Showing posts with label Orrie Hitt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orrie Hitt. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Untamed Lust

Orrie Hitt (1916-1975) was a family man living in upstate New York barely making a living while he cranked out 150 sleaze paperbacks between 1953 and 1970 — many of which had significant crime-fiction elements. Untamed Lust was a 1960 Beacon Books release by Hitt that remains available today from Prologue Press and as an audiobook.

Eddie Boyd is a 23 year-old down-and-out farm worker who arrives at Wildwood Acres looking for a job hunting and trapping vermin on the estate. The master of the manor is Frank Jennings, a wheelchair bound drunk with a contempt for the wildlife he’s hiring Eddie to kill. In any case, Eddie takes the job for $300 a month, plus room and board at the upstate New York plantation.

The maid at the estate is a busty babe named Joan, with whom Eddie used to consort. Now that they’re living under the same roof in the servant’s quarters, they could resume their strictly-physical relationship. Seems simple enough until we learn that sweet Joan has marriage on her mind.

Not so fast! Eddie meets the lady of the house, Mrs. Jennings (“Call me Kitty”), and she’s a sex-on-fire, hot-pants-wearing minx. Then there’s Carole, Mr. Jennings’ conniving daughter, an irresistible sexpot with impossibly big breasts and a small waist. For his part, Eddie finds himself with a set of burning attractions that could cost him his livelihood.

Eventually, Eddie finds himself in the middle of the rivalry between Carole and Kitty for eventual control of the plantation. Eddie is pressured on multiple fronts into taking action that would provide him financial independence and a substantially upgraded sex life — fueled by his ambition and untamed lust for a trio of pulp fiction femme fatales.

Hitt’s novels often contain interesting details about the protagonist’s careers, and this one is no exception. In addition to being titillated, you’ll also walk away with a master’s degree in the art of trapping wild animals. Hitt underscores the cruelty of the practice and uses this as a means to define the characters and their motivations. This is unusually smart writing for a sleaze paperback and the reason why Hitt was so much better than his contemporaries.

Despite being derivative of James M. Cain’s work, Untamed Lust remains one of Hitt’s best novels. The ending was a little tidy for me, but the ride along the way was pure melodrama for imperfect men. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE. Get the eBook version HERE.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Paperback Warrior Primer - Orrie Hitt

Orrie Hitt (1916-1975) was a suburban family man in upper New York who was quietly one of the most successful creators of sleaze paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s. His plots were largely noir fiction with a heavy dash of non-graphic sexuality and bad decisions driven by greed and lust. During his life, he authored upwards of 150 novels before dying penniless. As a tribute to his life and literary work, Paperback Warrior offers an extensive look at author Orrie Hitt:

Hitt was born in Colchester, New York in 1916. When he was 11 years old, his father committed suicide. Hitt obtained a job at a hunting lodge in upstate New York to make ends meet while his mother worked as a hotel chambermaid. Meanwhile, Hitt was a high school student. As a sophomore, he advised his teacher that he wanted to be a writer, and his teacher did what all good teachers do – she shattered his dreams by telling him that he was never going to make it as a writer because his English language skills were unsatisfactory and that he was too much of a dreamer.

While working at the lodge, Hitt gained hunting and outdoors experience. Hitt sold his first articles about hunting as a high schooler to hobbyist magazines. When he became a senior, he and his former English teacher both submitted articles to an educational book company. Hitt's article about shooting was accepted, and his teacher’s submission was rejected. 

After Hitt's mother died, he became an orphan. Later, he joined the Army at age 24 and served in some capacity in WW2. After his military service, Hitt married Charlotte Tucker on Valentines Day, 1943, and together they eventually had four daughters. In the years following the war, Orrie worked as an insurance salesman, a radio disc jockey, a roofing and timing salesman, a frozen food salesman, and a handyman. He had about 16 jobs during that post-war period, and he wasn’t writing much because he needed the steady paycheck to feed his wife and growing family of daughters. During that period of time, he relocated to Iceland for a year to work at a hotel. This job afforded him a lot of downtime, so he used it to write his first novel, I'll Call Every Monday, published by Avon in 1953. 

