Archive for January, 2010

The Sucker (Beacon, 1957)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by orriehittfan

First, this is one excellent Orrie Hitt novel, as good as Hired Lover,  The Cheaters, Shabby Street, Taboo Thrills, Sheba, Two of a Kind, etc.

Slade Harper is an angry man, but a man with a plan.  He has come back to the U.S. after working in Iceland — like the protagonist in Love in the Arctic, he went to Iceland to run away from the past: his wife betrayed him and died in a car accident with her lover (a common situation in several Hitts, like Diploma Dolls).

While in Iceland, he won a fellow’s family business, a gas station, in upper NY state; after that, the fellow — who needed money because he got a local girl pregnant — blew his brains out with a gun.  When Slade arrives at the gas station, there’s a but of a surprise: the fellow’s young sister, Cleo, is living there and running it.  She seems to accept, too easily, that the family business was lost in a game of cards.  She gives Slade the cold treatment, but what he does not know is that Cleo went to see a lawyer and was told U.S. law does not recognize the legitimacy of gambling debts; she was prepared to tell him this but the minute she saw him, she knew Slade was the man for her.

Despite the fact that she does not succumb to his advances, she intends to get Slade to marry her one day.  Meanwhile, Slade, who has an engineering degree, works the auto repair part of the station while Cleo cashiers for gas and food…

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Devil in the Flesh (Valentine Books, 1957) aka Sins of the Flesh (Kozy #94, 1960)

Posted in Kozy Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by orriehittfan

1957 was a busy year for the Shakespeare of Sleaze — four books with key in hardback and half a dozen with Beacon, and Devil in the Flesh with Valentine, a short-lived hardcover house that also published ol’ Orrie’s Hotel Woman.

The Valentine copy I have is beat-up and without a dust jacket and is 204 readable pages; the Kozy has a nifty cover but cram,s in tiny print into 160 pages 60,000 words of text.

It’s a backwoods novel populated by white trash hillbillies with more violence usually found in a Hittsville Tale, told by a big strapping six foot two guy, Shad Albright, who owns a piece of farmland by a lake that this rich woman, Sheila, having inherited her father’s estate, wants to buy — a new dam will be built in the area and she knows the government will eventually pay over top dollar for the land rights.

Shad has just done a few years in prison for embezzling money at a finance company he worked at, money he didn’t take, and always figured his tramp wife, Lynn did (we later learn it washer brother who did it).  he wants nothing to do with Lynn.  Back home at the farm, he has sparked a romance with a hot swamp girl, Rita, and he wants to marry her, but first he must divorce Lynn, and she won’t grant him that divorce.

He has troubles with the local thug, who has had a yen for Rita for years, and is working with the rich woman, Shelia, to force Shad to sell his land to her.

Shad won’t budge; not that he wants to keep the farm, he just doesn’t like people telling him what to do. he’s had enough of that in prison while wrongfully incarcerated. He’s a stubborn guy.

Like many Hitt heroes, Shad has sex with three women in the book — Rita, of course, and his wife when she reduces him, and with Sheila, his enemy, against his better judgement.  Hitt writes what is perhaps his most detailed, poetic and romamtic sex scene in all of his novels…

She twisted in my arms, and the smell of dry hemlock needles was strong and hot.  My lips bruised her mouth, making her moan. I unbuttoned the blouse and shoved it asid. My hand went down over her body, exploring the mysteries of her flesh…

“Oh, Shad! Shad!”

It was hell hearing it, the way she spoke my name, sort of hopeful, yet afraid and, perhaps, just a little but ashamed too.  She was a nice girlm a riverbank girl, and she’d never been anywhere at all. She belonged to me; every throbbing cell in her wild and hungry body belonged to me to do with as I pleased. It was a good feeling, knowing this, but it was also somewhat frightening. It would never be enough. There had to be something else.

“I love you,” I whispered huskily.

