Orrie Hitt, |
The Cheaters & Dial "M" for Man
(Stark House, 2011)
With this reissue of two Orrie Hitt novels originally published in the very early 1960s, Stark House continues to go its own original, quirky way, bringing back into print forgotten books by forgotten writers.
During his day, Orrie Hitt was incredibly popular, specializing in a certain kind of book, which is generally called the sleaze novel. He wrote under his own name, as well as under the pen names Nicky Weaver, Roger Normandie, Charles Verne and Fred Martin. For a while he was even lesbian author Kay Adams. Over a 15-year period, he wrote about 250 books, pumping out one every two weeks. All of his books had similar characteristics; they were about the down-and-out, working-class people looking for a break, true love, great sex and a big payoff. His male characters were essentially good people who, because they are never quite as bright as they think they are and because they have a weakness for a woman, got sucked up into the underworld and either come to their senses in the last couple of pages or are done in by their errors in judgment and action. His female characters are either good girls or vamps, and both are generally described and characterized in terms of their breasts. Hitt doesn't describe women; he describes their chests -- in massive amounts of detail.
And he is great fun to read.
The Cheaters gives us Clint Mayer, who, along with his girlfriend, Ann, leaves the farm and moves to the big city, where he gets a job as a bartender and takes advantage of the owner's desire to get out of the business by taking over the bar. When he buys the bar, he also buys the prostitution racket that goes with it; he quickly adjusts to his new life, running a few girls out of his bar. However, he falls for Debbie, the former owner's wife, a woman who, according to Hitt's description, has breasts that can "damn near do the tango all by themselves." One entire scene is narrated according to the movement of her chest as she speaks. It's every bit as funny as and as erotic as any given scene in the new Smurfs movie.
Of course, the bad girls in Hitt's books are more bad than the heroes imagine and always turn out not to be what we thought they were. They're always playing the hero for a sucker, which we know immediately, and it takes him 40,000 or 50,000 words to figure out. That's the case in both of these titles.
In Dial "M" for Man, television repairman Hob Sampson falls for Doris Condon, the sexually charged wife of the richest man in town, Ferris Condon, who is determined to ruin Hob because of a grudge he had against Hob's father. Hob and Doris, of course, develop a plot to kill Condon, which, of course, goes wrong in every way it can, mostly because Doris is playing Hob for a sucker.
Both of these books show us the pulp fiction world of the 1950s and early '60s. They are a nostalgia wallow and a look, not at the past, but the sexual myths and attitudes of the past. They show us a world as remote from lived experience as a science-fiction world.
My advice? Turn off your critical mind, leap into Hitt's world and enjoy.
book review by
Michael Scott Cain
14 January 2012
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