Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Lester Morris: Savage Lust (1962)

Here's another noir novel masquerading as a sleaze paperback! No one has ever heard of Lester Morris, let alone his sole novel Savage Lust that came out from a small paperback house called Private Editions. I thought this was pretty good and solid and could've been written by some better known paperbacker. The ending is devilishly cruel and ironic. 

Savage Lust's anti-hero is Si, a heel and a gigolo who uses and cheats women all the time. He's living in Florida and skimming money from every broad he can get his hands on. One of his lady friends, the wife of a hotel owner, wants to get Si all to herself and kills her husband and tells Si they can get the husband's money. Si doesn't want to get involved in a murder, but manages, almost accidentally, to kill the lady friend. Si buries the bodies and tries to act as the caretaker of the hotel while the owners are on a vacation. You can see this is not going to end well, right? And it sure doesn't! The ending is a punishment you just don't see coming. 

Not altogether plausible, but entertaining nevertheless, and the more noir aspects of the story are worth your while. I seem to enjoy the American sleaze paperbacks where the main guy is a no-good heel, who's getting beaten. No idea who really wrote this, but there were other Lesters writing sleaze at the same time, for example Lester Lake and Lester Arthur. They might be the same guy or,
then again, might not. 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The sleaze paperbacks of Max Nortic

I'm sure you've never heard of Max Nortic. I wouldn't have, if I hadn't set out to do a book on American sleaze paperback writers (it will be out only in Finnish, sorry). There are four translated novels by him, and they rise above the usual hardcore fare of the late sixties and early seventies, which is the time when the porn business and the sleaze paperback industry were being taken over by Mafia. Some critics say this was the turning point of the American sex paperback, and after that the books became worse. 

No one has ever written anything about Max Nortic, though several other sleaze authors, such as Orrie Hitt, and the writers who became later known for another genre, such as Robert Silverberg and Lawrence Block, have received praise and seen reprints of their sleaze work. Max Nortic has seen some of his books being republished as e-books, but none are available in print. 

Should they be? As I said, they are better than many other sex paperbacks of the era, as they have discernable plots and characters in them, and not such some ploy to hang some sex scenes on (I've now read several of those, and they can be pretty dull, though sometimes they have their own goofy charm). Nortic's sleaze books have crime and spy elements, and some of them take place in magazine industry, which sounds like Nortic was a journalist himself. There's also some satire in Nortic's work. 

Nortic published mainly through Midwood, and some of his books are Black Satin (1969), Virgin Wanted (1968), Night Nurse (1968), School for Sin (1969), Possessed (1969) ja Island of Desire (1970). For Brandon House he did The Strange Love of Lady S. (1968), which takes place in the early 19th century, so it's a historical novel. 

I've read these four books by him: The Real Thing (1970), Code Name: The Gypsy Virgin (1971), Total Awareness (1969) and Dirty Secrets (1969). All were published by Midwood. Of these, The Gypsy Virgin and The Real Thing are to my mind the best, though the others also hold some interest. Code Name: The Gypsy Virgin is a book about two female spies, working on the other sides during the Cold War, the one is of course American, and the other one is also a Caucasian, but she works for China. You might think this is a spy parody, which were indeed prevalent in the sixties' paperback sleaze, but this is actually a very grim and disturbing book. The American spy is made lesbian through manipulation in order to catch the Chinese spy, who's been modified into a sadistic killer through beatings and rapes in Chinese camps, starting already from a young age. The actual plot is about an American scientist, who the Chinese spy tries to manipulate to defect to China and start working for the Chinese government. In order to do this, she picks up the scientist's teenage daughter and forces her to make love to her. The ending is very bleak, and the evil China is victorious. (There's a one-word review for this in Amazon: "Rubbish.") 

The Real Thing is a heist novel, of all genres. It's about the robbing of a casino in which several of the characters are working. One of the ex-workers tries to get back to the casino and uses counterfeit cards. Nortic moves the story along with a nice speed, never stopping for too long on sex scenes, which are mostly worked well into the plot. The women in the book are the winners in the game, and the sadism of The Gypsy Virgin is largely missing, so this isn't as disturbing. This could've been written by a more famous paperbacker, like Harry Whittington. 