She came to me, her mouth parted, her body mine all mine […] I don’t know why, because there wasn’t any good reason for it, but at that moment I felt as though I were up on Slide Mountain and had slipped off the edge of one of those high cliffs and shot down into a yawning, empty gorge that knew no bottom or sunlight.  I grabbed for anything, everything, and as I fell, hurtling toward the violent, uplifting earth that must be somewhere beneath me, I let out a long, agonized groan that ended in almost a sob.  I seemed to cling there in the darkness for a moment, wondering if there would be more, and hoping, with a terrible, awful ache, that this glorious furious sensation would never stop. And then I was going down again, all the way down, and the darkness in the gorge became light and the light became love. I struck the ground, driving deep into it, and my love exploded into the earth because, in the end, all light and love becom earth. (pp. 11-12)

Make what you will of these metaphors…

There are a few twists, when we don’t know who really is the bad woman and who is the good women, or if the three women in Shad’s life are a bit of both…then in the past 50 pages comes a murder mystery, or two murders, with one suspect after another that it becomes a little hard to follow and some of the events seem rather implausible, like a crazy James Ellroy mystery…

On the Hitt Scale this gets a 7.8.

Loose Women (Domino Books, 1963)

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by orriehittfan

Another good Domino title, and here ol’ Orrie treads some ground that isn’t upper New York state or about insurance salesmen or peeping toms, although the narrator’s name is Joe Black, it doesn’t seem to be the same Joe Black who narrates Unnatural Urge.

Joe Black is a boat bum who spends time either down in Florida or up on the New Jersey shore, making a meager living with charters.  Hitt is walking on Gil Brewer and Harry Whittington territory here — the first clue is a woman named Cora, the ex-wife who burned him.  Right now he’s traveling  on the boat with a gal named Alice from Florida to New Jersey.  They’ve had a nice time of sailing and sex, but once they reach Jersey, he parts ways with her and she gets a job as a waitress.  He doesn’t want to get serious with any woman, even though Alice does.

Cora made him untrusting of all women and their intentions.  Joe comes from a wealthy family of lawyers and business people, and was groomed for the best college and a life as a Black.  Then, after high school, he met Cora, a bad girl from the other side of town; he got her pregnant and married her, against his parents’ wishes. They disowned him. Then Cora lost the baby and he found out what a tramp she was, how much she cheated on him even while pregnant, and he wonders if the baby was his.  He’s been disowned by his rich faily and has been working jhard labor to support her…then she takes off with some salesman and the two die in a car crash (the same back story is in Diploma Dolls, used at the narrator’s motivation for womanizing).

There is one typical Hitt element: the hot younger wife married to an older man. Carlton runs Carlton Bay but he has no good boats for charters and is always drunk.  He talks Joe into takingh a $200 job and wants Joe to stay and work for him, but Joe wants to high-tail it out, go somewhere else.  Carlton’s sexy 22-year-old wife, Sandra, tries to use her body to keep him around — and she tells him her husband is too drunk to be a man, and is unable to give her a baby, and she wants Joe to take his place: run the boating dock, have her, give her a kid.  Everything Joe doesn’t want.

But Hitt starts to fall into the typical — Sandra has an ulterior motive, a plot for murder and money, and the book wraps up like a Gold Medal-wannabe, with some implausibility on a boat drifting bind;y in the fog and five people on it.

Like the other Domino titles, Lust Prowl and The Color of Lust, this is a tight 125-page novel and the writing is clean and smooth.  Don’t know if Hitt had a good editor at Lancer or, keeping to 40,000 words, there was no need to pad his manuscripts with repetition and redundant scenes, to get to 50 or 60,000 words as his other publishers required.

On the Hitt Scale, a 7.5.

Panda Bear Passion, Playpet, and Carnival Sin on eBay

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , on January 9, 2010 by orriehittfan

Last week, these hard-to-find books were up on eBay for auction. Naturally, I bid on them…after $50, it was just me and someone else — if you’re that person and reading this blog, shout out.

If it wasn’t for me, you would’ve gotten these rather cheap –– Panda Bear Passion (PEC, 1968)went for $93 and Carnival Sin/Playpet went for $113.

