Archive for November, 2009

The Cheat (Beacon, 1957; Softcover, 1968)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , on November 30, 2009 by orriehittfan

I love this cover — it’s a photo cover, which I tend to not like for vintage paperbacks, but this one is so fitting: the guy looks like the cad heel that the narrator, Ricky Burke, is; and the blonde could be any number of bad women in the story.

Most of the time, you can sympathize for a Hitt heel — especially when he knows he’s a heel, has a conscious, or tries to right his wrongs.  Ricky is hard to feel for, because he’s not just a heel, he’s an asshole who only cares about the accumulation of money and pussy.

He’s a pots and pans salesman; part of the job is giving dinner parties in homes, so women can see how well his product does in the kitchen. This gives him access to a lot of needy women, married or not.

He’s married to Cindy but it’s a sexless marriage and all he cares about is the $10,000 in the bank that her father left her, and the interest it is garnering.  He has plans for that money being his.

He also has a girlfriend, Sharon, who worked part time for him, and works in a diner. She’s from “the Ridge,” the slum part of the town.  She’s only interested in how much money she can squeeze out of Ricky — she gets kicked out of the house by her parents and gets a large $125/month apartment instead of the $8/week room Ricky wanted her to.  She puts furniture, a TV, and clothes on credit for Ricky to buy.  He can’t afford this.  She has bee costing him too much money as it is; the book opens with:

I told my wife that I had to borrow $500 from the bank to fix the car. But I didn’t need it for the car. The car was all right. I needed the money for a pair of long legs and a pretty face that was crazy for new clothes. (p. 7)

Well, at least for all the using he does toward his wife, he gets equally used by a wanton vixen.  It seems fair.

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Sheba (Beacon, 1959)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2009 by orriehittfan

Young looker Sheba Irons comes from a destitute white trash family from the slums — a father who is a drunk and spends bill money on booze, a brother who does the same and can’t hold a job and chases girls, and a mother who is miserable, with leg vein problems, but stays in the marruage because she’s trapped and has no alternative.

Sheba does not want to be trapped in this family anymore, after her father blows the money she gave him to pay a finance company on an old $500 loan.  The payments are four months behind and the fat man who runs Old Fashion Finance is pressuring her.

She works as an office girl at a car dealership.  The finance company guys wants her to steer their customers to him for down payment loans, instead of going to the bank. She will get $50 for every new account she refers, and can apply that to the loan.  Seems good, but it’s the 1950s and woman are not car salesmen.  Still, when the salesmen are out to lumch, she refers a couple to the finance company and makes the sale, getting a $50 credit and a $180 commission on the car. That’s better money than the $50/week she was earning before.

The owner figures, why not use a woman to sell cars?  It could work with Sheba’s looks and rack and legs.

Sheba has left her family and rented a room, leaving them without her income.  She gives some money to her mom, feeling sorry for the sad woman, but refuses to give any to her dad or brother — she feels they are weak excuses for men, not working and leeching off her.  When things get tight, and they need booze, they come crawling to her, begging, like the pathetic excuses of the male sex they are.

Orrie Htt tends to have a number of male characters who refuse to work and sponge off a working girl, and these girls give in until they get fed up being suckers.

Sheba excels as a car seller.  She’s a lot like Della in She Got What She Wanted (not reviewed yet), trying her hand in the men’s business world out of desperate necessity — to pull themselves out of poverty and nothingness, faced with a future that includes submissive wifehood, children, cheating husbands.

She’s a virgin at the start, keeping it for marriage, despite the urges she gets no and then.  Going out with a fellow car sales guy to celebrate her first sale, she gets drunk and careless and loses her cherry to this guy. Needless to say, she feels horribnle the low the next day.

And that next day, she winds up in a car with the fellow she’s been casually dating, whom she has been keeping at arm’s lnegth…he heard she went with a guy and got drunk and he loses it.  He parks the car and rapes her.

Two men in two days…she feels hate for all men.

And all men seem to want only sex from her — the sales guy, customers, her boss…she hates that the world revolves, for men, on sex, and to sell cars, men expect her to put out the way magazine subscription girls do.

