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

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.

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