It’s clear that Hitt was a fan of James M. Cain, and a lot of his books were re-workings of Cain’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. The formula is that a drifter falls in love with a married woman. Together, they conspire to kill her heel of a husband so they can obtain the husband’s money. Of course, things go sideways, as they do anytime you fall for a murderous wife. That’s the template used by lots of writers in the 1950s, and Hitt went to that well many times in his own writing.

Hitt returned to upstate New York and became a full-time novelist. He set his manual Remington Royal typewriter up on the kitchen table and worked the entire day cranking out 90 words per minute. He lived on iced coffee and Winston cigarettes and he wrote book after book. He was a faithful husband and attentive father while all day, every day, he wrote about guys who were duplicitous heels who couldn’t keep it in their pants. In real life, Hitt was nothing like the characters he wrote about in his books. 

Early in his career, Hitt developed relationships with “adults only” publishers like Beacon and Midwood who bought and published his books. Hitt found a good niche for himself as a writer of sexy fiction – often sexy crime fiction – but his publishers played up the sex and down the noir. Hitt was trying to make a living, so he kept writing the books he knew how to write and receiving advances of $250 to $1,000 per book for his paperbacks. His sleaze publishers gave him a lot of freedom to write what he wanted because they knew that they were just going to slap a silly sleaze cover on his books. 

Between the years of 1953 and 1970, Hitt had about 150 original novels published under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms. There is a robust collector’s market for sleaze fiction, and his original paperbacks tend to get top dollar. The most affordable options are the reprint houses like Stark House Press, Prologue Press, and Automat Press. 

Here's a "buyer's guide" on some of Hitt's novels:

If you want a James M. Cain style novel about the protagonist falling for a young woman married to an older rich guy where they plot to murder the husband:

- The Cheaters (1960)
- Dial M for Man (1962)
- Two of a Kind (1960)

Novels starring a young woman trying to survive by using her body to pay the bills: 

- Campus Tramp (1962)
- Four Women (1961)
- Trapped (1954)

Novels that expose the behind the scenes world of prostitutes and their tragic origin stories:

- Trailer Tramp (1957)
- Nude Doll (1963)
- Naked Model (1962)
- Girl of the Streets (1959)
- Party Doll (1961)

Hitt also wrote under several pseudonyms including Kay Adams, Joe Black, Charles Verne, and Nicky Weaver. Between 1953 and 1960, Orrie Hitt was producing about 20 books per year. His productivity slowed down gradually thereafter. By 1964, he was down to about four books a year, then three, then one. He essentially just ran out of ideas. The book contracts disappeared and his money ran out. A lifetime of working 12 hour days at his kitchen table drinking iced coffee and smoking cigarettes caught up with him. In 1979, he died in debt in a veteran’s hospital at age 59. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

I'll Call Every Monday

Orrie Hitt (1916-1975) was a suburban family man in Upstate New York who was quietly one of the most successful creators of sleaze paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s. His plots were largely noir fiction with a heavy dash of non-graphic sexuality and bad decisions driven by greed and lust. During his life, he authored upwards of 150 novels before dying penniless. His second published book, 1953’s I’ll Call Every Monday, remains in-print today.

In the 1950s, the life insurance and annuity business was a different animal. Policies were sold by door-to-door salesmen who were also responsible for collecting the regular - often weekly - premiums from the customer. That’s the setup in I’ll Call Every Monday, and our narrator, Nicky Weaver, is a door-to-door cold canvasser and a premium collector in a town called Devans with a population of 15,000. 

Early in the novel, Nicky meets two very different dames. The first is Sally. She’s a maid at the hotel Nicky occupies, but she wants to be a torch singer and nightclub hoochie-coochie girl. Anyway, Nicky is interested in her for all the normal reasons that guys get interested in cute babes. He eventually sets her up with a job at a cabin resort and a place to stay. It’s the beginning of a convenient sexual relationship, and Nicky really seems to like the arrangement. 

The second woman is Mrs. Irene Schofield, a busty sexpot from the nice side of town who Nicky meets when canvassing a neighborhood to sell some policies. She has a forty-inch bust, and you just know she’s gonna be trouble from the first time she appears on the page. Nicky tries to resist her charms the best he can. After all, he’s got Sally holed up in a cabin not far away, and Irene is a married woman. 

