First off, this is an interesting 1960 period piece that describes a carnival sideshow. Strong writing at the scene and set-piece chapter level, but tFirst off, this is an interesting 1960 period piece that describes a carnival sideshow. Strong writing at the scene and set-piece chapter level, but the overall structure is a real mess. A lot of skipping around and after the fact explaining that detracts from the narrative's through-line.
The bigger problem comes at the beginning: Why does Katie go out for a beer with the carni Ernie? And then after he rapes her she tells him to marry her and take her on the road with him? That made no sense and nothing in the text really supported her actions. So it's just a plot point to be quickly dispensed with because the story is Katie on the road with Ernie as he runs his scammy sideshow.
Stuck with this one because the writing was good and it was a carnival novel I had been curious about, but the structure and the unbelievable-ness of the Katie's motivations probably would have had me leaving this one unfinished otherwise....more
Slam-dunk, top-tier, classic that needs to be on your crime-noir reading list. Whittington's prose style is literary in the best sense: character-drivSlam-dunk, top-tier, classic that needs to be on your crime-noir reading list. Whittington's prose style is literary in the best sense: character-driven, nuanced, with lush concrete descriptions and absent cliche's and short-cuts. And yet he gives up none of the genre's plotting and pacing. The narrator is conflicted and driven. The villain is sublime. The femme-fatale, despite the title, is no tramp. So many of the scenes are riveting page-turners, especially the scenes with the three of them together. Was this never made into a movie? How is that possible? Loved everything about this one....more
I really enjoyed this one as long as I could keep myself from reading it as a writer/editor (so many annoying little things that I wanted rewrite forI really enjoyed this one as long as I could keep myself from reading it as a writer/editor (so many annoying little things that I wanted rewrite for him!) because it has a great basic storyline that gets a bit munged with sloppy writing. This is one of Hitt's first books and it shows.
That said, we have here a cool dust-up at a summer resort in rural New York. Danny, our focal character and first-rate heel, manages to get drunk and rolled while on vacation. But he takes a job at the resort as a means to get back on the cash. He's quickly chasing after the owner's wife - the femme fatale character - in between chasing after the hostess and his late arriving former girlfriend. There are several other shady characters and everybody seems to have an angle to rip somebody else off. Danny is slow on the uptake, thinks he's in the driver seat, planning his own scam, but as they say about poker games, if you don't know who the mark is . . .
All good fun if you put on the editorial blinders. Hitt's book Summer Hotel picks up many of these same themes a few years later and is more smoothly written....more
I’ve read this one three times now and I still can’t get into it. I can study it, but can’t enjoy it as a reader. I admire the way Ford manages to proI’ve read this one three times now and I still can’t get into it. I can study it, but can’t enjoy it as a reader. I admire the way Ford manages to provide a 360 degree view of his first person narrator, and I think he has managed to bring Frank Bascombe the character to full life via both actions and introspection. The introspective passages, the asides amidst the action, make this a narrative that is fully the province of the novel. This could never be a film. Even if you filmed all of the scenes, you could never capture on film the feel of the novel. Lots of interesting writerly techniques, but I still don’t like the novel. I wonder if I would have liked it better if it were a hundred pages shorter, if some of the tedious scenes had been left to my imagination once Frank’s character had been established? I say that because boredom was a big factor in my dislike. I didn’t need to keep seeing the same behavior over and over again to figure out he was stuck and why. Perhaps that’s the risk with this kind of novel. If the time period is short, the introspective mood, as well as the character development, is necessarily narrow. Hmmm, perhaps that is why manic-depressive or other unstable characters make such good subjects for introspective novels; you have built in variety. Frank’s a pretty stable guy on a downer, so you can’t do a lot with that, except what Ford does: have him think about women, writing, sports, and his life. Even when dramatic events happen, Frank does nothing dramatic, because he’s trapped in his numbness. I think that makes for a numb novel. This reminds me of the point someone made to me once on crazy characters: you can’t start with them already crazy, you have to show the process, show the struggle to not go crazy first. In this novel Frank is already numb, “dreamy,” and despite the backtracking we don’t really get a sense of how he got that way or any sense of struggle to not be that way. I’d say that is where the novel falls apart....more
