Friday, July 18, 2014

FFB: Lust Queen -- Don Elliott (Robert Silverberg)

Pause for a moment if you will and think about the careers of some of the people who were writing what's now politely called "midcentury erotica" under pen names for the sleaze publishers back in the '60s.  Lawrence Block. Donald E. Westlake.  Evan Hunter/Ed McBain.  John Jakes.  Harlan Ellison (only one book).  Harry Whittington.  Robert Silverberg.  Probably others who haven't yet come forward.  All of these had extraordinary careers under their own names, and some of them had fine careers before they started writing these books.  

Why did they write them?  Various reasons, I'm sure.  Those starting out had a way to learn their trade by writing and selling.  Another reason had to be the money, which was very good and which was paid promptly.  Robert Silverberg wrote two of them a month for years while also working on his own stories and books.  He made a ton of money, as he explains in his introduction to Lust Queen and Lust Victim, recently reprinted as a Stark House Double.

I can't resist a story about a writer, which is why I read Lust Queen recently.  The protagonist is Joe Baldwin, who's doing pretty well writing crime novels and science fiction.  As the book opens, he's working his latest crime novel, writing it on a manual typewriter.  There's some truly nostalgic stuff for us geezers here about carbon paper and such.  Anyone who's pounded out material on a manual will enjoy this part, and I expect many of you will find the scattered bits about Baldwin's writing process fascinating.  I know I did.  It was much more exciting than the sex scenes, of which there are many.

Baldwin is engaged to be married, but his agent has a gig for him in Hollywood, writing the autobiography (sic) of a Hollywood star named Mona Thorne.  The money is far beyond what Joe's making for his own books, and he can't resist.  He tells his fiancee farewell and flies to Tinseltown.  Mona's plan is for him to live in her house while she tells him her story and he writes the book.  Naturally she wants sex, too.  Lots of sex.  In between bouts of sex and working on the book, Baldwin gets to meet a few Hollywood types, and there's some mild Hollywood and poseur satire.  Example:  One "real" writer he meets at a party tells Baldwin that he's "lecturing on The Role of Verse Drama in the Modern Theater."  When Baldwin says that he writes detective stories, the man looks at Baldwin as if Baldwin "had just admitted seducing his pet dog."

At the same party, however, Baldwin does meet the only genuine person of his entire stay, and naturally they go outside and have sex.  

Things get complicated when Baldwin's fiancee shows up in Los Angeles.  Baldwin tells Mona he'll have to move out.  She doesn't take it well, and she plans her revenge.  Things don't work out well, but I won't say for whom.

I wondered about a couple of things in the Stark House edition.  The dates used in the story are several years after the publication of the book.  Was it supposed to be set in the future?  A few times the magic word that couldn't be uttered in these books is uttered.  Or maybe I was wrong and it could be uttered. 

Silverberg was already a thorough pro when he wrote Lust Queen.  The book moves right along, it has some humor, the material about writing is fun, and Silverberg's writing is polished.   Check it out.


Anonymous said...

OK, you sold me. I like Silverberg's introductions in general.


Unknown said...

This intro is more or less a reprint of a long article he did for Penthouse titled "My Life as a Pornographer."

George said...

I'm with Jeff on Silverberg's INTRODUCTIONS. They're always insightful and informative.

Deb said...

Sometimes Silverberg's introductions are even more entertaining than the book!

I've noticed some reissued books have updated references, especially when it comes to money, cars, and fashion. I hate it. Please leave the book as it was written; we all know what a Packard is even if no one drives them today and we also know neither a nickel nor a dime will get you a cup of coffee now. It's almost as irritating as the American editions of English books that try to scrub every trace of English reference and idiom. Stop already!

Unknown said...

I agree about updating, but this one isn't really updated. The manual typewriter is the key to that. Maybe it's just as it was originally written.

Anonymous said...

Bill still drives a Packard, Deb.

Or maybe not.



Unknown said...

I wish I had one, though.