Saturday, January 8, 2022

A 'Hitt' but not a 'hit' but worth the effort

 In case you hadn't figured it out by now, I have a thing for mid to late 20th century crime noir. That started with Donald Westlake and continued through Lawrence Block and others.

Those "others" are often referenced in those books, so I check them out. Also, Amazon has that thing where "If you like X, then you might like Y." That's how I stumbled across Orrie Hitt.

According to Wiki:

Orrie Hitt (October 27, 1916–December 8, 1975) was a prolific American author of over 150 books, mostly mid-century erotica, but including some crime novels early in his career. It's been said he wrote a book every two weeks at the prime of his career, sitting at his dining room table, fueled by large glasses of iced coffee and cigarettes. His first two books, I'll Call Every Monday and Love in the Arctic were hardcover books published by Red Lantern, but his career would ultimately be made writing paperback originals.

As a paperback writer, many of his books were written as "work for hire" and the copyright held by the publishing company who, anticipating a very short shelf life, never bothered to renew the copyright or return the rights to the author. The fact that all of his books, prior to 1964, are in the public domain has been beneficial to the legacy of Orrie Hitt, in that it has made them more readily available to contemporary readers.

Original Orrie Hitt paperbacks are collectible not only among aficionados of 1950s and 1960s cover art, but also among readers of mid-century erotica and crime novels, who find them superior to those of other "hack" writers of the time.

The one I just read was titled: "She Got What She Wanted." It wasn't good. With a 4 out of 10 on the Haugenometer it's one of the lowest ratings I've ever given a book besides a "DNF." But, Wiki says he's good so I might try one more.

What amazes about these guys is how prolific they were. As mentioned above, Hitt wrote over 150 books, at one time churning out a book every two weeks. It only figures there'd be some clunkers there.

Other authors of that era/genre I like include: Ed McBain/Evan Hunter, Gunard Hjertstedt/Day Keene, Gil Brewer and more contemporary Walter Mosley.

Guys like that often had pseudonyms, sometimes several, as they would have a different name for the different genres they dabbled in: crime, soft porn, sci-fi, etc. They were talented writers who are now largely forgotten but are starting to see a resurgence thanks to publishers like Hard Case Crime. 

Sure, Patterson, Child, Koontz, Sandford dominate the mystery/crime bookshelves now, but it's fun to read these guys who set the stage for them. I suspect the old-timers had more interesting lives too.

Here is the Goodreads synopsis of "She Got What She Wanted.

Della Banners was born into poverty. It had been a hard life up in the hills. But she discovered early that a girl with her figure could get things from men. So when she ran away to the city, she was ready to try anything. That's when she met Jack. Jack immediately sized up her assets and suggested that she belonged in sales. His line of business is selling roofs and siding, but to do it right, he needs someone to find the prospects. That's where Della comes in.

Pretty soon she finds she has a knack for finding new customers, and a better knack for conning them into buying jobs they don't really need. Della and Jack are on their way to success. The only trouble is, Jack is married, and his wife is less than understanding. Because Della wants it all--the money, the new car, the nice clothes--and Jack. And heaven help anyone who gets in her way.

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