Dirty Secrets (Salaisuus in Finnish) then again is a funny expose romp in which two rivaling women's magazines are making features of a well-to-do family that's been chosen as "The Family of the Year". Under their facade, there's under-age sex, lesbianism, fetishism and other steamy stuff. Some of the sex scenes are actually quite titillating, but what's more important is that the book moves on quite fast. There's always something happening. Total Awareness is the least of the bunch, but holds some interest as a picture of is age: the middle-class couple gets acquainted with a sex cult and its charismatic leader, so it's about the aftermath of a hippie culture. This one is played mainly for the sex scenes, though there are some interesting set pieces here and there, especially the one with the Chaplin comedy that's intertwined with a real couple having sex in front of the screen. 

I've been reading so much smut lately that I'm not really sure whether my judgment is reliable. But Max Nortic's books really stand out among some of the crap I've come across. Some of that crap makes me laugh, some of it makes me only bored. It would be interesting to read other people's comments on Nortic's work. Here's Dirty Secrets for Kindle, and here's The Code Name: Gypsy Virgin

But who was Max Nortic? There's a copyright notice from 1968 saying that the pseudonym belongs to one Max Citron (see?), but I can't find any info on him. Is Max Citron a pseudonym? A house name, perhaps? So, if anyone knows anything about Max Citron-Nortic, please, speak up! 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Unidentified sleaze paperback


Here's still another one of those sex papebacks I've been unable to obtain any reliable information about. It's by one Jo Ann Sheer, and it's supposed to be called Alayne's Secret Pleasures. It came out in Finnish with a stupid and irrelevant title "Rinnat kuin revolverit", which means "Breasts like revolvers", which bears no relation to the novel. It came out in 1978. I can't find any book as by Jo Ann Sheer and certainly not "Alayne's Secret Pleasures". 

The book is not crime, as some of the previous examples are. This is a rather loosely narrated story of Evan, who works in a men's mag, and Alayne, who's an ex-ballerina and living with Evan. They have a fight, as Alayne asks for too much sex, and Evan whips her with a belt, which Alayne of course enjoys immensely and says later that at that time he could finally respect Evan. They part their ways, only to meet later in Germany at the launch party of a new sex magazine called European Views. The way Alayne gets her money to travel to Europe is an especially nasty one: she and her lesbian friend fight each other naked in a bar (and when I say fight, I mean it), and when Alayne wins, she has to whip her friend in front of the audience. If she declines, her friend gets thrown in the river. After the whipping the women are raped. It's no pleasure reading this stuff, though there are titillating moments. The ending is a happy one: Evan and Alayne get back together, now that Evan knows how Alayne should be treated.

There are some inside jokes and references in the book: the editing office of European Views, the new sex mag, is described in detail (I'll translate back to English): "The gay photographer, the shabby office hasn't officially been rented, the staff writers are two homeless and rootless guys, who have nowhere else to rest their heads." The publisher of European Views could be modeled after a real person, there's that certain ring to it. In one scene Evan is seen reading a copy of a 0008 book by Clyde Allison. (There's no way a Finnish writer could know this, since they have never been translated.) I believe this a bona fide American sex novel published by an obscure house, and it was written by someone who was in the industry him- or herself. 

A reader of this blog found a book that was written and published as by another writer in one of these posts: H. P. Jaye wrote a gay porn novel The Go-Down Man in 1969, published by CAJ, which could be an off-shoot of Publishers Export Center hailing from El Cajon, California. PEC seems to have ceased in 1971, so these may have been one of their latest books, which might explain why they can't be found. 

One thing more: I noticed there's a character called Joe Sheer in the first Parker novel, The Hunter, but there's no way Westlake would've written this. Is there?

