Affair with Lucy (Midwood #10, 1959)

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.

The three women in his wife: Carol, the woman he deflowers in the rooming house and works as a secretary for a lawyer; Marie, a receptionist at the insurance company; and of course Lucy, the young 23-year-old wife of a fifty-nine year old model who wants to cash out his $250K life insurance policy for $30,000 that he says he needs.

It’s amusing to see how he jumbles these women without their finding out about the other — usually Hitt has his heels easily going to one from the other, but Marie and Carol think it’s love and marriage with Pete, while Lucy has her own nefarious scheme.

In a strange move, he suggests to both Carol and Marie that they go model for Lucy’s husband; they both need the money ($100 for 20 hours a week) but it seems as if he’s trying to get rid of them, telling them about it and then treating them like whores.  Maybe he thinks the old guy will stay away from Lucy. It almost seems like he hates them, and hates women — for Alice having left him alone, a widower, for Lucy for enticing him but being unavailable.  He starts to drink more, and gets mean; in one instance, he drunkenly forces himself on Marie, pretty much rapes her, but in the end she says, “Take it.”  I took it,” he writes, “twice” (p. 126).

Essentially, this is a rewrite of I’ll Call Every Monday, tossing in some Shabby Street — both Monday and this book have the painter husband who makes money selling nude photos of his wife in New York, but here Lucy is upfront and doesn’t mind as she was once a stripper and had modeled before.

Like Monday and Dial “M” for Man and Two of a Kind and others, Lucy tells Pete that her husband has been beating her up, slapping her around, but it’s a lie, it’s just a ruse to rile him up so he will get homicidal for her virtue.

There’s also the subplot in all three books of the follow insurance agent in deep trouble because he’s used debit money from policy collections on a pregnant lover, and sinks deeper and deeper into hell.

Lucy immediately sees the sucker in Pete: his loss of a wife is his weakness, and she can use him by offering her body and a better future.  Do these Hitt heroes never learn?!

The writing and dialogue is extra tight and crisp, filled with snappy one-liners and glib observations: “When you’re trying to forget a woman you turn to booze or another woman. My choice that night was both” (p. 116).  When someone says to him that losing a wife is hard, he replies, “No one ever wrote me about it.”  The sex scenes often go like this:

It didn’t last long, not long enough, and when it was over we didn’t move.

“I love you,” she [Marie] said.

“Don’t say that.”

“But I do.”

“Love is a pretty big word.”

“You’re a pretty big man.”

“Just find that out?”

“I felt it before.”

“Hell, you just felt it now.” [Talking about his erection, obviously.]

And then we were at it again, wild and furious, tearing the aternoon apart, not caring about anybody.

“Hurt me,” she cried.

I hurt her.

“Hurt me again.”

This time I made her scream.

“Make me that way, Pete!”

I don’t know whether I did or not but I tried.

Three times.

It was wonderful. (p. 59)

What a stud he is, three times here, two times there, sometimes having two women in the same day…

Again, this is the editorial hand of Elaine Williams (Sloane Britain) whose own work was just as clipped.

With prolific writers, it is inevitable to find groups of books as variations on a theme (resort hotel, insurance scams, peeping toms) and re-doing the same storylines, the way Gil Brewer or Barry Malzberg or any others did.

So Affair with Lucy is disappointing in that regard, but refreshing for the crisp prose and suspenseful, well-plotted story, and welcome for some familiarity…

But wait!  Hitt tosses a curve ball and the scam has another element to it, and there’s no murder, and it ends differently from the others…

As I said, back to the Orrie we know well…

On the Hitt Scale, an 8.5.

One Response to “Affair with Lucy (Midwood #10, 1959)”

  1. […] here to see the original:  Affair with Lucy (Midwood #10, 1959) « Orrie Hitt : The Noir Poet …    Posted in insurance scams   […]

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