Friday, May 05, 2017

FFB: Passion Cache -- J. X. Williams (Harry Whittington)

This is another example of Harry Whittington's "mid-century erotica" from the time when he was churning out work for hire.  The setup made me hopeful that it would be a pretty good crime novel, with sex.  It wasn't as good as I'd hoped, however.

The setup, depicted on the cover, has a sleep-deprived Nick Phillips driving a seemingly deserted road because he was looking for a shortcut.  He spots a scantily dressed woman wandering along and stops to see if he can be of help.  She's battered and bruised and pretty much out of it.  He does manage to get her to her house, which looks as if a fight has taken place.  Sex ensues.  The best sex ever, for either of them.  She's married, of course, and her husband has disappeared.  There's $250,000 that he's stolen and that can maybe be recovered.  The woman is clearly not being truthful about what's been going on.

Not a bad setup, but the novel bogs down in endless talking.  It was clearly written by Harry Whittington, but it lacks his usual narrative drive.  There's lots of that good old sex philosophy:  "A woman has to truly belong.  She's got to be a slave to a man when they're together like that.  She's got to be his slave.  He's got to make her want to be his slave."  To which the reply is, "I'll buy that."

If Whittington had eliminated all the sex and stuck with a straightforward crime novel, we'd have had a better book.  Not that this one's terrible, but it's not up to Whittington's usual standards.

15 comments:

August West said...

She looks like a blow-up doll on the cover. Not that I would know what a blow-up doll looks like.

George said...

Harry Whittington novels work best when there's a lot of action and not so much dialogue.

Bill Crider said...

I agree, George. This one seems padded.

Rick Ollerman said...

When Whittington was writing essentially a book a month to payback his creditors for his failed movie (I don't know if this is one of them), he had a deal with the bank. They kept him afloat financially but the banker himself wanted to be an author. Harry would give him the book and walk away from it and the banker would add his own touches to the manuscript. At the end of 33 months and 33 books, Harry had to walk away, burnt out, and take a regular job for a while. This is probably one of those books.

Mathew Paust said...

Maybe some feminists beat him up and took his muse away.

Roy Epstein said...

I'll stick with his mysteries & westerns. I just checked out his westerns I still have....Drygulch town & another one called Hangrope Town. I read one of these six or seven years ago ( the last Whittington I've read) but for the life of me I can't remember which one!.....Also have two others I haven't read...Charro & desert stake-out...I'm overdue to read one of these soon.

Bill Crider said...

Rick, this is one of those books, one of the "lost 38" or so. I didn't know about the banker. That's very interesting and explains a lot.

Roy, those are all good westerns. All the real Whittington.

Rick Ollerman said...

Bill, I was asked to write an essay for a film director's website due Real Soon Now and I went down to Florida and that came out while talking to his son. Interesting stuff, isn't it? That's why those books were "lost" by Harry--with the banker doing his thing, Harry didn't care to claim them as his own. His point of pride was in paying off his debts as well as being able to turn out books as rapidly and regularly as he did.

Bill Crider said...

I'm really looking forward to that essay. Harry was a great guy all the way around. I have a few letters from him and feel lucky to have them.

Rick Ollerman said...

I think you're lucky to have them, too. I wish I'd have gotten the opportunity to meet him in person. I really enjoyed meeting his kids, which seems funny because they're both quite a bit older than me. I'll let you know about the essay--it's due the 15th. They wanted it to be about Florida crime fiction in the PBO era with something of a focus on Gil Brewer but they agreed to let me work in all of the "St. Pete Boys." I'm hoping Harrient Whittington Beebe can find a photo of Harry, Brewer, Day Keene, and maybe Talmage Powell in time. That would be a perfect touch. It's around there somewhere....

Anonymous said...

Bill and Rick:

Rick! I don't want to contradict Howard but that story about the banker is rather iffy. For one thing, many of those previously unknown books were previously existing novels that were modified and submitted to Cornith. Earl Kemp told me that he didn't do rewrites on the novels, that if they didn't fit his requirements they would not have been published. I've been able to --I think--determine where the revisions were made--but they were done skillfully enough that I think it was done by Harry himself. I don't see that an amateur, would-be writer would have had these skills. I'm glad you were able to see Howard, Harriet and maybe my sweetheart Peggy Sue. Bill --this is one of the ones I liked. I thought it had some great stuff, and as you noted, in retrospect, it is clearly Harry. It is one piece of work that I've been tempted to tinker with, if the opportunity again comes around. There's a couple, idiosyncratic things that I really love in this novel.

David Laurence Wilson

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for adding to the discussion. I like some things, too, but I thought it was talkier than usual. Maybe I was in a bad mood.

Rick Ollerman said...

David! How dare you disagree with me in public! Actually, no worries. You know how much I envy your personal experience with a lot of the PBO writers before they passed away and that will always give you a perspective I can never have.

For me, though, Howard's story of the wannabe banker fills in more blanks than it raises questions. Howard may have been closer than you think, at least according to the photographs and the writing on the backs that I saw.

This is probably one of those things that unless we could find that banker--and I imagine he's passed on himself--we could not answer definitively. To me the evidence leads me to believe Howard's story, to you it may not. We could arm wrestle for it.

How's the stunt man book coming?

Bill Crider said...

Wasn't there a Stallone movie about arm wrestling? This contest would be even better.

Rick Ollerman said...

Bet on the compound fracture in five.