Nude Doll (Kozy Book #182, 1963)

Another novel dealing with one of ol’ Orrie’s favorite themes — young women posing naked for the camera arts nudie pic racket, $5 a set.  The female protagonist is another Lucy, and she’s a backwoods farm girl on the edge of the swamp and bogs, with no mother and drunken louse of a father who raises white mice for the experimental lab market.

I need to keep a count of how many of Hitt’s heroines, villains, and femme fatales are named Lucy.

Was this because of the popularity of I Love Lucy at the time?

But this one is a little different than the others, a slight cut above the rest.  The story of Lucy Sanford  is a sad and somber one — when we meet her in Chapter One, she is living with a married man and woman, Anne and Ted; she’s the wife’s lover, a rich woman, and her husband is a failed novelist with big, non-commercial ideas. He doesn’t seem interested in sex, only his arcane ideas for grand novels.  They own some resort cabins along the lake in Oakville called Perks Landing.  How did Lucy get here?  She looks back…

At age 19, one night she decides to give herself to the buy she’s been dating, Martie, but the experience of losing her virginity is not pleasant, and Martie treats her like shit after, almost disappointed that she did give in to him before marriage like any common backwoods swamp whore.

Pissed, she goes to the local watering hole in a tight dress and no underwear, intent on being a hellion hellcat.  She gets drunk and dances wildly, her dress going up, showing everyone that “no one will think you dye your hair black.”

She runs into Martie again, he plows her with beer despite the fact she now hates him, and drives her out to a remote area where five men are waiting. They pay Martie to gang rape her, each taking two turns; she lays in the backseat, drunk and unable to fight them off.  While Martie drives her home, she finds a wrench in the back and hits him in the head. They crash and he breaks her arm and she walks away.

Even though he did that, Martie seeks forgiveness. He needed the money or he’d go to jail, he tells her.  Seems he may or may not have gotten an underage swamp girl pregnant, she put out, but she blames him, and she wants money to go away and put the baby up for adoption, or else she will tell the police he raped her.

Feeling low, and needing more money than the forty bucks a week she makes at an auto parts mail order firm (she wants to get the hell out of Dodge after what happened), she takes up the offer of a wealthy photographer/artist she meets, who offeres her a place to stay in a cabin and $100 a week to model.  The cabin is at the resort owned by a wealthy woman, Anne, who inherited the land, and her writer husband Ted.

Essentially a plotless novel, this is a character study of needful, desperate people — people who need money or love or art or poetry or ideas.  Everyone seems to have a big dream but one of them very get it, so they settle for third-rate best alternatives.  The resort seems to attract failed arrists — painters who paint worthless landscampes, poets who write abstract surreal poems that never get published, writers who have big non-commercial notions about the American novel.  Anne tells Lucy:

“I had a girl up here last year — or, I should say, she was hired to work up at one of the houses. My husband thinks he’s a writer and she would talk to him about it, but her ideas were far apart from his.  He’s a writer who deals in theories, but this girl never had enough education to become a victim of what is desired and what isn’t. In fact, I think she quit school when she was sixteen.  This isn’t unusal for a novelist, or many other  writers, and she convinced me of her sincerity. I supported her and she worked night and day, using the Columbus system on the typewriter — hunt and find. Out of it came a novel that had guts to it and she sold it very quickly.  Today, she’s on her own, doing quite well. My husband is still trying to solve the complex nature of human beings.” (p. 64)

An interesting sidebar on commercial vs. literary writing, and how a “guts” writer does not need a formal education, or even need to know how to properly type.

Ted muses to Lucy about his own writing:

“Perhaps I should have stayed in Hollywood,” Ted said, reflectively. “There’s a weekly show on that makes me wonder if it pays any of us to be too serious about life.  Like the book I’m writing.  I arrive at a conclusion and then I find so many contradictions that I don’t even know what I’m trying to do myself […] The history of what man is will never be written by a single individual.   Man’s story will be written by many people because only through the eyes of many can we ever hope to see the whole picture.  The cave man who carried [the cave woman] into his cave and sexually assaulted her was, by today’s standards, a rapist, but he was far different than the rapists we have now.   Our man of yesterday was a slave to a single urge, not always clearly understood by the man himself, but today a tight-fitting dress, the rise and fall of a woman’s breasts can turn what we believe a normal man into a savage.” p. 98-99)

Makes me wonder who Hitt is basing this character on, some other writer he heard saying the same in a bar somewhere.  The asides on the craft of novel-writing are similar to those in Taboo Thrills and The Atobiography of Kay Addams.

The weekly comedy Ted refers to is The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hitt even digresses on that show:

“…this hillbilly thing is terrific.  There’s no stacco lines with a punch at the end, no manufactured situations.  It comes about naturally from people who are transplanted into surrounds which aren’t familar to them. They’ve got money, sure, but that’s all they have in common wth their neighbors.  They are used to an outhouse back home and they don’t know what a bathroom is. The woman probably gorund up leftovers for a cheap meal,  but the man in the new house threw the meat into the garbage dsposal unit to grind it and wondered where the stuff disappeared.  These are logical things, cleverly done, and I’m amused that somebody didn’t see the possibilities before.  Yet the obvious is what most people are apt to overlook.” (p. 100)

Who knew ol’ Orrie was a TV critic/media scholar!

There is some plot toward the end, as a murder happens (in the bogs appropriately named Basha Kill)  and another plot for murder is made known, but it seems tacked on to give the book some genre “feel.”  It’s also unfathomable how Lucy succumbs to Martie and seems to forgive his using her in a gang-rape for money.  because of that, the book is lowered to an 8, but is there fdor some good writing and insights.

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