After relenting to his base instincts, Nicky quickly becomes a busy guy like any fella would juggling two dames. Mr. Schofield travels to New York every Monday, giving Nicky and Irene some alone time at her place. Meanwhile, he’s got pretty Sally waiting for him at the resort cabins. It’s a nice schedule until the idea of insuring and murdering Irene’s husband is raised. The plot then takes on similarities to James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, but it’s still a lot of fun to read with a unique twist ending. 

The author gets into quite a bit of detail surrounding the ins-and-outs of the door-to-door insurance game. You can decide if you find that stuff compelling or if you want to just breeze past that stuff. The sex scenes are genuinely erotic without being graphic, and Nicky is just the horndog protagonist that a reader of these books can appreciate. Overall, the paperback was an above-average Orrie Hitt affair and a good place to start for readers unfamiliar with his work. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Dial "M" for Man

Orrie Hitt is often dismissed as a sleaze fiction author, but I think that’s largely unfair. His paperbacks were certainly packaged as tawdry sex novels, but the first thing a horny reader will notice is the almost complete lack of graphic sex. You’ll also probably notice that he was often an outstanding writer whose plots veered heavily into the moral ambiguity of a femme fatale crime-noir story. Case in point: Dial “M” for Man. The 1962 release has been reprinted by Stark House as a double along with Hitt’s The Cheaters.

Hob Sampson is a TV repairman who is called out for a repair job. The lady of the house is named Doris, and she’s a real dish. Her way-older husband - Mr. Condon - is a crooked real estate developer who also serves on the board of directors at the bank that just rejected Sampson for a loan. He seems to be going out of his way to make Sampson’s life miserable. Upon arrival at the house, the seductive Doris is wearing a skimpy bathing suit, and her husband isn’t home. She’s super flirty, and Sampson is a man who knows what he likes.

You know and I know what eventually happens. Sampson isn’t immediately able to give her the tube she needs, so he agrees to come back to take care of her while Mr. Condon is out of town. There’s a lot of interpersonal stuff between Sampson and his virginal quasi-girlfriend and his deadbeat buddy that rounds the story out and gives Sampson the motivation to have Doris for himself.

If the story of a TV repairman plotting to kill a rich guy for his money and sexy wife sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It was also the plot to Gil Brewer’s paperback The Vengeful Virgin from four years earlier. In all fairness, Brewer’s novel was just a re-working of James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, and the femme fatale story structure has been copied countless times since. While Hitt makes the story his own, he still probably should have made the narrator a plumber or a carpenter to make his borrowing of the plot structure more opaque.

As is often the case in Orrie Hitt novels, the reader learns a lot about the main character’s chosen profession. I find this stuff fascinating, and I now feel like I have a Masters Degree in TV retailing, reception and repair. In 1962, Hitt notably predicted that cable TV would be the future of America. (He did not, however, foresee Netflix Streaming.)

Dial “M” for Man was a total blast to read. The first-person narration from Sampson gave the reader a palpable sense of the lust and greed that leads an otherwise honorable man to make some deadly decisions. Hitt’s ending was also pitch perfect. With 148 books in his writing career, this is an author who should be viewed as a master of his lowbrow genre, and I’m happy that there are reprint houses like Stark House keeping his name alive.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, September 28, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 63

Today’s Paperback Warrior Podcast explores the life and work of sleaze-fiction author Orrie Hitt. Also this week: Chiefland, Florida! Quilting Babes! Andre Norton! Dean R. Koontz! Dial M for Man! Edward S. Aarons! The Net! And much more! Listen on your favorite podcast app or, or download directly HERE 

Listen to "Episode 63: Orrie Hitt" on Spreaker.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 21

In this episode, things get sleazy with a discussion on the hot genre of vintage sleaze fiction along with a review of Orrie Hitt’s 1959 classic, “The Widow.” Meanwhile Eric tells us about Ed Lacy’s “Room to Swing,” and we look back on the best books we covered during month of November. Stream below or download directly HERE. You can also stream the show anywhere that offers good podcasts. Listen to "Episode 21: Sleaze" on Spreaker.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Cheaters

As an author, Orrie Hitt is often dismissed as being “sleaze fiction” but this designation fails to recognize the fundamental truth that he was a superb writer and that his plots often incorporated noir and crime fiction elements beside the soft-core sex scenes. A perfect example is his 1960 paperback, “The Cheaters” that has been re-released by Stark House for modern consumption.

