Rotten to the Core (Beacon, 1957)

Hitt - Rotten to the Core

I think this one will go on my Top 10 Hitts.  I was dubious at first because it’s a Madison Avenue novel, and Hitt’s other Mad Ad one, Tell Them Anything, was somewhat boring.

Even though this is about capitalism, TV, big business, millions of dollars, and Madison Avenue, the narrator, Blackie Warden, is not a greedy power suit.  Oh, he likes and wants money, but he likes and wants pussy more, and the woman chase ultimately gets him in hot water.

He’s a low-level ad man, jumping from one small company to the next, almost blacklisted when one of his accounts goes south.  At a bar he meets Grace Piney, rich girl, daughter of the man who owns Piney Associates, a huge agency that would never give Blackie the time of day, until spoiled little rich girl tells her daddy to hire him.  Daddy will hire any man she wants…and fire them too…and there seems to be a long list of them.

Blackie lives a boarding house. He’s broke and another woman, Sarah, pays his rent for him.  They were living together but it didn’t work. She’s still in love with him.

Blackie gets put on an important account, Fluffy Soap, a $5 million dollar account.  He agrees to show the daughter of the owner around New York, figuring her to be some cow from Ohio.  She turns out to be the most beautiful woman he’s ever met. Her name is Lois.  Together, they come up with a game show Fluffy Soap will sponsor, a game show like on other: win a million bucks, paid $50K a year for 20 years.  Win a new life, win easy street.

But when Blackie dumps Grace, she has him fired, and then he makes up to her, becomes her slave lover, and he has a job again…and then he’s fired again…and then Lois demands that he’s on the account or her daddy will pull out.

Blackie is working for $250 a week, without job security…the guy on the account with him is a hapless drunk who has knocked up one of the office girls and is trying to drum up money for an abortion before his wife finds out…then Sarah tells Blackie she’s in the family way and she demands marriage…Grace demands sex…he is love love with Lois but she won’t go that way…poor Blackie…then the office girl dies in the abortion and the other ad man kills himself…poor Blackie…

All he wants is three women to screw and booze…well, he wants Lois, he wants out of Grace’s claws, he wants freedom from the kid he has on the way…

He also has a plan for a scam: have Sarah appear as a contestant on the show, feed her the answers, get the million, and they can run off and be a family.

This is a smooth, well-written book. My only issue was the too-fast moral ending.  Why can’t the heel get the money, the girl, and be happy? Sarah says, “You can’t be happy from money earned by a lie.”  Why not? he thinks. Many do.

But this has to be a moral 50s novel, no criminals get off the hook, no heels get the wrong gal.

Recommended highly.

One Response to “Rotten to the Core (Beacon, 1957)”

  1. […] Rotten to the Core by Orrie Hitt Reviewed here. […]

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