Friday, June 08, 2012

Forgotten Books: Wanton Bait - John Dexter

(This post originally appeared on somewhat different form on May 6, 2007.)

A lot of the soft-core porn novels published in the Sixties strike me as sexed-up, Gold Medal-type books. WANTON BAIT by “John Dexter” certainly starts out looking like it might fall into that category. Consider these plot elements: an old man who’s the richest and most powerful person in a small town; his young, horny, greedy wife; and an even hornier, greedier lawyer who’s bored with his wife and desperate for a big payoff. Sounds like a book by Charles Williams or Harry Whittington, doesn’t it? In fact, when I started this book I wondered if it might be one of those mysterious, unidentified house-name novels that Whittington is supposed to have written in the mid-Sixties. (Of course, now we know the titles of all those books, thanks to David Laurence Wilson and Lynn Munroe.)

But I’m confident now that it’s not (and I was right), as the style seems to be nothing like Whittington’s, and it never really develops into the crime novel that it appears it might turn out to be, either. Instead it remains throughout more of a domestic drama. That doesn’t make it a bad book, though. The story has a certain noirish edge to it, as the sleazy lawyer/narrator’s big plans take turn after turn for the worse. And whoever the actual author was behind the John Dexter house-name (and there are plenty of suspects), he was a pretty good wordsmith, as the prose is smooth and slick and reads really fast. By 1965, when this book was published, the sex scenes are a little more graphic than they were even a few years earlier, and there are more of them, making them seem somewhat shoehorned in, but they don’t overwhelm the main plot. I wouldn’t run right out and look for WANTON BAIT, but if you run across a copy or already own it, it’s pretty entertaining and probably worth reading.

1 comment:

Walker Martin said...

I never knew about these books until I was drafted into the army in 1966. These soft core porno novels were all over the barracks and seemed to be the main reading for most soldiers.

You could always recognize them aside from the sexy covers. The back covers always were a bright color: yellow, pink, blue, green, red, etc.