A while back, Michael Hemmingson discovered that “Fred Martin” is a previously unknown pseudonym for Orrie Hitt. HIRED LOVER is one of only two novels published under the Martin name, and after reading Michael’s review of it, I had to hunt up a copy and read it for myself. I’m glad I did.
This is one of Hitt’s James M. Cain-influenced novels, with the narrator, tough guy Mike Callahan, going to work as a driver for a rich old man who has a beautiful young wife. Well, you know what that leads to, or at least you should if you’ve read very many of these novels. Mike falls in love with his boss’s wife, and sure enough, the subject of murder comes up. Was there ever a better piece of cover copy for a noir novel than "She gave him her body -- and took his soul"? Of course, since this is an Orrie Hitt novel, there’s another woman vying for our hero’s affections, a good woman he’d be a lot better off with, if he wasn’t too dumb and horny to realize it. Hitt’s not content to have the plot unfold exactly in the way you’d expect, though. He throws in enough twists to keep the pages turning and at the same time does a masterful job of manipulating the reader’s emotions.
Hitt was really firing on all cylinders with this one. The prose is tough and spare, without the digressions and repetitions that he was sometimes prone to. HIRED LOVER is as potent a combination of crime noir and sleaze novel as I’ve run across in a long time. And while the endings in Hitt novels often come across as rather lame, not so here. The last few pages of this book really pack a punch.
This may well be the best Orrie Hitt novel I’ve read so far. If you ever run across a copy, I highly recommend that you grab it.
(One word of warning: if you read Michael’s review of the novel on his excellent Orrie Hitt website, be aware that it contains numerous spoilers.)