With Mark and Helena’s marriage on the ropes, Mrs. Lassiter plans the ultimate weekend to spice things up. To complicate matters, the guests include Mark’s new secretary/fling, Helena’s photographer “friend” Ken, Mark’s buddy Ben and his showgirl gal-pal Trixie, Helga the naive niece from Minnesota and Mae, the bitter drunk lesbian author. Sounds exciting, right? Well, unfortunately this is not a terribly interesting story. While it has its share of sleaze, the story lacks the pulp/crime intrigue that I usually enjoy in these books.
There is the typical share of character pairings and debauchery, but the only minor moment of tension comes during a brief barroom brawl when one of the girls get accosted by a couple of drunks. The only worthwhile moment for me was in the description of a “wash martini.” So, for this book’s excerpt I have included that page here:
His infectious grin calmed her. “All right, I suppose there’s some truth in what you say. So what do you want me to do, go downstairs and give a strip tease?”
His eyes swept her from head to toe. “Mightn’t be a bad idea, Mae. But no, nothing that radical’I just thought you might like to know that Mark is concocting Martinis. Wash Martinis, to be more specific.”
“Wash Martinis? What in blazes’?”
He nodded gravely. “Wash Martinis is what I said. A rather fiendish mixture brewed by our genial host. Fill the cocktail glass with dry Vermouth, pour it back into the bottle and re fill with good yellow gin. Add a twist of lemon peel’then duck before it hits you . . .”
She could not help smiling. “That I’ve got to see. Deal me in, will you?”
“Come on downstairs. The clans are gathered in the living room watching the performance.”
She hesitated. “Look, Benton. Be a good sport and bring one up to me. I don’t feel much like facing the rest of the crew. You know, nerves and all that sort of thing. I’ve been a little on edge for most of the day and if I went down I’d probably do or say the wrong thing. How about it?”
“Sure, Mae, I understand. Guess that’s what they call author’s license. Sorry you won’t come.”
“Thanks . . .”
“Tell you what, though. I’ll have a pitcher sent up, and then you can get stinking from drinking. Maybe. that’ll snap you out of it.”
Published in 1953, this book opens with this passage from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends.” Ah, leave it to the wit of ye ol’ timey bard to let you know you are in for a classy read!
Lovers and Madmen is the story of Ellen Travis—attending Cromwell College on a drum majorette scholarship, she was the most desirable coed on the campus. It is also the story of William Blake—professor of Philosophy was just his cover, his real mission was to uncover communist subversives on campus. When these two got together, the sparks flew as well as the bullets! Here’s how Devlin introduces us to Ellen:
She was uncommonly pretty—she knew that, and it was not out of conceit—just fact. With honey-blonde hair that framed her head like a halo, with tiny curls half-hiding her ears—on that basis alone she would be termed “cute.” But there was more. Her frank, open face with eyes that could be coy and inviting by turns and with a mouth that did not need lipstick to be kiss- able, had made more than one student pause and stare in slack-jawed admiration as she walked across the campus.
Her gray-green eyes left her face and traveled downward over her body. High-placed full bosom, softly rounded tummy, hips with breathtaking curves, long legs with a firmness that came with plenty of exercise. Her skin, she was pleased to note, still had the faintly bronzed tint she had acquired in the summer months as a bathing suit model in Bermuda.
Bermuda . . . the word aroused memories, the kind she would rather she forgot. But you couldn’t erase things just by wanting to. They were still there warmly . . . the languid, star-kissed nights on the beaches when they went spear-fishing by torchlight in the lagoons where the fish were trapped by the out-going tides. And afterwards, after the guides had gone, the swimming in the gentle, caressing surf that shone brightly of phosphorescence. And when they tired of swimming, they would lie in the shallow water, feeling the occasional waves reach up and cover them . . . even now she could remember the hard-muscled chest against hers nakedly, her breasts crushed between their bodies, as she looked up into the face that was contorted with the efforts of passion, while the water licked sensuously at them…
As the story progresses, the couple comes under attack. Blake is forced to hide out in the country when he meets an Amazonian farmer’s wife named Honey Brooks. Ellen teams up with her naive roommate Polly to track the dastardly lesbian commie, Miss Davis. Here Miss Davis tries to get answers from Ellen as she goes all Jack Bauer on Polly:
“So you won’t get down, eh?” Miss Bailey’s hand swung around in a short arc. The whip made a low whistle and wrapped itself around Polly’s knees. When it came away, part of the skirt came with it. With a cry of pain, Polly went down.
