Dolls and Dues (Beacon, 1957)

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.

One Response to “Dolls and Dues (Beacon, 1957)”

  1. […] Dolls & Dues by Orrie Hitt Reviewed here. […]

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