Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lust Shop - John Dexter

This post doesn’t include a cover scan because the copy I own happens to be coverless, and there doesn’t seem to be one anywhere on-line. But what about the book itself, you ask?

LUST SHOP is narrated by Pete Ritchie, who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles and owns a garage specializing in repairing foreign cars. Pete is a young, virile guy, of course, who enjoys romancing the rich, beautiful married women who bring in their foreign sports cars for him to work on, hence the title. To his surprise, Pete gets really hung up on one of his customers, a gorgeous blonde named Chris. She won’t have anything to do with him, though, until he agrees to handle a little problem for her. It seems that she’s being blackmailed . . .

Well, you know as well as I do that this is a set-up for a Gold Medal novel. However, since this isn’t a Gold Medal novel but rather an Evening Reader, Pete doesn’t jump right away at the chance to get involved in Chris’s troubles. Instead he tries to distract himself by bedding various other women in a series of scenes that seem like nothing more than padding at first. In a nice twist, though, later on they actually turn out to be connected to the main plot. When Pete finally does decide to try to get the blackmailer off of Chris’s back, you know things won’t turn out the way he wants them to. They’re just going to get worse. Again, this isn’t a Gold Medal, so even though you’d have to call it a hardboiled crime novel, the plot doesn’t play out exactly like you might expect if it was written by Charles Williams or Gil Brewer.

The thing about books published under the “John Dexter” house-name is that you never know what you’re going to get. I’m reasonably certain that this book isn’t by Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block, or Donald E. Westlake. All the Harry Whittington novels published under the John Dexter name have been identified, and anyway, LUST SHOP doesn’t read anything like Whittington’s work. The breezy, wise-cracking style reminds me a little of the Clyde Allison books by William Knoles, but this doesn’t seem like a Knoles plot to me. Which means the actual author is probably one of the half-dozen or so other writers who turned out books for William Hamling’s sleaze publishing empire. I have no real idea which one it might have been.

LUST SHOP certainly isn’t some sort of lost classic or even a top-tier sleaze novel, but it is a fast-paced, fairly entertaining yarn with a couple of decent plot twists and the occasional nice line. If you like this sort of book – and obviously I do – it’s worth reading if you come across a copy. I recently picked up a nice stack of coverless John Dexter books (including a couple of Whittingtons), so you can expect to be reading about more of them here on the blog.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Didn't anyone keep a list of the authors? In some secret drawer at least. It's just amazing to me that we have to guess at it. But maybe that makes it more fun?

beb said...

Would Earl Kemp remember? (He worked for Hamlin)

Richard Prosch said...

I really love quick reads like these. It seems like the anonymity of writers would have been higher in the sleaze titles, but since writing under house names (or, as in comics, no byline at all) was the order of the day, was it really?

James Reasoner said...


There was a lot of deliberate deception and chicanery among the sleaze publishers. I think it's a little surprising we know as much as we do about who wrote what. Trying to figure it out makes for a fun game, though.


I might email Earl and ask him. I don't recall when he went to work for Hamling. LUST SHOP is from '64.


"Quick read" sums up a lot of the appeal of these books. The writers really knew how to keep them moving along.

Rittster said...

Wow, I couldn't find out anything about this book on the internet. There is only one copy for sale at the moment. There is a different book with the same title, but it's under the name Curt Aldrich, and was published by
Corinth's "Leisure Book" line in 1967. Sounds like a rare find, James, even coverless.

Rittster said...

Also, I did find copies and cover photos for Lust Grave and Lust Linc, both published as Evening Readers and both written under the John Dexter name.