Friday, January 04, 2019

Forgotten Books: Sheba - Orrie Hitt

For the first Forgotten Book of the year, I’m turning to an old favorite author, Orrie Hitt. SHEBA was published originally by Beacon Books in 1959 with a great cover by Rudy Nappi and is available today in an e-book edition. The title character, Sheba Irons, is a beautiful young woman in a bad situation: she lives at home (a rundown house in the country) with her drunken, lazy father and brother and her mother, who’s too beaten down by life to ever stand up for herself or Sheba. The only glimmer of hope Sheba has is that she has a job, even though it’s only working as an office girl at a car dealership. And she has a boyfriend of sorts, a young tree surgeon, but he keeps pressuring her for sex and Sheba is a good girl, a virgin who’s determined to save herself for marriage.

Well, as you can probably guess, a lot of that changes during the course of this novel. Sheba discovers that she has a knack for selling cars (the fact that she’s gorgeous probably has something to do with this), she’s pressured into getting involved in a shady kickback scheme with a guy who runs a finance company, and she winds up not only losing her virginity but getting mixed up with several guys who are typical Orrie Hitt heels. There’s even a beautiful lesbian after Sheba before her rise to success and power (relatively speaking) hits the inevitable obstacles and falls apart. Since this is a Hitt novel, you can figure that things will eventually work out for Sheba, at least to a certain extent, but he puts her through the wringer before that.

While this book probably doesn’t belong in the top rank of Hitt’s work, due to a rather thin plot and the abruptness of the ending, it’s a solid second-tier novel that’s compulsively readable. I really raced through it and enjoyed it a lot. SHEBA is set in a small city called Mayville, and it occurred to me that many of Hitt’s novels show us what was going on in the seedier parts of those towns where Beaver Cleaver and the Andersons from FATHER KNOWS BEST lived. I love those shows, but I don’t mind seeing the Fifties from a different perspective now and then, too. Orrie Hitt delivered that perspective better than anybody else in the business.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this post. If this is "B" Hitt what would you consider "A" Hitt? Is any of his stuff still in print? Thanks!

James Reasoner said...

The Stark House double volume of WAYWARD GIRL and THE WIDOW would be a great place to start. WAYWARD GIRL is a good example of his domestic drama type of books, and THE WIDOW is a top-notch noir crime novel. A lot of his books are available either in print editions from Stark House or e-book versions. I've never read a bad one yet, some are just better than others.

Anonymous said...

I just went and bought the book on Amazon. Thank you for the suggestion!

James Reasoner said...

I hope you enjoy it. Let me know, if you think about it.