Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: THE SUCKER by Orrie Hitt

Orrie Hitt reportedly wrote over 150 books in his time, pounding them out on a manual typewriter at his kitchen table while drinking coffee and chain-smoking cigarettes.
Since I've only read about forty of his titles, I guess I can't say with absolutely certainty that THE SUCKER is his best one … but it sure is the best I've encountered so far.
Good enough, at least, so that parts of it stuck vividly in my mind thirty or so years after first reading it. And when I went back and read the Prologue Books eBook re-issue just a couple of days ago, it held up beautifully, every bit as good as I remembered.

THE SUCKER tells the tale of one Slade Harper, a tough, embittered, knockaround engineer who's seen and done it all in many far-flung parts of the world. Jilted years earlier by his first wife, he trusts no one—especially women—and makes it a point to leave no lasting friendships behind whenever he decides to pull up stakes and moves on. Naturally, this kind of attitude makes Slade irresistible to women and causes other guys to walk careful around him.
This book opens only a few weeks after Slade has arrived in the small east coast town of Litchfield to claim the filling station/garage he won in a poker game in Iceland. The garage is a dump and what the guy he won it from didn't mention was that he had a sister who was living there and running the place. The sister, of course, is a lovely, wide-eyed blonde who accepts Slade's bona fides without much question and allows him to move in, sleeping on a cot next to the grease rack.
A passage early on establishes their relationship and sets the tone for Slade's outlook on things, as well as being a fine example of Hitt's writing style: " …In a few minutes she would be up, wandering around in that red robe which kept falling open all the time. Some day, I figured, she was going to lose that robe. I didn't know what I'd do if she did. I grinned … Like hell I didn't know."
But cute little Cleo is too nice a girl to sustain Slade's interests for very long. Slinky, sultry Rita enters the picture and, along with her, a scheme for Slade to put his engineering skills to work as part of bilking Rita's partner out of a lucrative auto parts business. Lots of lust and love-making ensues—spiced by double-dealing, money manipulation, a murder, a suicide, abortion, and a last minute switcheroo (as telegraphed by the title). In addition to Cleo and Rita, a handful of other women—Doris, Beth, and Marie—throw themselves willingly in Slade's path. Not all of them make it out unscathed … And neither does Slade.

This is "the shabby Shakespeare of Vintage Sleazecore" at his very best.
This is what made Orrie Hitt the most popular byline in the genre at a time when most others were "house names" covering a handful of contributors.
The sex scenes are incredibly tame by today's standards, but Hitt could always be counted on to describe a woman—especially the bad girls—in ways that made the pages smolder.

Prologue Books has several of the Hitt titles available at very reasonable prices. Don't think you'd be disappointed if you gave some of them a try.

Persevere — WD


Peter Brandvold said...

Wayne, I didn't know you were a fellow Hitt fan. And from way back, too! I guess everyone who follows James's blog has read him. I've read my entire stash--about sixteen or so books, and this, too, is right up there very high. Maybe my favorite but very close to I'LL CALL EVERY MONDAY and DIRT FARM. But I really haven't read a clunker yet. Terrific writer, and I feel very grateful to James Reasoner for bringing him to my/our attention. James has enriched my reading world incredibly over the past ten or so year. I have a feeling Charles Boechner is going to be right up there with Hitt, as I just finished HONKY-TONK GIRL. Incredible!

Heath Lowrance said...

Great review. Hitt is a name I've heard for a long time now, so I'm glad Prologue is putting his stuff out so I can finally read it.

Thomas Pluck said...

Another writer to check out... life's too short, I tell ya. Sounds like a good read.