Clint Mayer is 24 and broke when he lands a job at a dive bar in a scummy neighborhood of an industrial town. The owner confides in Mayer that the bar subsidies its bottom line by taxing a trio of prostitutes who use the tavern as a home base of flesh-peddling operations. A crooked local cop shaking down the girls for protection money casts a malevolent shadow over the whole enterprise.

Mayer has a girl who he’s been with for years ever since he took her virginity. She wants to marry, and he lacks enthusiasm for that institution. Meanwhile, his new boss has a young and desirable wife named Debbie who seems hot to trot with the new help. This, of course, becomes an obsession for Mayer who needs to balance his desires with his need to put bread on the table.

As Mayer and Debbie grow closer, the topic of Debbie’s dissatisfaction with her own marriage and and an existing life insurance policy on her husband, you just know that this erotic tease of a novel is about to take a dark turn into James M. Cain territory. Hitt writes his sex scenes with a high level of eroticism without ever being as graphic as the most tepid Longarm western - a cool trick that the author honed in over 150 published novels.

In case you get deceived by the romance novel cover art, rest assured that there is some no-shit violence in this tricky little paperback. For example, there’s a beating scene that will stay with you long after you finish the book - you’ll know what I mean when you read it.

I liked this paperback quite a bit. Admittedly, “The Cheaters” is basically a ripoff of Cain’s “Double Indemnity,” but it’s a damn fine ripoff. After all, who doesn’t like a like a great cover band? You’ll see the twist ending coming from a mile away, but the ride to get there sure is a lot of fun. Recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Widow

In 1952 and 1953, the U.S. House of Representatives formed the Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials, also known as the Gathings Committee. The committee investigated the exploding paperback and comic book market with the goal of proving that these new forms of entertainment would drive men to rape the daughters of god-fearing American voters. Common sense apparently won out, and the Gathings Committee became a national laughingstock. In the face of government censorship, America chose books, and paperback original publishers doubled down on the sensational covers and sexy storylines.

This congressional farce set the stage for the successful literary career of Orrie Hitt and his 1950s publisher, Beacon Books. The sleaze paperback featured lurid, painted covers with promises of hot, sexy action inside the pulpy pages. Oddly, by today’s standards, the descriptions of sex acts in these novels are pretty tame. Chests heave and bodies grind, but seldom are private parts or their functions ever mentioned with any specificity. The books succeed or fail based on the quality of the writing and the stories justifying the erotic situations, and that’s why Hitt’s books endure to this day.

Stark House Books has reprinted two Hitt classics in one volume: Wayward Girl (1960) and The Widow (1959) with an introduction by Brian Greene. “The Widow” was originally packaged with a rapey-looking cover and the tag line, “The savage story of a man gone wrong and the woman who led him astray!” In fact, it’s a compelling femme fatale noir novel that will be familiar in structure to fans of the Fawcett Gold Medal paperbacks of Harry Whittington, Gil Brewer or Day Keene.

The book follows a lothario loser named Jerry who suddenly finds himself terminated from his ditch-digging job after punching out his supervisor. He quickly meets an impossibly sexy married woman named Linda who is neglected by her mechanic husband. Linda sets Jerry up with a job working for her mother-in-law, a mean old lady who owns the local cabin motel and diner. This evolves into some heavy-duty sexual tension between Jerry and Linda as well as a murder plot to swipe the old lady’s nest egg. Throw in a seductive, 21 year-old nude model, and we have a compelling love triangle adding to the tension.

More than his contemporaries, Hitt knew how to dial the erotic intensity of his stories up to maximum volume. This is a straight-up sexy novel without ever being graphic or explicit - quite a trick, actually. Hitt’s writing is crisp and dialogue-driven, much like Lawrence Block’s style. Interestingly, Block also wrote erotic noir fiction for Beacon Books under the name Sheldon Lord at the same time Hitt was cranking out these paperback quickies. Hitt’s protagonist is a real heel, but his misdeeds only add to the dark, seamy feel of this softcore noir. 

The love triangle gets more attention than the murder plot, but both storylines are compelling enough to keep the pages turning fast. The twist ending wasn’t a complete surprise, but it didn’t really detract from the fun ride along the way. This one is an easy recommendation for anyone seeking to kill a few hours with an erotic crime novel from a bygone era. Recommended.

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