PUSHOVER is one of the Harry Whittington novels that was unknown for many years. Fans of Whittington’s work knew that he had written more than three dozen unidentified novels during the early to mid-Sixties for an unspecified publisher, and although suspicion grew that these were written for William Hamling’s various soft-core sleaze imprints and sold through the Scott Meredith Agency, it took some impressive detective work by David L. Wilson, Lynn Munroe, and Whittington’s son Howard to pin down most of the titles. (You can read all about this in Wilson’s introduction to the Stark House collection, TO FIND CORA/LIKE MINK LIKE MURDER/BODY AND PASSION . . . and if you don’t have that book already, you should pick up a copy as soon as possible. There's also a lot of information about these nearly lost books here.)
This is the first of those “unknown” Whittingtons I’ve read. I have another one on hand, BAPTISM OF SHAME, and will get around to it eventually. PUSHOVER is the story of Jeanne Stuart, a beautiful 22-year-old blonde and former airline stewardess, who is married to the much older Hal Stuart, the hard-driving owner of an air freight service. (Hal’s ancient! He’s . . . 43!) When Hal has a heart attack and winds up in the hospital, that’s the signal for Jeanne to think about her life and for Whittington to launch into a flashback that takes up the first half of the book and details how Jeanne lost her virginity, had an affair with dashing pilot Don Hansen, and finally met and married Hal.
Hal recovers from his coronary, but the doctor warns Jeanne that his heart is too weak for him to have sex anymore. This causes all sorts of problems, of course, which are complicated when Don, who’s a real jerk, shows up again.
Unlike some of Whittington’s sleaze novels which are really crime and suspense yarns, PUSHOVER is all medical drama and soap opera. What it has going for it is the sheer narrative power of Whittington’s prose and his talent for putting his characters through all sorts of emotional torment. Even when there’s not much plot, he knew how to keep the readers turning the pages, and I found the ending not only slightly surprising but also very satisfying. This isn’t top-notch Whittington by any means, and there are probably better candidates for reprinting among the other, formerly unknown books (hint, hint), but it’s a very readable, entertaining novel. Recommended, if you can find a reasonably priced copy.
AFI Awards 2016
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