The listed collector’s price for the Vest Pockets seems to be in the $700-800 range, which is crazy and dumb, so $113 is a steal…Panda seems to go for $100-200 out there.  I could have gotten it at Powell’s in Portland for $125 a few months ago, but couldn’t justify the price.

The question: why are these Hitts, and not others, so damn collectible and expensive?  Limited print runs?  The covers?

One reader here has told me they aren’t as good as some Hitts you can get for $8 on eBay or abebooks.

And why do these booksellers have such huge prices?  The books linger for years…in this economy, how can anyone justify the worth of an old book at those prices?  It’s stupid…I have now been offering half price to collectors for high priced books and the sellers agree — they’re happy to finally sell the damn things.

The Color of Lust (Domino Books, 1964)

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2010 by orriehittfan

Ol’ Orrie takes on racism, racial tension, the politics of 1960s Civil Rights struggles, unions, bigotry and hate in this one, perhaps one of his most serious novels I’ve read yet — of  racial issues and social/blue collar worker politics packaged as a sex book with a half naked woman on the front and back covers.

As Hank Hill and his drinking pals go, “Yeyup.”

Sammy Cain is the protagonist, the hero,

age twenty-six, big, powerful, handsome — and neither white nor Negro.  This, he had decided, was the trouble — he was part of each […] he had accepted what he was and learned to live with it. (p. 6)

Both his parents are black, but somewhere in the past — during the Civil War times he figured — white blood had gotten into the gene pool, and that gene was dominant in him.  Those who don’t know, he passes off as white, but others can look closer at his hair, his facial features — he’s from African-American lineage.

To many of his co-workers, he’s a white nigger. He deals with a lot of racist attitudes at the trucking company he drives for — mainly because there are no black drivers, the black workers mainly load and do menial labor.

Some want to use Sammy’s white skin to their advantage — the owner of the company, who thinks he can work as management, more close to the common worker; a black union guy, who wants to use Sammy to get black truck drivers the right to drive the highways and at better pay.  Sammy wants nothing to do with either, he’s happy to just drive and sleep in his room on days off; to drink beer and take life easy.  But he’s forced into situations as the union guy hounds him and a bigoted mechanic messes with his truck and tries to kill him in a fluke accident, because the mechanic — a fat white tiras slob named Lew Chambers — is convinced Sammy is after his daughter.

He’s not, but she goes after him, and they start sleeping together, which can only lead to a world of trouble in 1964 time.

Just when I thought there’d only be one woman in Sammy’s life, different for a Hitt hero, Sammy sleeps with two more who complicate his existence:

Florence, a waitress who rents a room in the same boarding house he stays at;

Nora, who runs the business side of the trucking company for her sick father.

All women are white and they all comment on the sins of interracial sex — or the sins that others will see it as.

But Flo just wants money from him so she can skip work and lay around naked all day and Nora has an ulterior motive to set Sammy up as a patsy for an embezzlement rap.

Seems everyone wants to screw poor Sammy over, since he’s black deep in the blood and he doesn’t count in the end — even the union man, supposedly looking out for black workers, who has ulterior motives of his own.

This is a fine little novel, one of those Hitt could have probably sold to a mainstream hardcover house. One interesting aspect is that now and then Sammy picks up the newspaper and Hitt adds in political and social asides on the race war in the U.S., the nuclear scare of Russia, the assassination of politicians — and other major concerns and issues of the early 1960s.

Ripe for a reprint.

On the Hitt Scale, a 9.

Lust Prowl (Lancer/Domino Books, 1964)

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by orriehittfan

Ol Orrie’s fifth, and I think last, peeping tom novel was one of the handful of titles he did for Lancer Books’ Domino imprint in the mid-60s.  These novels were shorter than his usual 50-60K word fares, clocking in about 45K words crammed into 128 pages of small, hard-to-read type (hy do publishers think people find reading small type comfortable?)

