Pleasure Ground (Kozy #142, 1961)

This Kozy is a far better novel than Wild Lovers, both published around the same time.  Hitt seems to be at his best when writing first-person, rather than jumping POVs in third, though he does have some pretty good third-person books, like The Strangest Sin.

This one had a semi-backwoods/rural farm setting, with the typical big man narrator, Bert Forbes, a laborer who wanders from one job to another.

I was twenty-five years old and a nobody. A nobody who had been kicked out of one foster home for something I shouldn’t have done. A nobody who had married another nobody and who supported a child who carried my name but didn’t have a drop of my blood. (p. 11)

He’s a lot like the narrator in The Widow or Two of a Kind or Peeping Tom...a hired hand trying to get by.

He’s working at the Collins Farm, dubbed Lonely Acres, painting; he’s no good with cows and other farm work, he’s made this clear, though his cranky boss, Flint Collins, keeps pushing farm work on him.  He hates Collins, but it’s a job — Collins is 50, somewhat wealthy, and used to getting what he wants.  “I always win,” he says.

Flint is awaiting the arrival of his new bride, twenty-year-old Sharon.  Orrie Hitt certainly had a hair up his arse about older men marrying young women, as this situation happens a lot, and the older men are never painted in a good light.

And then there’s the women, always the women…

Another Lucy — Lucy Martin, who

was blonde and lovely and she had a build of those girls you see in men’s magazines. Long hair and smokey eyes, breasts that were big and full and ripe, a stomach that was almost nothing at all and hips made your blood pressure keep above normal when she moved.

“You’re big,” she had told me that night. “You’re the biggest man here.”

Well, I am big, and looking down at her from my six feet six she seemed about the size of a dwarf, hardly taller than my former wife Emily had been. (p. 5)

Then there is ex-wife Emily, who has come looking for him, taking a waitress job in a nearby diner in town.  Seems her child died in a bad accident and she’s freaked out, needing Bert, but Bert has no desire to have her in his life again.  He’s been paying $15/week for the baby, but now that is over…his feelings about the dead child are dubious.

Then there is Sharon Collins, the young wife, who has a 42-inch bust.  Everything is big in this Hitt novel — the narrator, the breasts, the farm; largeness is a point of obsession for the five-foot-five author.  At this point it is apparent that Hitt, in his alter-ego re-make, wished he was taller and bigger…there are any number of psycholigical reasons we could go into, but it’s fairly obvious.  Today we cal it “Short Man’s Syndrome.”  He was aware of this, in the quip from The Autobiography of Kay Addams, when Kay, on meeting Hitt, notes she “expected a taller” and larger man, not the short balding pulp writer.

There’s a fourth woman, Norma Collins, 22, who is uncomfortable with her father marrying a girl close to her age…Bert finds her average and not sexually as enticing as Lucy or Sharon.  She winds up sleeping with another hired hand, a married guy, and getting knocked up. She’s terrified to tell her father — he’s mean, and even works her to death out on the farm fields like some hired help rather than family.

Sharon is so enticing that he knows she is trouble, and wants to leave the farm right away. He tries to quit but Collins refuses to pay Bert what is owed, if Bert walks out on the agreed painting job.  Bert decides he’ll stay intil the next payday and split.  He tries to avoid Sharon but it’s not easy — she likes his size, and she realizes she made a mistake marrying old Collins; she hates him and the farm.  She only married him for money, obviously.

And, as we know with Hitt, our tall hero falls for Sharon, and she talks him into killing her old husband, with the promise of fine lovin’ and lots of cash forever…

But it’s not too hard to talk Bert into it, as the hate inside him over Collins builds and builds — for being cheap, for being an ass, and when he beats up and kicks his pregnant daughter so she’ll miscarry, and tries to take Lucy’s farm from her, it’s the last straw…

But he’s being set up as a patsy…

This is one of Hitt’s better books, engaging and well-written. The element of the dead baby is something different for him, as is Bert’s modesty of being a nobody. He has no ambitions beyond having a few bucks in his pocket, a place to sleep, food in his belly, and a drink now and then.

On the Hitt Scale, a 9.

One Response to “Pleasure Ground (Kozy #142, 1961)”

  1. […] second book by Hitt titled Pleasure Ground — this is different from the Kozy Books Pleasure […]

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