But as she continues to sell cars and make good money — up to $1,000 a week now — living in a nice furnished apartment, she starts to cut corners and secure somewhat unethical deals with the shady finance company, until she backs herself into a corner where the men she’s said “no” to attempt to blackmail herand cut down her success.

There’s also some lesbiana tossed in for good measure — a redhead at Sehba’s romming house, a hard drinking party girl who also hooks on the side, has a yen for Sheba.  After getting Sheba drink and in bed, Sheba is sexually confused, so goes to slummy bars to find men and determine if she’s straight or gay.

This is a pretty good one, a 9 on the Hitt Scale, minus one for the somewhat predictability here and there. A recommended read anyway.

Dolls and Dues (Beacon, 1957)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by orriehittfan

Hitt - DollsandDues

The story of an unintentional union boss, written with that Orrie Hitt insider’s view of the common working man…or insurance agent…no, this isn’t another Hitt insurance agent novel, but about an outsider who forms a union of the thousands of Great Western insurance agents across the country.

The narrator is Paul Jackson, early 20s, a meager hotel worker whose union of hotel employees is on strike.  His father is an old hat insurance agent.  One day, near a union hall of insurance agents, his father is accidentally run over by the head of the union and killed.

Now Paul has a beef with unions — he’s broke and out of a job because of one, his father dead because of another.

Seems the union leader, Sam, was not driving his car, was someone else, and he feels bad.  He tells Paul that his father was a secretary in the insurance agent union and believed in the goals.  He offers Paul a $125/week job, to go out on the road as a union organizer and carry on his father’s ideals.

He takes the job for the money only. He could care less about unions…but he gradually does become concerned with the plight of the working man against the child company that is holding out on sharing the profits with those who work hard to bring in the profits.

Sam also has a beautiful 20-something daughter, Lucy — another Lucy — that he falls for.  Problem: he is engaged to Ellen, whom he’s dated for two years.  But Ellen doesn’t like how he’s away all the time, and breaks up with him.

Sam gets sick, and then dies in surgery. Paul takes over as leader. The union grows.  Sam uses unorthodox methods like hiring groups of prostitutes to mingle at the delegate parties (the dolls) to increase union membership (the dues).

The third woman in his life is Beverly Clarke, the spoiled rich girl daughter of Great Western Insurance’s president.  Going to the prez’ country estate for a meeting, he meets her, they fall in love, and run away to elope.  Does this seem odd?  The union boss marries the enemy’s daughter?  Her parents are none too pleased, and Lucy’s heart is broken.

Problem: Beverly is used to a $50,000 a year allowance; her parents have bought her cars, furs, vacations in Europe.  How is she to now live as the wife of a man who makes $200 a week?  She tries, but she keeps buying things on credit.

Soon Paul is “advancing” himself pay checks, or “borrowing” money from the union bank fund, or giving himself hefty raises, to keep up with his nw wife’s spending status.  She’s also pregnant, and won’t let him have sex with her anymore because she is afraid the baby fetus might get hurt.  So Paul turns to the whores he hired before, for physical needs.

It’s all going to end badly, especially when he takes a $50,000 check from his father-in-law to call off a strike that has gon on for many weeks and is breaking the insurance company’s profit.  This all comes out later in a senate hearing on rackateering.

This one may have been too big a task for Orrie to tackle, as matters are skimmed and not clear.  How does he really get away with misusing all that union money?  Or get called on using hookers earlier?

Still, it’s an interesting novel on how unions are organiazed, and how they force companies into employee deals.  In that resepct, this is a social and politucal novel on labor and big business.  Hitt is better with the small business and the struggle to keep afloat, as in Bold Affair and Bad Wife.

An ambitious novel with flaws. On the Hitt Scale, a 7.5.

The Strangest Sin by Kay Addams (Beacon, 1961)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2009 by orriehittfan

Possibly Orrie Hitt at his literary smoothest, I was wonder if he consciously wrote in a different style that denoted “this is Kay Addams.”  Gone are the clipped sex scenes and dialogue, yet the same desperate characters trying to make a living are present.

