Friday, February 28, 2014

Forgotten Books: Escape to Sindom - Don Elliott (Robert Silverberg)

Like many of the novels in the various imprints published by William Hamling's black box empire, ESCAPE TO SINDOM is essentially a crime story. Val Sparkman is a professional criminal—a con man, a forger, a thief, a killer when he has to be. A bit of bad luck lands him in a small-town jail in Iowa. The local lawmen don't really have a clue who they've locked up, and Sparkman knows he has to escape before they find out. He manages to do so, but now he's on the run with no money and no gun. He hitches a ride and knocks out the traveling salesman who picks him up, stealing the man's car and heading for Mexico, but his odds of getting there are slim.

Meanwhile, a few towns away, beautiful but bored young waitress (and town tramp) Janey Haskell is tired of her life and wants to do something big and exciting. It's pretty much inevitable that when a handsome stranger comes along, Janey will latch on to him and run away with him, even though he may be dangerous...

Anybody who's read very many noir novels, or very many of these soft-core novels, or both (that would be me and no doubt some of you), will know pretty much everything that's going to happen in ESCAPE TO SINDOM. That said, a skillful author can elevate a book above its formula with good writing, and not surprisingly that's what we have in this one since it was written by Robert Silverberg under his Don Elliott pseudonym. Silverberg keeps things racing along at an entertaining pace, throwing in a few flashbacks to earlier sexual adventures of Sparkman and Janey. There's an occasional touch of humor to break up the overall sense of impending doom, and the final twist is a pretty good one.

By the time ESCAPE TO SINDOM was published, the sex scenes in these books were more frequent and more graphic and the rest of the plot isn't quite as important as it was in the books published just a few years earlier. That keeps it from being in the top rank of Silverberg's Don Elliott novels, but it's still pretty darned entertaining. I'll read any of them I come across, and I haven't been disappointed yet.

9 comments:

Rick said...

I read PARTY GIRL by Don Elliott back in the fifties. It was my first soft porn read. I was a preteen and very excited by that book. Have often looked for it to see what excited such a young chap but have never found it. The cover is seen on Amazon used for what is called a lost manuscript never published. I wonder how they can use the cover of a long ago printed book for this new offering. Maybe I shouldn't have written this. That would be true only if I were still that preteen.
Thanks for this entry. It brought back memories.

George said...

You're right about a talented writer being able to elevate a genre. I've been impressed by all of Silverberg's "Don Elliot" books

James Reasoner said...

Rick,
They're pricey (close to 30 bucks including shipping) but there are a couple of copies of the original 1960 Nightstand Books edition of PARTY GIRL listed on ABE right now. For $11 you can get a copy of the 1973 Reed Nightstand reprint. The Reed Nightstand editions were rewritten slightly (by an in-house editor) to make the sex scenes more graphic, and there may be some other minor updating. Other than that they're pretty close to the originals.

Kurt Reichenbaugh said...

I'm currently reading All on Sunday by "Don Elliott. I found my copy in a used store for $9, which seemed reasonable. Funny how this post appears at the same time.

Rick said...

Thanks James. I will check on that.

Lawrence Person said...

Honestly, I can't even keep up with Silverberg's science fiction output, so even making a dent in the 144 porn novels he reportedly wrote is quite beyond me.

I do have Joe R. Lansdale's Molly's Sexual Follies (a very hard book to find) and John Brunner's The Incestuous Lovers, which he did as Henry Crosstrees.

James Reasoner said...

I think I saw a copy of the Lansdale book once. Didn't know about the Brunner book.

Kelly Robinson said...

I didn't know Silverberg wrote crime stuff. Neat review.

James Reasoner said...

Kelly,
Check out his novel BLOOD ON THE MINK, reprinted a few years ago by Hard Case Crime. That edition also includes a couple of Silverberg's stories from the crime digests, which is where the novel originally appeared. Wonderful stuff. There isn't much Silverberg hasn't written.