It was apparent that the younger girl was paralyzed not only out of fear of the whip, but also out of her long-time fear and awe of Miss Bailey. She knelt in an attitude of submission before the woman, oblivious of the fact that her skirt was shredded, revealing her sheer hose tops clinging to her full thighs. Where her knees bent, the flesh bulged outward into symmetrical curves. Stoically, she awaited Miss Bailey’s next move. It was not long in coming. Again the whip lashed out and again it took away part of Polly’s clothing. Yet it was done so expertly that no blood was drawn from her fair skin. At last, the girl was clad in only her flimsy pink bra that did more to accentuate rather than disguise her breasts, her pink silk panties, stockings, and high-heeled shoes.
Miss Bailey paused in her labors. “You see, Miss Travis, I know how to handle this weapon. You can also see that there is not much left to work on before I use Polly’s bare skin as a target. Are you ready to talk?”
Ellen’s confidence in her own fortitude was great, great enough to withstand anything anyone could inflict on her. But to have to watch her friend’s body lacerated into a bloody pulp was something else again. Torn between her desire to protect Bill Blake, and her regard for Polly Manders she could only shake her head in disbelief.
Without warning, the whip sang and cracked across Polly’s thighs. The rosy garters were severed and a red stripe appeared on the Hesh beneath them. Polly quivered. Released of their bonds the nylons loosened and crept down her legs. Once more the black thing moved, this time across the girl’s slender, graceful back. The bra straps parted and the garment fell to the floor. The young, ripe breasts were bared. As if by divination. Ellen knew they would be the next targets…
The thought of the matchless beauty of Polly’s bosom being scarred, perhaps for life, by the stroke of a whip, was unbearable to Ellen. It was then that she made up her mind to talk.
But before the words came out, John Davis spoke up. “Terry! Hold it! ” Releasing Ellen, he took quick steps over to Miss Bailey and wrenched the whip from the woman’s startled grasp.
“No more,” he snapped. “I’m not getting chicken, but there is nothing that calls for the torture of this kid. I’m not having any of it. Now lay off.”
Miss Bailey regarded him with cold eyes. “You know,” she breathed, “that I’ll report you.”
“I don’t give a damn what you do. I’ve got a good enough record so I won’t have to worry. But if you think I’ve sunk to the depths you have, then you’re crazy.”
At his last word the Bailey woman cried, “Don’t use that word to me! I’m not crazy!”
Davis smiled. “Of course not, Terry—I was only kidding.” But from the look in his eyes Ellen knew he was not kidding…
Miss Bailey calmed down. A crafty smile curved her lips. She knelt next to the speechless Polly and put her arms about her. “Forgive me, Poll,” she whispered, and commenced kissing the marks the whip had made. Her lips sought the red stripes on the girl’s body. They lingered endlessly on the flesh, moving slowly from one mark to the other. Once Ellen thought she could see the red tip of the woman’s tongue.
Next her mouth went to Polly’s back and the long lash scar there. “See,” she mumbled, “I don’t hate Polly. It’s the Travis girl that makes me do it . . . is this what you want, john? To have me prove I am not crazy? There, I’ll even kiss the places the whip didn’t touch . . . these places here . . .
Eventually our heroes are reunited and the action moves to tracking down the last baddie as he attempts to assassinate Ellen while she drum majorettes, or whatever it is the drum majorettes do, at the BIG game.
All-in-all Lovers and Madmen is a rather entertaining read with an unexpectedly harsh and abrupt ending that kinda made me appreciate it all the more.
When Allie King heard the heavy iron gates of the penitentiary clang shut behind him, he breathed deeply of the crisp, fresh air and made a vow that he would never be caught again. Somewhere along the line he had made a mistake and a prison term had been payment for that mistake; but it would never happen again.
Pulsebeat is the overwhelmingly hard, tough, and suspenseful story of Allie King’s career in crime from the time he regained his freedom from prison until the day he learned the bitter fact that freedom can be lost other ways than through prison.
Allie began his career in a small way, running with the tough guys who hung out in O’Malley’s poolroom, and picking up a small illegal dollar as best he could. He soon graduated to the lucrative stolen car racket and quickly began to by-pass the lieutenants of slick Louis Manetti in his rise to the top. Along the line Allie graduated, too, from the quickly purchased love of the joy girls to sleek, beautiful Judy Parker, whose charm came at a high price indeed. With piston-like speed Allie moved into the life of a top racketeer. He even felt he was immune from the law. What Allie hadn’t bargained for was his falling in love with Judy . . . because they discovered each other when it was too late to do either one of them much good.
Queens was a fat territory on the Organization’s records and Allie had his eye on the big estates and golf courses on both shores from Nassau to Montauk Point. After a while, his unit was making as much as three strikes a week, usually on Saturday and Sunday nights, when the marks were enjoying themselves in the theatres and restaurants, or getting slopped up in Long Island night spots. When it got too hot, like the time Monk got picked up for delaying a cop in a chase, they took time off. Monk played a good drunk, but his old record didn’t help, when it was checked. When they let him go, Louie Manetti decided that the team should go to Miami Beach until the heat cooled off.