The Strangest Sin is also a sociological and economic novel that examines what happens to a community when it loses its main source of revenue.  Sandersville is sleazy working class town that depends on the big shoe factory to employ half the citizens.  When the factory closes and moves, the economic downtown has a domino effect — when people don’t have money for food, they definitely don’t have money for vice.

Sharon feels the crunch the most.  She’s 22 with a 42 inch bust and owns a small bar that caters to the working stiffs.  She inherited the bar from her parents, now dead; all she knows is bartending and the bar world.  she’s had offer to sell but turned them down; now that there are no customers, she couldn’t sell the place for a dime.

This reminded me of the Catch-22 situation of communities built around mines — the mining town owns the rental homes, the stores, everything around; thus, workers use their pay from the mining company to give back to the mining company for housing and food.  The mining company comes out rich in the end.

With the shoe factory gone,  people can’t pay rent and buy food in Sandersville, nor can they spend money on booze and beer and the hookers who hang around.

Sharon has been sleeping with Jimmy Shade and every morning she wakes up in his stinky bed in his room, a room she gives him money to pay rent on.  She also gives him money for beer, food, and cigarettes.  He’s a lazy heel, but big and strong and good-looking.  There’s no future with him, especially when he starts working for the local mobster, Robinson.

There’s also the tool salesman, Carl, an average nice guy she dates now and then who wants to marry her.  He won’t have sex with her until they are married, even when she offers herself. He has no idea she has been going to Jimmy for a pounding.

Then there’s her bartendress, Lucy — another Lucy! — who runs away when she’s robbed at gun point and gives over the $3,000 in the safe, putting Sharon deeper in the hole.

But when Lucy comes back, something sparks between her and Sharon — the strangest sin, the twilight desire. Yes, the two go out at and here we have a Hitt woman jumbling three lovers instead of a man.

This book has a similar feel as The Cheaters — centered around a bar, a bad guy shaking the bar owner down, a seedy area of town populated by hookers, shills, gangsters and losers.  Hitt jumps between three points of view well — from Sharon to Lucy to Jimmy — delving into the desperation of each, as they grow destitute and their backs against the wall, and how the sink to the lowest extremes to get out of poverty.

On the Hitt scale, a 9.

Pushover (Beacon, 1957)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2009 by orriehittfan

Here we have ol’ Orrie firing on all pistons, at the top of his A-game.  While the usual elements are here — the heel juggling three dames, salesmanship and making money — the premise is not only unlike any other Hitt novel, but pretty damn unique. It’s not a sex or sleaze novel, not a crime novel…a con man novel?  A novel about a heel, about jealousy and revenge?

Danny Fulton heads up what is a borderline scam…they do offer a service, he and his team are not up-and-up about it and what kind of profit they actually make.  The game is the seedy side of publishing — offering up slapped-together books that cover the history of small towns or the police and fire departments in various towns, to be used as fund-raising means.  Danny and his cohorts play on the egos of people, their sense of place in history, and the notion that the “profits” will be used for charitable means, either for the fire department, the city’s social services, or churches.

This is what they do: they get an organization, such as the fire or police departments or a 4-H club or anything, really, to put up initial funds to get the book started.  Then Danny sells “ads” for the book for more income.  The people think he’s hard at work researching the history and doing a good academic job at it, but really he has one of his women — Madeline — in the town library, pulling out two decades old manuscripts commissioned through Roosevelt’s New Deal Work Project Administration, the Federal Writer’s Project.  That project, during the Depression, was designed to provide work for writers and academics during the Great Depression.

Established July 27, 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) operated under journalist and theatrical producer Henry Alsberg, and later John D. Newsome, compiling local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children’s books and other works. The most well-known of these publications were the 48 state guides to America (plus Alaska Territory, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.) known as the American Guide Series. The American Guide Series books were compiled by the FWP, but printed by individual states, and contained detailed histories of each state with descriptions of every city and town. The format was uniform, comprising essays on the state’s history and culture, descriptions of its major cities, automobile tours of important attractions, and a portfolio of photographs. The Federal Writers Project was funded and put to work, as a Public Works in and around the west coast, through Washington, Oregon and California.

