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

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.

Larry dates Anna, a virginal school teacher and devout Catholic who does not believe in sex outside marriage.  But one night Larry takes her, forces himself on her, and she lets him, and she likes it.  Then he has to marry her.  In fact, the same night he deflowers Anna, he goes to see his boss at the radio; the boss is not there but his wife, Kathy, is, and she’s drunk and she offers himself to Larry and he takes her up on it — the lucky bastard does two women the same night: one a virgin, one a tramp wife.

Larry has to marry Anna, of course, since he soiled her for any other man.  But he soon finds out that she is frigid, or afraid of sex.  He gets frustrated and one night forces himself on her again and she seems to like that.  Then she goes frigid again.  She can’t find arousal in normal foreplay and love-making.

Now Larry is pissed off and he gets rough with her, slapping her, ripping her clothes off, and then spanking her.  Like Run for Cover, the scene is far more graphic than Hitt tends to get in his other books:

She had dressed without a slip.  Her buttocks, naked except for the frail blue panties, lay there before him.  He touched them and they quivered. They were warm, soft, yielding. He touched them again. And then he slapped one. His hand bounced away and he could hear the sound of it […] He hit the other one and his hand bounced again.

“Maybe this is what you need,” he said.

She had stopped screaming.

He went to work with earnest. His hand lifted and came down, sending pain into his arm, driving pain even deeper into that lovely flesh.  Driving it down, down, down.

She moved across his lap, head down. He could feel one throbbing breast caught in the crook of his left arm […] Her body lifted, her legs parting […] Her buttocks were a mixture of angry.agonized red and glistening white. He slapped at them, jis hand raw with pain, driving out the white, sinking the red deep in the flesh.

In those moments, he supposed, he hated her, hated her with all the violent hate that only lovers can know.  Hated her because of her weakness, because of her fears; hated himself because a demonstration of brute strength such as this was an admission of fear. (pp.46-47).

Spanking fetish  from Orrie Hitt!  Perhaps the title of the Kozy paperback edition, Tormented Passions, and the art, is more fitting, although both show a man looking away in shame.

Normandie - Tormented Passion cover

It is apparent to both of them that Anna can only get her motor oil hot and flowing from rough sex — perhaps from his having forced her defloration, or perhaps that ok’ Catholic guilt thing…

Here Part One ends and so does Hitt’s writing.  His style comes in for a short while later, but the rest of the book does not read like his priose at all — not the dialogue, not the characters, not the situations.  In fact, things get somewhat confusing and convoluted as a number of other characters are introduced, like Candy, a B-movie actresses who gets a show on Larry’s radio station, and the two have a fling.

Whoever the other writer was, he wasn’t that good…what was ol’ Orrie thinking?  Maybe it was all for a quick paycheque.

Anna doesn’t return except in conversation, and at the end, when she refuses Larry a divorce.  We expect more about her fetish but it seems after that night of spanking, they have not been intimate since, and the marriage is a sham, as Larry chases after other women.

Normandie - Tormented - Interior

Collaborative novels are always a mixed bag; with word processors now, it’s easier for two or three writers to fix the mesh, make conflicting writing styles flow better, but not when you’re working with typewriters and drafts.

So who was the other writer(s), and why?

Another disappointment. Part One, again like Run for Cover, was excellent stuff, but the rest…nah.

On the Hitt Scale, an 8.5 for Part One, a 4.5 for the rest.

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