Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Object of Lust

Like a lot of working authors of the paperback original era, Charles Runyon (1928-2015) supplemented his income as a mystery and science-fiction writer by authoring titillating sleaze novels using a pseudonym. Black Gat Books, an imprint of Stark House Press, has unearthed a 1962 title Runyon wrote under the pen name Mark West for a contemporary reprint.

Marian, age 35, is a bored and lonely housewife and mom who is initially receptive to the flirtatious advances of 22 year-old Lewis Leland. Things escalate into hot-and-heavy make-out sessions for the pair in the woodsy confines of the lake resort town where Lewis works teaches high school girls how to water-ski.

After Lewis saves Marian from drowning in the lake, they get together on-the-sly for some thank-you-sex, the encounter ends abruptly when they are almost caught together in the woods by some local kids. Marian develops cold feet and loses the fire in her belly for young Lewis. The problem? Lewis doesn’t want this forbidden romance to end and goes into a full stalker mode.

Unlike most novels about creepy stalkers, this one is partially told from the creep’s perspective. This is a trick that Runyon also employed in his groundbreaking serial killer novel from 1965, The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed. Runyon does a particularly good job of getting the reader into Lewis’ infatuated head, and the writing is particularly solid.

Unfortunately, the paperback isn’t a crime-suspense novel throughout. Instead, the plot swims in the histrionics of the daisy-chain of affairs and infidelities among the summer lovers in Marian’s orbit. It’s pretty standard fare for a 1960s sleaze paperback and nothing you haven’t read before if you’re familiar with the genre.

To be clear, the scenes with Lewis becoming increasingly unhinged were pure gold. For my money, I’d have preferred more creepy stalker stuff and way less relationship drama filler. Is this book worth your while? Runyon was definitely a unique talent, but this isn’t his best work. It’s not much better than a mediocre Orrie Hitt book covered in some light suspense shrink wrap.

Buy a copy of the book HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like something I might pick up if it comes out as an ebook or a used copy dips low enough. (I saw a reasonably priced copy on Abebooks, but the description says "pages musty", so if I'll buy that one if I ever need a bit for a stand-up comedy routine).

    Speaking of objects of lust, I wrote a book I think you might like. Sort of a mix between the old Piccadilly Westerns and the vintage sleaze of the seventies. ( Be cool if you could review it, but I don't want to be too much of a shill.