Saturday, July 30, 2022

Review: Ex-Virgin

Ex-Virgin Ex-Virgin by Orrie Hitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the fifteen novels Orrie Hitt had published in 1959. (From the grave he says I see your nanowrimo and, I raise, all in!) This first edition is Beacon 267 with the painted cover art. The second and third Beacon/Softcover Library editions have lame photo-covers. I'm rating this a bit higher than it probably deserves because on a close reading I found enough "writing surprises" relative to some of Hitt's other books that made me think he wasn't just going through the motions. Sticks to his formula, for sure, and after 50 some books to his credit by this time he had the formula smooth as creamy peanut butter. The title suggests this is a good girl gone bad story. Kinda, sorta. Mary is the virgin who becomes the ex-virgin of the title. But not willingly and Hitt's rape scenes are some of his most explicit pre-1960 descriptions. Many ways to go with this review as Hitt recycles several plots and themes and character types from his earlier books and will do so even more in the 100 books that will follow this one. What struck me, though, was his character assassination of Ferry Street in this unnamed town which surely is a stand-in for Port Jervis, New York where Hitt lived for many years. "Ferry" is a stand-in street name. When I was growing up in Seattle we had "First Avenue" and "Pike Street." Dive bars, flop houses, hookers, pimps, and drug dealers. Hitt's world has Mary, Joe, Janice, Anne, and Sam. Five dollars gets a guy laid in this riverside slum. The sad tale here, however —and it's a noir tale—is that Sam has the world at his feet. He has Mary, the 41-26-36 figure girl that every other guy in town wants. The owner of the gas station where he works is ready to retire and willing to practically give the place to Sam. Yet . . . Head shake. Sam, Sam! Stay away from the bosses wife! You know he won't. And Hitt's morality play—teen sex, pregnancy, abortions—becomes noir as Sam slides down the slippery slope to oblivion. That's all top-notch, but unlike Whittington, Brewer, MacDonald, Hitt sticks to his grade school prose style, at which he was something of a genius, which is easy to miss until you've read enough of Hitt and a lot of the others. Not his best. Not is his worst. But I can steer you towards many better reads than this.

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