Friday, July 15, 2011

Forgotten Books: My Bride for Yours - Curt Aldrich

When I try to figure out which books I’m going to write about for this series, one thing that comes into consideration is whether or not a particular book is actually, you know, any good. I think quality does have something to do with it, and I’m not going to do a Forgotten Books post about a book that I think is a real stinker.

However, some books do have a certain historical or nostalgic value that’s separate from their actual quality. And so it is with this week’s selection, MY BRIDE FOR YOURS, by Curt Aldrich.

You see, nearly forty years ago when I was a freshman in college, we had a circulating library of several dozen porn novels of this vintage in the dorm where I lived. In those pre-Internet days, in Texas anyway, pornography wasn’t that easy to find, although being 18-year-old guys, mostly living away from home for the first time, we did our dead-level best to find it anyway. (Some of us, of course, spent more time looking for the real thing, rather than a printed facsimile, but that’s another story.) Anytime somebody bought a new porn novel, after reading it went into the large cardboard box in Scooter’s dorm room (Scooter may have been the name on his birth certificate, for all I know; I never heard anybody call him anything else) so that the rest of the guys on the third floor could enjoy it, too. Over the course of the year I spent there, I read several dozen of these books, and I came across others here and there over the next few years.

We know now that just like ten or a dozen years earlier than that, when authors such as Lawrence Block, Robert Silverberg, and Donald E. Westlake were turning out Nightstand Books, in the late 60s and early 70s some other authors who went on to have significant careers in more respectable genres were producing epics like RAJAH and LITTLE DONNIE’S MOTHER for Liverpool Library Press, Greenleaf, and other porn publishers.

The house-name Curt Aldrich originated as part of William Hamling’s porn enterprise and appeared on Nightstand, Leisure, Pillar, etc. Books. An early Curt Aldrich, maybe the original one for all I know, was Richard Curtis, who went on to become a well-known literary agent, which I believe he still is. By the time MY BRIDE FOR YOURS appeared, Curtis probably wasn’t Aldrich anymore, but who knows, maybe he was.

To finally get around to saying a few words about the book itself . . . well, it’s a sex novel, pretty plain and simple. Several young couples go on a honeymoon cruise to a secluded Florida resort. On the yacht taking them there, and once they reach the resort itself, much graphic swapping of newlywed spouses goes on. That’s it for the plot.

But the book does have a few things to recommend it. The writing in the non-sex scenes is consistently good. Admittedly, there aren’t many of them and they don’t last very long, but they’re there. And the prose in the sex scenes has a considerable amount of goofy humor to it, as if the author wasn’t taking things very seriously and wasn’t expecting the reader to, either. Whoever wrote MY BRIDE FOR YOURS was talented enough that he or she might well have published fiction in other genres, too. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

So why have I written a lengthy Forgotten Books post about an obscure (no copies listed on ABE), forty-year-old sex novel? So I could wallow in nostalgia about my freshman year of college, of course, but also because these books, like other sex books before them, served as a training ground for a number of talented authors who went on to do other things. Looking at it now from the perspective of a bibliophile and all-around nosy guy, I find that interesting. But here’s the real reason I picked this particular book.

You can get a Kindle edition of it on Amazon for a buck.


pattinase (abbott) said...

This was really interesting, James. I didn't know such books existed then.

Walker Martin said...

The comment above by Pattinase started me thinking about when did these paperbacks become so popular? I know they were very popular in army barracks in 1967-1968 because I noticed they were the main reading matter of a barracks full of enlisted men, almost all of whom had law degrees.

I think the paperback sex novels became popular with the Beacon line in the late 1950's, then really took off when the Supreme Court knocked down the FANNY HILL obscenity law in 1966.

It's not surprising that women were not aware of the popularity of these novels because they were really slanted toward the big target audience of men. All these years later, I cannot recall ever seeing women reading the books or collecting them. There must be some of course, but the main attraction continues to cater to the male reader.

One of my big collecting mistakes was not realizing that these paperbacks would be collected one day. I had opportunities years ago to buy hundreds for pennies each and I didn't because I thought nobody would ever collect the things. Boy was I wrong...

James Reasoner said...

You just didn't know who was really writing them, Walker. Nobody knew back then.

I agree, the genre really started to grow in the mid-to-late Fifties with Beacon, although there were some sex novels before then, some of them published in hardback by Arco Books. Some of Leslie Scott's Arco novels were later reprinted by Beacon.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've met a few of the folks who wrote some of these. I found out from Charles Nuetzel that it was a huge market in the day, although the porn was relatively tame by modern standards.

Rittster said...

Great anecdote and bit of "sleaze" history!

James Reasoner said...

By the time this one was published, the sex scenes were about as graphic as prose can get. Those changes started in the mid-Sixties.

I considered trying to write one for Greenleaf in the late Seventies, before I sold TEXAS WIND. I was already writing men's magazine stories. But the pay wasn't very good -- $400 for a 35,000 words manuscript, as I recall -- and I never got around to it.

Elina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juri said...

There are lots of testimonies, though, that lesbian readers found identification points in some of the sleaze books of the time. That of course for better-marketed books like those published by GM, but I think there were many lesbian-themed books in the series from the lesser publishers, like Greenleaf. So, what I'm saying is that there must've been at least some women reading these books. (Sorry, I posted this first from my wife's Google profile...)