Pleasure Ground (Bedside Books #819, 1959)

The second book by Hitt titled Pleasure Ground — this is different from the Kozy Books Pleasure Ground.

‘Tis another one of Hitt’s backwoods novels, similar to Ellie’s Shack: it’s about poor white trash living in a shack near a lake, land that isn’t theirs, owned by an old fellow who died.  His daughter, Sandra, went out to Hollywood and appeared in a few movies.  She has returned with her older, 51-year-old husband (she’s 23), a TV producer who lost a lot of money in the quiz show scandals, to fix up the family house and sell the property — which means all the poor shack folk around the lake will have to leave.

The narrator is Eddie Miller, a 21-year-old who is 6’4″ like most Hitt heroes.  He lives in a shack with his no good drunk father named Crab, who blowshis monthly disability check on beer and booze, his wearied mother, and his bombshell sister, Gloria, 19, who sometimes makes money posing nude for an artist, like many Hitt women do.

Eddie makes money picking berries, like Ellie did in Ellie’s Shack, and fishing for eel and catfish at the lake.  He has a girlfriend, Cindy, who is bugging him for marriage and a baby; he eludes her because he has no desire for marriage, she’s just a girl to hang with, fish with, and fuck with.

He has his eyes set on the starlet Sandra, whom he meets at the lake, sunning in a red swimsuit. She hires him to paint the house for $1 an hour. He takes the job because he thinks, husband or not, he can get somewhere — “It’s not every day you get to make a girl whose been in the movies,” he muses.

The opening chapter has a fellow from the finance company looking for payment for a loan Eddie’s father is late on — similar to the opening of Sheba. Right off we know this family has some problems, like Hitt’s white trash families always do.

The third woman for Eddie — remember, the Hitt hero almost always juggles three gals — is Beth, Sandra’s secretary, a five foot tall hellion dwarfed by Eddie’s six-four frame.  One finds it a tad disappointing that Eddie does not care for oral love:

She clung to me, whispering things I didn’t understand, and her fingers hurt as she dug into my hair.  She tried to push my mouth down to her breasts and after she had done that she was as wild as they come.  She made an attempt to push my head lower and when I wouldn’t let her do that she said some men did.

“I’m not some men,” I reminded her. “I take my sex straight.” (p. 54)

Say what?!  Is this just backwoods hillbilly fear of the vagina, or was our pal Hitt a prude?  Surely Eddie would not say “no” to a blowjob, but it would be rude and selfish of him if he took it.  We’ll never know, because even that is more sexual detail than we usually get in a 1959 paperback (and I do wonder if it was added in my an editor).

As for Sandra, when he tries to kiss her one day in the car, she stops him and says they have to wait until the time is “right,” when she knows it means something.  But we know this dumb hick has to be getting the set-up: first Beth warms him up, and there’s the talk about Sandra’s husband being worth $200K in life insurance should be croak, double indemnity if an accident,  and how he drinks all day and is overweight and the doctor has warned him.  We have seen this patsy set-up in other Hitt books and even other noirs, much like Jerry M. Goff’s excellent Wanton Wench! And as it is with many men in these books, money is a greater seduction than the women who talk them into committing homicide:

Jesus, it was a lot of money, more than I coukld imagine. This was going to cost the insurance compay plenty […]When I was done with him I could do anything […] Four hundred thousand dollars.

No more poverty. No more wanting the things I couldn’t have. No more needing her and being able to own her, to strip her naked and take her body to me, giving her my love. No more being careful with her. I would be rolling in money and I’d give her a child as soon as I could. I would see her grow fat and I would love her because she grew that way. (p. 158)

Meanwhile, his sister is pregnant and the guy who did it refuses to marry her, saying someone else did it, like the “artist” she poses for; he has found some pictures of her for sale, in sets — similar, again, to Sin Doll, I’ll Call Every Monday, Campus Doll, Naked Model, Nude Doll, Party Girl, The Promoter, and many others where the picture racket is involved.

Mainly, Pleasure Ground is very similar to Two of a Kind, or maybe it’s the other way around, as Two of a Kind was published a year later. The patsy set-up and the truth about the evil vixens’ sexuality is the same — that’s right, he’s being set-up by a lesbian!

This is Hitt’s only title with Bedside Books, which paved the way for 60s-style sleaze.  They also, reportedly, had a bad habit of not paying writers, which may be why Hitt didn’t sell them any other books — or, perhaps, Hitt couldn’t sell this one to his usual 1959 markets, Beacon and Midwood, because it was too much like previous titles.

The elements here appear in plenty of Hitts: the younger woman marrying the older man thing, the nude model racket, the insurance scam and murder plot, the pregnant sister, etc.

On the Hitt Scale, a 7.5, points for good writing, minus for traveling the pleasure ground always stomped on.

One Response to “Pleasure Ground (Bedside Books #819, 1959)”

  1. […] Pleasure Ground by Orrie Hitt Reviewed here. […]

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