Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Change Partners

Celebrated jazz musician Charles Boeckman (1920-2015) authored crime-fiction novels, westerns, and short stories for the pulps and digests in the mid 20th century. Using the pseudonym Alex Carter, Boeckman authored racy sleaze novels for Beacon Books. I read, enjoyed, and reviewed two of these novels, Boy-Lover (1963) and Traded Wives (1964). I thought I would try another one, Change Partners, originally published in 1963.

In 1960, Ernest Evans, known as the famous singer and dancer Chubby Checker, released a cover of Hank Ballard's song “The Twist”. The song, and Checker's dance move, lit up the club floors and had incredible success on radio. But, “The Twist” dance was considered pretty provocative for 1960. 

In Change Partners, Les Kennedy arrives home from his photography studio to find his suburban housewife Vicki doing the Twist dance in his living room. The way her hips and buttocks twist and shake puts Les into an immediate sexual surrender. After the two make love, they agree to head to the local country club to dance the night away. It is here that Les gets drunk and Vicki gyrates with a used car salesman. Spotting his wife's sexy dance moves on the floor with a stranger, Les makes a club spectacle by dragging her to the car and back home. Things aren't looking good for the Kennedys.

Pretty soon, the club incident spills over into marital disharmony when Vicki begins an affair with the used car salesman from the dance. In retaliation – you know where this is going by the title – Les strikes up an affair with the couple's friend and dance instructor Sybil. The married couple's sexual encounters with other people makes up the bulk of the narrative.

Before you start thinking this story seems tepid and dull, let me remind you that this sort of novel isn't a far stretch from what Gil Brewer and Orrie Hitt were doing with their own sexy crime-fiction. Arguably, those authors created crime stories with the real focus being the tumultuous affairs and sexy flirting to propel the plot. Boeckman is just missing the crime element in his books, but to be clear there is a crime committed in Change Partners that provokes some jail time for the main character. But, it isn't anything exceptional. Instead, the author pursues the hot chemistry and sex (never graphic) that the characters experience as their marriage deteriorates. The emotional baggage, insecurities, guilt, and motivation to adultery is what makes the narrative twist and turn to the literary music.

Like Boy-Lover and Traded Wives, Boeckman pens another gem with this portrait of suburban marital Hell. If you enjoy the riches-to-rags fall from grace noir that stems from crime-fiction, then you'll love this book. Recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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