Even with Louie paying the freight, Miami was expensive. Hialeah, good food, liquor, dames and tips, flattened the bankroll so badly that Allie had to wire Louie for dough half a dozen times. Too late, he recognized the old adage, that Louie had sucked them in letting them borrow until they got in so deep into the Organization for dough, they could never quit. The obligation would hold them in line, because underworld ethics never forgave a welcher, no matter what else, and the payoff could only be a ride. It was a gimmick Allie hadn’t figured on.
A month in Miami did the trick for Manetti. When Allie, Monk and Jo-Jo came back broke, they were happy to go to work to make new folding dough. Allie picked up his key at the Imperial Heights, called Louie for another advance to pay his bill, and found a note from Judy Parker that was over two weeks old.
“What a dumb jerk,” he told himself, angry at the way he had gotten sucked into a hole when a girl like Judy lived across the hall. A Brahms lullaby stole softly into the hall from suite 622. He listened to the music for a moment, went across the hall and pushed the buzzer. He had that same funny, dropped feeling he got the first time he met her.
Judy swung the door open. Allie stood there, grinning uncomfortably, his hands damp. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, hoping she would invite him in.
She was a vision in a light green dress and her blonde hair was combed down full, until it touched the top of her milky shoulders. The dress was designed with a sheer net at the throat, pocketing the full bosom and allowing the cleft at her breast to show tantalizingly. The dress matched Judy’s sea green eyes.
As his eyes raced over her body, Allie experienced the same exciting sensation he had when, as a kid, he sat in the top balcony of the Star Burlesque on Jay Street, and waited impatiently for the show to start. She set him off, firing his imagination and he mentally undressed the lovely figure. He could see her breasts, tipped with little rosebuds, pushing toward him, like little hungry mouths, the long swell of her stomach, the round hips, the hidden, secret center of her. . . .
He felt physically wrung out as he looked into her luminous eyes that were almost on a level with his because of the satin pumps with their tapering heels.
“Still playing records?” It was all he could manage.
“Well-how are you. . . .?” Her tone was indifferent. It disappointed him.
“I just got back from Miami and got your note. . .” He waited for her to ask him in, surreptitiously wiping the perspiration from his hands on his coat.
“I wouldn’t know, since I didn’t receive a card. . .” Her voice was still cool.
“I-I thought if you didn’t have a date, we might do something. . . .” he said hesitantly.
“I have, later, but we’ve got time for a drink. How was Miami?”
He was in the room now. He had a wild desire to touch her-caress the bare shoulders and white arms, but she was being very formal, treating him like the most casual of acquaintances.
“So, so. . . .” he mumbled.
Judy passed him to open the door of the midget refrigerator. She pulled out an aluminum tray of cubes. “Scotch, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” his tone was caustic. “How did you ever remember?”
“Oh, I’m long on memory. Especially on postcards… .” But she was warming up a little. She poured the liquor over the cubes, adding a small amount of soda. As she walked towards him, his imagination tricked him again, and he saw her naked. He grinned because she looked funny, holding the glasses of Scotch, in the nude.
“Well, are you with me?” Judy’s voice was sharp. She had an idea he was making fun of her. “Things couldn’t have been so bad in Miami, if it put you in such a fog.”
Allie flushed. “I wasn’t exactly thinking of Miami.” This time his grin was impish. “You should know what was thinking….”
“I can imagine-but I’m a big girl now and you can tell me. What were you thinking about?” She held out his drink.
“Sure you won’t get sore?” He took the drink, watching her closely. “It was nothing.”
She smiled. “It’s the first time anybody, especially a male, came to the apartment with nothing on his mind.”
“In that case, I can be a very accommodating guy.” He put the drink down on a table, grasped her bare arms with his hot palms and kissed her hard on the mouth.
“That’s acting true to form,” she said. “Now, what were you really thinking about?”
Allie felt wildly exhilarated. She had returned his kiss. “That dress. It’s a gorgeous bunch of fluff, including what’s in it.” He watched her over the rim of the glass. The flattering reply pleased her.
“I’m glad you like it. It’s one of my favorites.” She spun around quickly, tile bottom of the skirt flaring out, to give him a better view of her long, slender legs. “I think it’s cute.”
“The legs don’t hurt either. I told Monk and Jo-Jo you had better legs than Betty Grable.”
“Were you honestly thinking of me?” she smiled.
“Sure was, Baby-but maybe in a way you wouldn’t like. It was kinda intimate….” He choked on the swig of Scotch he took.
“I expect it was. But the mere fact that a man takes time off from thinking about himself, to give a few moments to a woman is complimentary,” she teased. “Even if the thought is all about sex.”