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Movie review of No Country for Old Men written by a lousy typewriter

Going through some memorabilia boxes at the cellar, I found this note, written by a plastic Barbie typewriter some years ago. Seems like I intended it for publication, but never got around to doing that. So here goes! I remember struggling with the damn machine and even fixing it (the tape was torn or something like that), though I'm not handy at this kind of thing, not at all. I believe we took the typewriter back to the thrift store soon after this. The picture of the machine is taken from Pinterest. (I never fulfilled my promise of using another typewriter from now on. What is true is that I joined the typewriter group on Yahoo. I never posted there and I don't think I ever read any of the posts, and now Yahoogroups is defunct. Oh, how time flies!)




Friday, March 12, 2021

More unidentified sleaze paperbacks


 I've now been reading more of these old sleaze and porn paperbacks that were published in Finland in the late seventies, and I've come up with at least two more books that don't seem to have been published in English at all. Yet the books seem authentically American to me, with all the names of the characters, the plots and the milieus and stuff. Mind you, a foreign writer almost never gets everything right. 

The other one - the more interesting one - is Between All of Us as by Bob Grand. It was published in Finnish in 1978 under the more fitting title Himon orjat (Passion's Slaves or Slaves of Passion), and it fits nicely in the James M. Cain tradition of hardboiled crime writing. Jay Forbes is a young drifter who's left his job after winning $400 in poker. He's somewhere in Florida and runs out of luck with women and gambling. He spots an advertisement for a job at the dog-race trainer. The owner of the place is an old drunk, and his middle-aged wife, who's still good looking, seems frigid. The daughter of the man who does the actual training of the dogs is a teenage nympho. Forbes smells trouble, but doesn't leave, even though he doesn't really know why. You see where this is going to, right? And yes indeed, the wife suggests she and Forbes poison the top dog of the ranch, so the old drunk would commit suicide and they could take his money. And you see where this is leading, right? 

The book is filled with long sex scenes, but beneath them is a solid, if a bit unimaginative noir novel of the Postman Always Rings Twice school. This could've been written by Harry Whittington or Day Keene. Possibly it's an old unsold manuscript peppered with liberal sex and sold to Finland. It's happened before (Bruce Cassiday, Frank Castle, Grover Brinkman and some others), so why not with this one? 


The other one I stumbled on was called Come, Come, My Lover, and it was published as by H. P. Jaye. In Finnish it has a different title: Äitiä, tytärtä ja pikkusiskoa, which translates back as "Mother, Daughter and the Little Sister" or some such. Once again, no record of this book can be found. This is more like a curio, and it's not criminous, though several crimes occur. It's a collection of three short stories, "Sheila", "Gloria", and "Susie". The first one is about the erotic activities of a young girl, the second one is about Gloria Reasoner (sic!), the 30-year-old magazine editor and socialite who gets mixed up with a gang member who's also seen raping a gay man with his gang, and the third one is about a young girl who's gotten pregnant to a guy called Cutler Stark. Cutler is a bit hippieish and a drop-out, and Susie's mother doesn't approve of him. And of course he ends up banging the mother. After this Cutler has sex with Susie's little sister (of course he does, what did you expect?). Then Susie's conservative dad (who's also having an affair) comes home, and after he's found out what's happened he decides to evict Cutler. Instead Susie runs away, now also from Cutler. 

If anyone knows what these books are in English, and when they were originally published, or indeed if they have been published in English at all, please let me know in comments. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Another paperback sleaze problem: Jason Brown: Little Girl Gone

In my previous post, I was asking about two crime-cum-sex paperbacks that were published in Finland as by Ralph Hayes, but didn't actually seem to be Hayes's work. At least he himself denied that, and as I said in the post, I couldn't locate the possible original books via WorldCat, Abebooks or other sites. 

Now here's another one. It's also situated in the sub-genre of crime novels that have lots of explicit sex in them, and it's a pretty good one at that. I can't find anything about the book or the author, and it has come to me that maybe the Finnish publisher came up with non-existent titles so as not to have to pay the author or the original publisher for the work. 