Virtually the same in style and content as several of the stories in Rock Springs, the only difference is that Ford stretched out here and made a noveVirtually the same in style and content as several of the stories in Rock Springs, the only difference is that Ford stretched out here and made a novel out of the events instead of a story. In fact, I seem to remember reading an interview he gave where he said he hadn’t intended for it to be a novel but it just turned out that way. Although I enjoyed reading it very much, found myself seduced by the prose and the voice—and in wanting to know what happened—I don’t think much more was offered than in the stories. Deeper introspections perhaps, more of a sustained philosophy certainly, but beyond that this could just as easily have been a short story. I don’t think he achieved any stronger sense of place than he does in the stories, which is really a tribute to his craft in the shorter form. There are more scenes, but also much more filler. And despite the additional introspection, I don’t feel I know more about what happened than I did in the stories. It might have been more tension packed if it were a story, but I suppose he’d already written several of those and wanted to see what he could do with more room....more
I'd read this before but didn't remember it being this boring. The characters seem to always be going to sleep or just waking up. Ok, slight exaggeratI'd read this before but didn't remember it being this boring. The characters seem to always be going to sleep or just waking up. Ok, slight exaggeration, but seriously, that is a problem. Does he get a pass because it's something of an 80s period piece? Boring is boring. Yet, Barthelme is ever the stylist, so there's that. I'm guessing Moon Deluxe: Stories hold up better, but think I need to reread that one now....more
A good example of "don't judge a book by its cover" as the cover art and blurb have nothing to do with the story. This is a straight-ahead western. BeA good example of "don't judge a book by its cover" as the cover art and blurb have nothing to do with the story. This is a straight-ahead western. Ben Dawson is the marshall of Piney Flats and inserts himself in the middle of a feud between two neighboring ranches, one of which borders his own spread. When Dawson's ranch is raided - cattle stolen, buildings burned, ranch hands killed, and his daughter kidnapped - Dawson goes all out to find the killers and his daughter.
Some of the transitions are abrupt and there are quite a few cliches and some hokey western dialogue, but this book is non-stop action with almost continuous shoot-outs and hardly any filler in between. A fast, fun, and frenetic read for sure.
Does a have a couple of explicit sex scenes, which is rare for 1960s era westerns, and that makes it a nice vintage sleaze collectible, particularly with the cover art....more
This is the companion to Playpet in the nifty two-book set with the novels being the size of a deck of cards. The focal character in Carnival Sin is BThis is the companion to Playpet in the nifty two-book set with the novels being the size of a deck of cards. The focal character in Carnival Sin is Bubbles. She's 22, blonde, buxom, and the headliner of a burlesque show in a lower-tier traveling carnival. Hitt does a great job of centering the narration from within Bubbles point-of-view. She's smart, tough-talking and tough-thinking, and just plain tough. When her boss hits her she punches him in the face and delivers a well-placed knee. Hitt gives her some great lines of dialogue, which she delivers as well as her punches, and at times that dialogue really carries the novel.
Despite the carnival setting and the burlesque foreground, this is really a story about Bubbles trying to find love. When the novel begins she and her boss are hunkered down in their trailer during a torrential rain storm. Traveling with him for the whole season she had yet to sleep with him, didn't intend to, and yet during this storm she finally does. They are in lust for a while. Then he hits her and that is that. She's done with him, even though they continue to live together in the trailer.
Her back story is that she caught her first love bedding her sister. She fled home. Hooked up with the carnival, where they put her best assets to work. She's in her fourth year as a carny.
The old boyfriend never gave up, however, and eventually tracks her down at the carnival where he signs on as a wrestling act. He makes his play but she shoots him down. She's after bigger fish - the owner of the carnival.
As the novel plays out Bubbles is juggling her interactions with all three of these guys: her burlesque boss, the owner of the carnival, and the ex-boyfriend, now fellow carny. Will she find love? Will she find life outside the carnival? Those are the questions driving the plot.