FWP was charged with employing writers, editors, historians, researchers, art critics, archaeologists, geologists and cartographers. Some 6,600 individuals were employed by the FWP. In each state a Writer’s Project non-relief staff of editors was formed, along with a much larger group of field workers drawn from local unemployment rolls. Many of these had never graduated high school, but most had formerly held white collar jobs of some sort. Most of the Writer’s Project employees were relatively young in age, and many came from working-class backgrounds.

Basically what Danny and Madeline do is re-type the manuscripts they find through the local project archives, send them to a printer to reduce the type and print off 1500-2000 copies of the book, which they hand over to the benefactor organization to sell for $2.00, making around a fifty cent-to-one dollar profit.

What they don’t know is the actual price of the printing — Danny has jacked it up so he has a profit — and that Danny prints a thousand or more copies than told.  Before the organizations can go out and sell their copies, Danny and his crew quickly hits the streets or phones and sell the books to the town citizens and take off with what they make — maybe a few grand, but that went a long way in the 1950s.  Thus, when the organizations try to sell their copies, they’ll have a hard time because a lot of people already have the book…

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Affair with Lucy (Midwood #10, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2009 by orriehittfan

Hitt - Affair with Lucy

Ah, back to the Orrie Hitt we all know and love — after three disappointing books, it was actually welcoming to return to insurance agents on the make, insurance scams, married women with murderous designs, young women married to older men, the nudie pic racket, the deflowering of a virgin, and existential alcoholism in a small upper NY state town of Waverly.

Hitt - Married Mistress - LucyAffair with Lucy was an early Midwood, #10, published between Summer Romance and Hired Lover (Midwood began numbering books with #7, Sheldon Lord’s Carla).  It was later reprinted as Married Mistress. It was the first Hitt Midwood too, followed by Girl of the Streets (#11) Hired Lover as Fred Martin (#13), Summer Romance (#16) and As Bad as They Come (#23) — all published in 1959.  1960 would see A Doctor and His Mistress and The Cheaters and Two of a Kind.

There are many women named Lucy in Orrie Hitt’s world, from Lucy to The Strangest Sin.  That’s okay, even if the name isn’t the sexiest around (too many connections to Lucille Ball). Sometimes Lucy is a good woman, sometimes se’s a bad one.

Here, she’s a bad one, with white sand blonde hair and a body to kill for — which narrator Pete Clayton gets suckered into doing.

Pete is numb and cares little for life or others, feeling the pain of loss: his wife Alice died from some sort of illness; he sold their childless home (she was desperate for a baby but couldn’t happen) and moved into  rooming house.  He is ready to leave Waverly and move to New York City with a different insurance company.

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The Lion’s Den/Tormented Passions by Roger Normandie (Key, 1957; Kozy, 1960)

Posted in Kozy Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2009 by orriehittfan

Normandie - Lion's Den

New theory about ol’ Orrie writing as Roger Normandie — he didn’t write these books by himself, these are collaborative works.  But with who?  The dedication is to Joe Weiss, and lists Weiss’ novel Ladies’ Man (Key, 1956) as a direct influence to Lion’s Den, even using the same style as Weiss’ book: five titled parts, each with 3-4 chapters.  Was this a hint?  Did Orrie collorate with Weiss, like he collaborated with Jack Woodford on Lease (Signature Books)?

Weiss - Ladies Man

I have not read the Weiss book but have it, and skimming through it, seems to be about a crooner in a burlesque show, with asides on Emile Zola and Kant and other philosophers. (Weiss also published with Beacon, and would later write hardcore books in the 70s).

Lion’s Den opens with a first section that is pure Hitt. Larry has the morning show on a small 200-watt radio station in Salem, NY, pop. 15,417, similar to when we last saw Nicky Weaver working at a radio station in Ladies’ Man (another clue?). Hitt himself sold advertising for a small radio station and may have done some on air work, so he again draws from his experience.

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