Like The Peeper, his first peeper book, the narrator of this one is a journalist for a small town paper, reporting clandestinely on his own crimes:

Now as I sat at my typewriter, a battered Remington that ‘d had for several years, I grinned. Of course I banged away at the rumors for all they were worth, keeping everything in the rumor class, but I could have written the real story myself. Yes, I knew the real story, because I was the peeping tom. Me, Barry Warren, a husky fellow of twenty-five who lived for the coming of night, the lighted windows and the unguarded moments of an unsuspecting female. Then afterword, and seldom entirely satisfied, I’d live in a world of fear and torture and just about wanted to die. (pp. 5-6)

Another peeping tom who cannot escape his urges and, like many perverts, feels dirty after he gives in to his dark need, rather than being crass and slimy like John Belushi in Animal House

He blames a girl from his teen years, his first peep:

Sally, lovely on the surface but a bitch underneath — she’d caused me to become what I was.  She was a symbol of frustration and regret, a creature which shouldn’t have existed, a symbol that ought to be destroyed. (p. 32)

In I Prowl by Night, the narrator is obsessed with finding a woman with a strawberry shaped birth mark on her thigh like the object of his first lust peep; in this one, the obsession is a small mole under a belly button.

This one is also very similar to The Peeper,as both narrators are reporters for a small town newspaper (Rosetown here) and writing about their own prowls.  Toss in some elements of Warped Woman/Taboo Thrills (puritanical editorials against sex and sleaze) and Pushover (writing historical booklets using archived manuscripts from the old Federal Writers Project of the Depression), Hitt covers oft-tread ground…

Yet Lust Prowl is written with a clam clarity; the writer may not be exploring new themes, but his prose is more confident, his characters more vulnerable and real in this 1964 text, opposed to books written in the late 1950s.

BArry Warren is 25 and has worked at various newspaper, has roamed from one small town to the next, prowling for peeps at night.  He marries Marsha, who operates a dress store in Rosetown, because he loves her but he also thinks maybe marriage will help him stop peeping into the windows…that doesn’t work and weeks after the quick wedding, the two are separated.

Barry constantly wonders what is wrong with him, why can’t he feel normal, why can’t he be a good husband?  He tries.  He keeps doing bad things, like stealing money from the paper’s till to pay back a debt, then having the theft blamed on another employee.

Of all of Hitt’s peeping tom book, The Peeper and Peeping Tom are the best. This on is okay, and on the Hitt Scale I give it a 7.5.

I Prowl by Night (Beacon, 1961)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2010 by orriehittfan

The fourth peeping tom novel by ol’ Orrie looked at here on this blog, following The Peeper, Peeping Tom, and Unnatural Urge, all of them pretty damn good stories, albeit on the same theme.  Peepers sometimes pop up in sub-plots, like in Warped Woman/Taboo Thrills/Wilma’s Wants. Like girls posing for nude pix and young women marrying rich older men, the peeper was one of Hitt’s beloved topics addressing the darker nature of human desire.  In the previous three, all narrators know they have a problem and wish they could stop, wish they could seek help, but are unable to battle  their fetish.

In The Peeper, the narrator is a reporter, reporting on his own prowls and peeps; in Peeping Tom, the narrator is a painter; in Unnatural Urge, he’s a business man. In this one, the narrator, Johnny Brady, is a plumber, and he works for his wife’s father, who talks him into a sneaky deal to buy out his competitor’s company, with an idea of a merger and a time when Johnny will take over the family biz.  The father does it all for his little girl; he even bought them a nice house in a ritzy part of Clinton, NY, where this is set (a town Hitt often uses, like Merchantsville).

Johnny has been married for six months to Anne and has not peeped in all that time, but he feels the urge to after a new girl, Mae, is hired in the office and after meeting another girl at a farm, Judy.  All he can do now is picture peeping in on them and it’s driving him nuts — so much is this obsession that he muses on it nearly every page, something The Groovy Age iof Horror’s review notes:

I was quite amazed, in this one, how successful he was at repeating the obsessive and self-recriminatory elements without allowing them to seem boringly repetitive. It’s always on the main character’s mind, and yet somehow, through that filter, I still found a surprisingly interesting story about a working-class stiff also coping with life’s ordinary difficulties.