The book in question is by one Jason Brown and the Finnish edition gives the original title as "Little Girl Gone" (the Finnish title Reittä pitkin kuolemaan is impossible to translate back to English). Now, that does sound like a legitimate sleazy crime novel, but I can't find anything to match the time frame (it was published in Finland in 1978) or the description. Jason Brown doesn't seem to have published anything in English language. 

The book takes place somewhere in the South, and in it one Berk Marshall, a young guy in his twenties or thirties, goes back home to find out his grandpa is dead, seemingly by accident, but Berk can't fathom how his grandpa could've shot himself, since he was always so careful with guns. Berk finds out someone's been selling grandpa's forest behind his back all the time. The sex scenes involve Berk's two teenage crushes Sammy and Mary Ellen, between whom he really can't choose. There is also a scene with the forest caretaker's wife that the caretaker ushers on to be able to snatch photos of his wife and Berk making it out together so he can file for divorce. In the end, Berk gathers all the suspects together to reveal the guilty one. 

So Little Girl Gone, whoever wrote it, is a legitimate crime novel, with some gun action, fist fights and car chases, with a healthy dose of X-rated sex thrown in. Who wrote it, who published it and when did this happen? Inquiring minds need to know!

Mind you, this is not the only crime novel I've found in the midst of the American sex paperbacks I've been going through lately. There's also Alexander Keith's The Love Gun (published possibly by Bee-Line Books in the early 1970's) that features a murder of a hunting party's member and even some police work. The book takes place in Canada, and Alexander Keith was the name of a famous Canadian politician and businessman, so I presume the writer is actually Canadian, hiding behind a pseudonym which means something only to other Canadians. The book's not bad, though reading these in a row makes it difficult to judge. (I couldn't find exact publishing date for this, but I was able to buy it on Kindle, and the AdultBookCovers site has two other smut titles by Alexander Keith, and they were published by Bee-Line Books, so I presume it's a real book!) 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Anyone recognize these two sleaze paperbacks by Ralph Hayes?

 As you probably remember, I'm doing a book American adult/sleaze/sex paperbacks that were published in Finnish in the 1960s and 1970s. There's quite a bit information on these books and their writers in the web nowadays, but there are still some books I can't find any info on. 

I'm willing to look elsewhere when the books are not interesting, but these two books as by Ralph Hayes are too good not to try find out who published them originally and when. 

Hayes is an interesting character in his own right, having published lots of genre fiction from the sixties onwards. He might still be alive, since Paperback Warrior interviewed him almost two years ago (read the interview here), and I've asked the gentlemen at Paperback Warrior to find out if that is indeed so and if Hayes himself can shed any light on this. 

So, anyone know anything about these two? The other one is called "Smiling Lips" or some such in Finnish, and it's about a young doctor in a hospital, and there's a farmers' demonstration (!) which ends up in violence and the hospital has take lots of wounded farmers in. There are lots of gay and lesbian sex scenes, and there's also lots of romance, so this is not just another jerk-off book. 

The other one is called "Unvirtuous Wife" in Finnish, and it's a very good book in its own genre: a mix of hardboiled thriller and porn book. It also boasts a contemporary Western feel, since it's located in Texas on a horse ranch, and the book's climax (sic!) is a big shoot-out at the ranch. The head character is a young and beautiful woman, who has to tend to the farm almost all by herself, since her husband is in Vietnam. The bank keeps asking about mortgages, and the woman has sex with the bank manager to fend him off. She also gets help from a mysterious stranger, who seduces her to give him blowjobs. Then the husband comes suddenly back from the war. The sex scenes are all motivated and move the plot forward, which is amazing, since in many of the sex paperbacks I've read they exist almost in a vacuum. 

Both books were published in Finnish as by Ralph Hayes (the name is in the title page, hence it doesn't show on the cover), but I can't locate their original American publisher, nor the publishing year. No original titles are given in the books, so I can't check with those either. They can of course be by any other writer, and Hayes's name is in them by mistake. The covers are not American.  

I'd appreciate any comments. 

EDIT: Ralph Hayes commented later saying these are not his books. So whose books are they?