Good carny story and enjoyable because Bubbles is a strong character and fun to tag along with. ...more
Exceedingly chaste even by 1962 standards. The adults all sound like children. But a nicely plotted quick read with a hurricane bringing all the plotExceedingly chaste even by 1962 standards. The adults all sound like children. But a nicely plotted quick read with a hurricane bringing all the plot points to a conclusion....more
Reads like an episode of Mad Men. Mavis Gunther is our focal character and she’s like the later Peggy, but one who is hyper-aggressive and rotten to tReads like an episode of Mad Men. Mavis Gunther is our focal character and she’s like the later Peggy, but one who is hyper-aggressive and rotten to the core. The plot here is that the two partners of an ad agency are in the midst of a vicious breakup and Mavis, an account manager, has to choose sides and then chase accounts threatening to leave. She’s smart and ruthless, knows her way around the business, but uses her looks and sex to land new accounts and keep others from leaving. Mavis is a great character creation and Hitt narrates using her strong and unapologetic voice and we get all her strengths and weaknesses and that keeps her from simply being a stereotypical femme fatale.
A note on this book’s format. It’s the size of a pack of cards and is read on the horizontal. Originally part of a two-book set (along with Carnival Sin) and the books came inside a hard sleeve the size of regular paperback....more
Minnesota farm girl goes to Chicago to pursue a photographer and a modeling career. Good structure weaving present action and back story and Harvey deMinnesota farm girl goes to Chicago to pursue a photographer and a modeling career. Good structure weaving present action and back story and Harvey deftly created an unexpected twist in the plot with a well-timed shift in point-of-view. Most of the book is narrated in close-third from Lisa’s point of view as she pursues a modeling career at Gotham Models. Interestingly, as the book begins, she is already realizing that Gotham is a bit of a sham agency and that gives some power to her narration because she’s not a dupe. Later, though, when the narration shifts briefly to Curt’s POV we find out that he is an ex-carney grifter and the agency was designed from the bottom up as a fraud and that the fraud is on a level that goes well beyond what Lisa assumed. And that’s the point where the novel really takes off. Will Lisa find out? What will she do when she does? What happens when she runs into the photographer who ditched her at the beginning?
The dialog is noticeably weak, but the rest is well-written and well-plotted, with a good story arc and a surprising twist at the end....more
The characters are all stock and by the time they are all introduced in the first few chapters you will already know what is going to happen. I read oThe characters are all stock and by the time they are all introduced in the first few chapters you will already know what is going to happen. I read on in the hope of being surprised in the way that so many of these Gold Medal books do with plot twists and off-the-rails character behavior. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this one. Everything I thought would happen did, including the big reveal that was guessed at back on about page 10. In the meantime I had to endure long stretches of expository dialog. The characters are well-drawn and the plot nicely ordered, but this is all so familiar and predictable. First published in 1956, so maybe it gets a pass because reading it now, after several generations of TV and movies have followed this formula, I should't be surprised that it seems familiar. However, this one is completely formulaic in a way that is unlike most of Whittington's other novels....more
One of the things I like best about Orrie Hitt's books is that his characters have jobs and he usually digs in and shows you what those jobs are likeOne of the things I like best about Orrie Hitt's books is that his characters have jobs and he usually digs in and shows you what those jobs are like from the inside. The books were written in the late 1950s and early 1960s so his books are fascinating cultural anthropology. The job explored in this book is selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door. Yes, it was as scammy an operation as you'd imagine.
The first-person narration is by Les Drake, who manages one of the selling crews working small cities (less than 100,000 population) in New York state. He aspires to be state manager. One of his salesmen wants his job. And as the book begins Les is sleeping with Ellen one of his salesgirls. Before too much longer she will be telling him that she's pregnant and has been lying about her age. So that's one set of plot drivers.
The main storyline of the book, however, is that the owner of the company sends his daughter June to work with Les to get some field experience prior to taking over running the company. Les is not above telling lies to make sales, but otherwise he runs a clean operation compared to some of the competitors. June has other ideas. Sex sells. She recruits some girls willing to put out to get the magazine subscription. Complications evolve from there.
Enjoyed this one a lot. Cool look inside the magazine subscription racket. Strong storyline with engaging first person narrator who has an edge to him. Plenty of biting back and forth dialog when the characters are in conflict. Loses a bit because of what is left out because of censorship-era editing. There's crime because of the prostitution angle and the scam selling techniques, but definitely not noir because of the ending....more