Ghosted Hitts?

Just read something curious and discomforting in an article by Mike Avallone, “How Can You Put Your Name on a Book Like That? or, Make Mine Midwood!” in Paperback Parade #32 (1993, 2nd printing 2001).  Avallone talks about the books he did with Midwood and Beacon, noting that his Midwood editor Stuart James wrote some books (many Midwood editors did, like Elaine Williams aka Sloane Britian and John Plunkett aka Jason Hytes), the states:

Editor Bernie Williams of Beacon admitted to me that he himself had ghosted under the Orrie Hitt byline (p. 54).

Weird. What exactly does “ghost” mean?  It can mean a lot of things from writing a full book to doctoring a bad manuscript to finishing a book a writer has abandoned, or leftover stuff from a dead writer.  Now, we can attribute this to a lot of things — the editor bragging and wanting to take credit for an author he edited the way Gordon Lish did with Raymond Carver, to the editor lying, to Avallone just not recalling right (he makes a number of factual errors in his essay, such as noting his editor Elaine Williams committed suicide to meeting a few years alter, an attractive lesbian, Sloane Britain, at  Midwood party — impossible since the two were the same).

I read somewhere that publishers used Hitt’s byline in the 70s to cash in, but these were most likely his 60s reprints with new titles.  One book dealer tried to convince someone I know that The Sex Pros, double with Mel Johnson’s (Barry Malzberg) Chained, was actually written by Malzberg. I asked Malzberg and he said no, he never wrote as Orrie Hitt.

On the other hand, there are a couple of Hitt Beacons that are suspicious, like Tawny, that on first glance does not read like Hitt’s prose.  Brian Ritt mentions in his  biographical article that Hitt had issues with editors adding in stuff, even new endings.  Was it possible, especially after 1965 when Hitt’s output slowed down, that Beacon did in fact issue ghost-written Hitts, always popular, for sales?

This is something to look into.

The same Paperback Parade also has a short article on the history of Beacon Books/Uni-books/Paperback Library, and a small article on Orrie Hitt that also has factual errors — the writer, Miriam Linna, states Hitt “started his career” with Cabin Fever, a Uni-Book, when this is untrue.  Hitt may have started his relationship with the publisher in 1954 with that novel (along with 1954’s She Got What She Wanted and Shabby Street) but he started his career in 1953 with I ‘ll Call Every Monday and Love in the Arctic with Red Lantern Books, Monday reprinted by Avon, and then Teaser in 1954 with The Woodford Press and Leased with Jack Woodford in 54 at Signature Books (later reprinted as Trapped, sans Woodford’s byline).

Hitt - Teaser 2 hitt - trapped

4 Responses to “Ghosted Hitts?”

  1. I don’t believe Mike would have deliberately lied about such a thing, can’t think of any reason for him to have done so, but this could easily be a case of faulty memory. Or perhaps Bernie Williams was the one who stretched the truth. That said, as popular as Hitt’s books were, I can easily imagine a publisher slapping his by-line on somebody else’s manuscript, especially if there was an unexpected hole in the schedule for some reason.

  2. orriehittfan Says:

    That’s likely…and I looked more at TAWNY last night and I do not think Hitt wrote it. Look at the opening page, that is NOT Hitt’s writing style.

    Normally, I’d say he would have had to agree to let Beacon do that for a fee, but they may have done it anyway (especially if he owed them a book and was late), and you did mention his kids saying that some of his manuscripts were absconded with and put out under new titles and pen names. It’s impossible to bring suit on fly-by-night publishers, there one day and gone tomorrow.

    But I don’t see Beacon, with its long-standing relationship with Hitt, doing such without his okay. And if Hitt needed money and was having writer’s block as he’s seems to in the last half of the 1960s, he’d agree.

  3. Brian Ritt Says:

    M,
    I just read Avallone’s article a week or two ago, when we were talking about this issue of Paperback Parade, and completely missed that quote, I have no idea how. There’s not much I can say about it, other than the fact that Hitt’s children said no one ghosted his books, and that I’ve never come across any other info that suggests any of his books were ghosted (except for a few sentences, or a passage or two, or an ending, which you mention) by an editor. But, as I’m learning about the world of “sleaze” publishing during the ’50s-60s, I guess anything is possible.

    By the way, I don’t own TAWNY. In what way does the writing suggest someone other than Hitt?

  4. Brian Ritt Says:

    M,
    By the way, I’m not sure if you’re still up this way, but I left a couple of messages on your LA phone number in answer to a few of your questions/comments. Just letting you know; I don’t think there was anything you needed to reply to, as far as I can remember.

    B.R.

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