He’s more interested in Mae than Judy, perhaps because Judy has a birthmark on her upper thigh that is similar to the mark on the first girl he ever peeped on, as a teenager.

I started peeping quite by accident, about the time I was fourteen […] New people moved into the house next to us and they had a eighteen-year-old daughter who liked to throw her shape around.  Our houses were maybe twenty feet apart, no more.  The girl took the bedroom opposite of mine on the second floor.,  Sometimes during the afternoon I would see her moving around there and I would lie on my bed, watching her, a strange sensation flowing through me and my mouth hot and dry[…] There she was, disrobed, her stomach flat, her hips rounded and full. And on one plump thigh was a small, red, starwberry birthmark. I shivered with wild, reflective delight. (p.9)

One night, his wife gone, Johnny doesn’t have any prowling luck to appease his eyes and kink, so wanders into a bar, gets drunk, meets a chippy named Sally Cain (agin for James Cain?), goes to her room, and wakes up in the morning not knowing what happened.  The girl has looked through his wallet and knows his name, where he works, his phone number at home.  She then starts to blackmail him, asking for $20 here and there, otherwise…well, his wife might find out…and he pays her when she demands.

Johnny constantly muses on his problem and what a fool he is, on the verge of messing up his marriage, when his entire life rests on the marriage: he loves her, but his future as a plumber, taing over the family biz, is at stake if she ever catches him cheating or peeping on other women…if she even knew…”I’m a freak” and “I’m a monster” keeps crossing Johnny’s mind….he’s like that character Dexter, normal on the outside, a beast on the inside, burdened with constant inner turmoil over his identity and truth:

I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t think. The night was mine and I had to have a window.  I was like an alcoholic that needs that first.  Right now I would’ve settled for just about anybody or anything.

I was frantic as I walked down the street. I didn’t know where to look.  Many people were already in bed and that was no help.  Besides, it was cold and I was uncomfortable.  Yet I had to go on. I couldn’t stop. Something forced me to go on. (p. 116)

He hires the farm girl Judy to work for his new plumbing company, and purposely helps her rent a bottom floor room in town so he can later peep on her, which he does so descriptively:

Judy was still up and so was the shade of the back window.

She was dressed and moving about the room.

I hung back in the shadows for a few minutes, listening for a dog, and then I crept close […] Judy stopped before the dresser, opened a drawer and began getting out her things.  I supposed they were for the next day, so that she’d be ready to dress in the morning […] she finished with the drawer, closed it, and turned around to face me. She smiled faintly and I wondered what she was thinking about.  Then she lifted up her skirt to reach for the hooks that held up her stocking.

I gulped for air.

Her legs looked better now than they had in the office and they were perfectly formed. Farm legs, I thought.  She sat down on the edge of the bed to remove the stockings and she was still facing me. As she lifted one leg, rolling the stocking down, I saw the creamy white of her thigh. I pressed close to the window, any caution I might have had gone. Here was what I wanted, what I had to have. Here was a beautiful girl who did not know she was being watched. (p. 91)

Part of the lure of watching seems to be power, the power over another person’s lack of knowing; it seems to be part acquisition of another’s private life, the little things we keep to ourselves.

You drive past a house with the shades of the blinds up and and you want to see what’s inside.  Ranch houses are the best because the bedrooms are downstairs, but almost any house can give result. You may wonder why people don’t shut out the outside world when they undress but they either forget or don’t care. (p. 12)

While he kisses and fondles Judy in the office, he never goes to her room for sex as she keeps offering; he’d rather watch her from her window, and he’s still paranoid about his wife finding things out, especially with Sandy Cain extorting him for money. But his biggest desire is Mae, because she won’t go out to dinner with him or any maried man — she is the hardest to get, and she becomes not only his ultiamte prize but his eventful downfall.

I Prowl by Night is more a character study than plot-filled like the prevous three — Peeper and Peeping Tom had the narrator succumbing into a rapist and eluding the cops, and Unnatural Urge had a murder subplot.  Still, a well-written book and on the Hitt Scale, an 8.