Affairs of a Beauty Queen by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hitt's books from the late 1950s and early 1960s are interesting because, using the term somewhat loosely now, they are a kind of cultural anthropology. He frequently picked a business or some cultural practice and then showed its sleazy underbelly. Here we have beauty contests sponsored by newspapers. Not exactly a scam, but clearly a shady business practice. As Hitt describes it we have small town newspapers running beauty contests where local businesses sponsor a contestant and the newspapers feature pictures of the contestants along with ads for the businesses. The only way to vote is to go to the store in person to cast your ballot. The newspapers sell lots of ads and the stores report that business is booming. The winning contestant gets $500 and the Miss whatever city title and a chance to go on to the county contest and maybe the state and the national contest. In this book we have two city contests and two contestants and two sets of sleazy participants. The contestants are Lili and Cherry and most of the book is narrated in alternating sections from their POVs. What will they go through to win? Who will they bed? Who will take advantage of them? Will they win? Those are the plot elements. Throw in blackmail and attempted rape and there is just enough crime elements to create some edge. Decent writing, decent plot, some good cultural anthropology, but could have used more edginess.
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