Allie gave a little ground. “Well, at first I was thinking about the dress. Now I’m not so sure.”
“What about the dress?” Her voice still teased.
“Okay, if you want it straight.” Allie took a deep breath and blurted out. “It’s the kind of dress that builds a fire inside a guy, until he feels he’s going to jump out of his skin. It’s a prop, that’s what that dress is. A prop for rape….”
This was a little more than Judy had expected, but she wasn’t too surprised. She liked Allie; suspected he was in the rackets, and it wasn’t too hard to figure it would not be long before he came to the point, if she gave him the slightest encouragement. She took his glass, refilled it and came back, standing very close to him. Her mouth was slightly open as if she invited him to kiss her again. He could see the tip of her tongue, narrow and red, between the rows of even white teeth.
Allie put down the glass she had given him, and when Judy still didn’t move, he took her into his arms, pressing her tightly into him. He circled her firm waist with his left arm and slowly covered her mouth with his, feeling the little red tongue brush his lips like quick soft wings, as she curved her body into his, running her fingers up and down his neck and into his hair. Suddenly, their bodies grew tense, and her whole body shook as she clung to him, her fingernails digging into his neck. Allie held her until she went limp in his arms.
He ran his right hand around the swell of her breasts, tearing some of the netting. She let him caress her, not having the strength nor the desire to pull away. He kissed her neck and lips passionately, until the phone broke up the sensuous hypnosis and she pulled away to answer it. Allie followed her to kiss her eyes and lips, making it difficult for her to talk.
“I’ll be right down, Jimmy,” she managed to mumble. She hung up.
“Goddamn!” Allie threw a pillow against the wall violently. He tried to grab her, but she made the bedroom and bolted the door. He grinned sheepishly and went out of the door, his feet dragging…
Vixen Press brings us this sordid tale of love, deception, murder, and golf. This book plays like a soap opera. Hugh Alton, the (literally) cocky golf enthusiast and Oakcrest Country Club’s most popular/powerful member, is found murdered. The list is suspects has Mike Barnett right at the top. Mike had embarrassed Hugh by besting him in a round on the links and by bedding Hugh’s lovely wife, Marge. The autopsy reveals Hugh was hit with a four-iron(!) and lo and behold Mike’s four is missing. Mike isn’t the only suspect though. The list also includes a young golf caddy and his girlfriend, the club slut-lesbos, and even the club board’s president. Sufice to say all the character become involved with one another and they all hate Hugh Alton.
When I started this novel I had hoped that there would be some juicy bits that use golf as a metaphor for sex but that was not the case. There were a couple of spicey, and/or disturbing lines and I have a few of them here.
Mike, nowhere near his form of the day before, relaxed and swung his clubs automatically, “playing by ear.” And yet he could not help wondering if his teammates had done some nocturnal swinging the night before.
The glow from the single light licked over her knit dress as she drew her legs up under her. The dress fitted so well that he could make out the ridges formed by the tops of her stockings and the garters that held them. Her fine breasts jutted nicely into the springy material. But her face told of the strain of the past twenty-four hours.
“All right, Johnny. I won’t argue semantics with you. You’re right. There’s no such thing as rape. But there is such a thing that a woman may not enjoy it — and when that is the case, it may as well be rape.”
His hand fell on her pale gold hair and ran down over it. “Would you believe me, if I told you I love you?”
It took no effort at all to conjure up that incredibly beautiful face, framed in the pale gold hair, with the haunting, hungry eyes and that warm-cool mouth that was equally delightful on his own lips or pressed against his ear…
Or those impossibly lovely legs. So tan and slender. And how they looked when her tapering fingers slowly, languorously separated the nylons from their garters, stretched them at the top and then peeled them down over the full, supple thighs. They made a wonderful kind of music — the wispy stockings against the tactile flesh of her legs. Like the soft whisper of violins in jasmine-scented air.
At last, without their coverings, the legs were things free and alive, invitingly alive. Such wonderful creations, as perfect as matched pearls … or would that better describe her breasts?
Yes. White from being sheilded from the sun, they were like two exquisite gems resting on brown velvet that quivered when he touched them — that seemed to have been created for his lips and eyes alone. They rose fresh and unafraid from the secret springs in her body to blooming, divided loveliness. Malleable, pliable, they were yet unchangable no matter what he did to them. Their sweet undercurves were as fingers bekoning him to come hither and pay homage.
Ah, sweet was the word for her entire being. Sweeter than all the perfumes of old Araby, more delicious than the rarest of wines of the most exalted kings, more mysterious than the teasing smile of the Mona Lisa, as wonderous as the Venus de Milo, as achingly bittersweet as a Puccini aria.