Hotel Woman (Valentine Books, 1959)
One of those rare Hitt hardcovers published under his own name (unlike the Roger Normandie and Charles Verne titles from Key), ol’ Orrie published two books with the short-lived Valentine, Devil in the Flesh (1958) and Hotel Woman (1959).
Both were later reprinted by Kozy, the first as Sins of the Flesh and this one as Hotel Hostess.
The cover of the Kozy reprint may be a tad misleading — the hero doesn’t have that many women in his life…and he’s the hotel manager rather than hostess.
The hostess in question, Reba Cummings, is an evil conniving one with nefarious plans…like many Hitt women.
The novel is told in multiple points of views that does not quite work — the transitions from one mind to the next is erratic and hardly smooth. itt does best when writing from the first person or keeping to one character’s POV, except for works like Three Women where he has to have three POVs.
Al Evans is applying for a hotel manager’s job when the book opens. He’s been tooling around the Tri-State area with his girlfriend, Ellen, whom he met the day he got off the boat from Morocco. He had been a manager at a hotel in Morocco but complications arose when the husband of a woman he was seeing tried to knife him to death.
Reba hires him because she has been looking for a patsy. She’s had a few other managers but they weren’t right — Al is a big strapping guy and he may be right for her set-up: to seduce a man with her body and get him to murder her sister, so she will get the money from her sister’s annuity. All she got from her father was the Hotel Haidee, named after her son who died at six months. She wants it all.
Al soon leans that the resort hotel is basically a whorehouse with another name, as women sell themselves in the bar, waitresses and waters also have a price, but most are gay and lesbian so keep to each other, and upper management staff has their way with all the secretaries (“suckyouteries”) and maids.
Ellen hates it there, wants to return to Syracuse. Al agrees, but to keep him on, Reba offers his a raise from $100 a week to $250 a week. Ellen leaves but doesn’t go far — broke, she winds up singing, dancing, and stripping at a shady tavern in the woods.
Basically, Reba manipulates everyone around her with lies and set-ups, turning them against each other, building up for her big plan that only backfires on her and sends poor ol’ Al to the electric chair.
There’s more descriptive sex in this one than usual, as well as swearing not found in Hitt’s Beacons and Midwoods. Perhaps because Valentine, a hardcover company, was marketing to a more upscale niche.
Not Hitt’s best, then again, not his worst. On the Hitt Scale, I give it a 7. Now I just need to read his other resort hotel novels and see what they are like.