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Love in the Arctic (Red Lantern Books, 1953)

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, sleazecore, Uncategorized, vintage sleaze books with tags , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by orriehittfan

Now that I have read about half of Hitt’s body of work, I decided it would be educational to look at his first novel — what I will assume is his first novel.  Love in the Arctic was published the same year, 1953, as I’ll Call Every Monday by Red Lantern Books; which one was issued first is unknown, or maybe they came out the same time.  Love in the Arctic, however, reads like it was written first.

From Brian Ritt’s biographical essay:

In order to support his family, he had to curtail his writing career for the next 6-8 years, taking a variety of odd jobs which barely paid the bills. He sold life insurance, roofing and siding, and frozen foods to stores. He worked for a local automotive firm and marketed a new type of sparkplug. He worked for a local radio station as a DJ and ad salesman. Altogether, he worked between 15 to 17 jobs, all the while pining to pursue the passion he felt he was born for.

“Oh, I might’ve done a few short stories which didn’t sell but I’m not counting them,” Orrie wrote. “A book was in the back of my mind and I was unable to shake it.”

And then the Iceland cometh.


Yes, Iceland.

“My next stop was Keflavik, Iceland, working at the airport hotel and, again, the pay could’ve been better,” Orrie wrote. “However, I found in Iceland what I wanted. Once I had learned my duties there was plenty of time to write. And this time it was a book.”

Hitt worked at the airport hotel for a year, and by the end of the year he’d written two more books.

[NOTE: In Arctic, someone mentions a former employee with so much free time, he wrote five novels while there.]

Throughout that year, Hitt had submitted all three books to his agent in New York. The agent’s responses, one after another, were discouraging; he claimed the books were unmarketable. It must have seemed like sophomore year all over again. But, as Hitt did with the old schoolmarm, he ignored his agent’s advice and got right back to work. But instead of pounding the typwriter keys, this time he pounded the pavement. He went back to New York and “made the rounds of publishers myself, receiving encouragement but no contracts.” Hitt did find one taker–a “vanity” publisher who wanted Hitt to pay them to publish the book. (He turned them down flatly.) Finally, he found a legitimate publisher who wanted his book and, “A few days later I had a royalty contract.”

The third book mentioned is Teaser, published in 1954 by The Woodford Press.  The dedication if for Hitt’s agent, noting that no one else would touch the novel.

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The Cheaters (Midwood, 1960)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2009 by orriehittfan

Hitt - Cheaters

On a scale of 1-10, The Cheaters is an 11.  This, dear readers, is Mr. Orrest Hitt at his finest hour (or week, as he penned them fast).

To top off an excellent novel is an equally excellent cover image by Mr. Paul Rader at his erotically finest. Look at how the man touches her, and look at her facial response…juices are oozing, baby…

This is a novel of top notch crime noir and Hitt could have easily sold this to Gold Medal instead.  There is surprisingly little sex in it for a Midwood, and focuses more on dirty cops and a working schmoe trying to make a buck among the drunks and hookers.

Clint and Amy have left their going-nowhere farm life realities and moved into a port town, have a room, and are trying to survive, $10 between the two of them left.  She gets a job in a diner during the days and he gets a night bartender job in an area called The Dells, the slum zone of town where one goes for booze, heroin, and whores.  They hardly see each other but they are making money.

Clint is your usual Hitt hero: over six feet tall, 190 pounds, tough and all muscle, and good-looking.  The owner of the bar, a man in his 50s, is married to a younger bombshell in her 20s, Debbie.  Of course, something sparks up between the two, and of course, she wants to find a way to knock off her husband and get all his investment and insurance policy money.

This book has a true villain, a nemesis for our hero, an element usually not in Hitt’s books where everthing is not so black and white.  Red Brandon is a police detective assigned to The Dells but works more as pimp and mob man than cop.  He collects payments from all the porstitutes, clubs, bars, drug pushers — anyone who makes a buck in The Dells, he makes sure he gets his cut.  If someone does not cooperate, Brandon will frame them for a crime, beat them up, or kill them and toss them into the ocean.

Clint finds out just how hard the squeeze his when he takes over ownership of the bar, making payments from the profits.  Soon the cop squeezes him for $100 a week for the booze, some for the girls who work the bar, and he gets money from the girls too, with an extra payment in sex.  They all say he’s a pig and can’t stand sex with him.

Brandon is after Debbie but she voids him.  When he finds out Clint is sneaking off with her, he warns Clint away but Clint has s smart mouth; so Brandon cuts Clint’s face up, leaving scars so his handsome visage is no longer so handsome.  Clint decides he will exact revenge on the cop one day, but he has to be careful because the dirty cop could frame him so that he spends 20 years or more behind bars.

At this point Clint has abandoned Amy, who is pregnant, because he wnats Debbie, so he doesn’t seem like such a good guy after all, hypnotized by a pair of size 40 boobs, blonde hair, and a red hot snatch. But this happens to the best of Hitt heroes, they get sucked up in the fanatsy of a woman…this is something in fiction that the feminists detest: women’s seuality reslting in the downfall of a man. (My ex- used to nag on me for having that in my fiction a lot: “the pussy does not always mean a man’s downward spiral.”  Oh yeah?)

Of course, Debbie has been settng up Clint as a patsy, working in cahoots with Red Brandon — this one is not so obvious and we’re taken for a loop here. And for al his tough guy talk, at the pivital moment Clint loses his bravery to kill Brandon and set up Debbie’s husband for the crime.

We do see the bad guy get his — Brandon’s crimes are brought to light and he’s arrested, and Clint, repenting from the errors of his ways, his vile sins, goes back to pregnant Amy.

The prose is far more terse than usual Hitt, on par with Hired Lover — perhaps Hitt had a good editor at Midwood (Elaine Willism?) who trimmed the fat and reptition found in some Hitt books.

If there is to ever be a Orrie Hitt omnibus — and I am working on this to be so — The Cheaters is a definite contender for inclusion.