out rather than be at home, where it’s depressing and stressful .  He’s sleeping with his one employee, Fern, but it’s a huge mistake — he feels nothing for Fern, she’s there as a release from when his wife doesn’t give him love, and Fern wants him to leave Nan and marry her.

Nan constantly accuses Jay of having other women and he denies it, and she suspects he is sleeping with Fern. She doesn’t care really, she just likes to give Jay a hard time.

Sometimes he sleeps with this woman, Helen, a welfare Mom with three kids, all with different, unknown fathers.

Jay and Nan stay together for the sake of their son, Robert. While Nan resents Jay for having knocked her up and getting her into this terrible marriage, her son is all she has and she dotes on him too much, in Jay’s opinion…his son has become a “mama’s boy” but also, the kid is small, weakly, nerdy, an introvert and that worries Jay.  Jay is a man’s man: “I’m six-two and a hundred and ninety pounds” (p. 13) — Hitt’s typical fantasy alter-ego size and weight. He is disappointed that his son is not athletic, doesn’t rough house or pick fights or chase young tail.

To boost start some sort of masculinity, Jay enrolls Robert into an Indian Guide summer camp, which is where the book opens, where he goes to see his son.  Leaving the camp, his junk car can’t make it up a hill and he gets rescured by one of the mom’s, Cleo, a 22-year-old blonde bombshell, stepmom to a kid there, married to the richest man in their town (called Clinton, NY), a 60-year-old fellow, Brink, who handles all the real estate, insurance,  and other odds and ends…the point is, he is wealthy and has a young wife.

Soon enough, Jay and Cleo are having an affair and figurring out how to get her out of the marriage with the old, fat man and abscond with th wealth — although that aspect takes a side spot. Twin Beds is less about any affair or plot and more about people caught up in lives they hate and seeing no way out of it — from the loveless marriage to futile affairs to Helene with a fourth baby on the way.

Turnabout is fair play?  Nan gets a job in Brinks office and soon Brink is after her — Jay catches them talking, Nan refuses to sleep with him and Brink blackmails her, says he will fire her and use his influence to get her son taken away by the state.  Jay catches them half-way thru the act and he punches Brink out.

Now Jay and Cleo have excuses to divorce their spouses. Cleo isn’t willing to just leave her rich husband for a poor man, she’s too used to having cash.  She says Brink goes on walks several nights a week and has been mugged once, maybe they culd set up a fake mugging/murder?  But Brink is on to her plan, and Jay finds out she’s been seducing various men for a year to kill Brink.

It has a happy ending, though — the message seems to be “be happy with what you have” and “money is the root of all evil” and other sleze morality.

I have a feeling that the manuscripts Beacon or Kozy may have rejected (since no prolific writer always hits the mark), Hitt offered to lesser houses like Chariot and Saber, given the lesser quality in nature.  This isn’t a bad book, but it’s also a bit slow, trotting, and covers a lot of issues previously covered in Hitt books.

Interesting to read when looking at Hitt’s ouvre and career evolution.

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