Add Flesh to the Fire (Beacon, 1959)


Here we have ol’ Orrie doing his Hemingway kick: a story of Cuban gun running and an existential boat bum that’s a cross between Harry Morgan from To Have and Have Not and the narrator in Gil Brewer’s The Three-Way Split. Toss in three women, lots of booze and sex, and a double-cross con game, and we have Hitt in new territory: the Florida Keys and a boat dock.

All the crime stuff is behind the scenes, the way a low-budget movie would be set up: they talk about guns and the revolution, but we never really see the shipment of guns or any action on Cuba.  The gun runs were “last night.”  Hitt focuces on charater and dialogue.

Clint Walker is a lazy boat owner who takes out parties just enough to pay his slip rent and buy booze  He’s still shell-shocked from the double-cross of his wife, Rose: two years ago she took off with his own brother and cleaned him out.  He doesn’t trust women.

But there is the young daughter of the Sloane, the owner of the dock, who always wears this tight one-piece…one night he makes a move and she confesses her love for him but they have to keep things secret from her father, who thinks she’s still a good girl virgin.  She’s a good girl, but no virgin..

And then come a fellow named Gordon who wants to hire Clint for a $5K run to Cuba.  There will be five runs, worth $25K.  His daughter, Vera, is there too: she’s the hottest piece of tail Clint has ever laid eyes on, and she lets him make his play as long as he takes the job.

Of course, we all know Hitt heroes will fall for the bad girl and leave the good girl crying in the dust…but to add flesh to the fire, so to say, Clint’s ex-wife Rose shows up and wants to reconcile, despite taking off with his brother…all went bad…she professes love and a new leaf but Clint wants nothing of her.

Once he has money, though, from teh first run, everyone wants a piece of it: Rose, or else she’ll blow the operation; Sloane needs money to pay his mortgage or lose the dock…

But he’s been played.  Of course Vera isn’t Gordon’s daughter and once all the guns are delivered and he and Rose are set to head to Mexico way, Gordon pulls a gun out and Clint realizes he’s just one big sucker.

In contrast to these sort of stories, the bad guys get away and Clint doesn’t end up with the good girl, but goes back to the woman he vowed never to go back to: his ex-wife. Why not?  He deserves her for being stupid.

I dn’t know about this one.  For a diiferent setting than the usual Hitt, it’s cool, but the dialogue at times is just “too Hemingway”:

“You’re pretty big,” she said. “How big are you?”

“Six-three,” [I said].

“And about one-eighty?”

“One ninety.”

“They say you’re pretty clever with a boat.”

“I know my way around.”

The con is pretty obvious from the get-go–what man travels around with a gorgeous daughter doing Cuban gun runs?  The girl is there to hypnotize the sucker with sex and a promise to run away with the spolis and start a new life, when in fact he does all that work for nothing and the con artists get away…

Hitt has another Cuban gun run novel, Hot Cargo, that I don’t have yet but will check out later.

Hitt - Hot Cargo

3 Responses to “Add Flesh to the Fire (Beacon, 1959)”

  1. […] Add Flesh to the Fire by Orrie Hitt Reviewed here. […]

  2. […] For your reading pleasure, the full text of this Hitt novel, previously discussed here. […]

  3. […] Hitt did another Hemingway homage with Add Flesh to the Fire. […]

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