Friday, October 02, 2020

Forgotten Books: Her Cheating Heart - Lloyd Kevin (Harold G. Sweet)

I admit, I bought this book mostly for the great Tom Miller cover (that's my copy in the scan), but I was also curious about the author. “Lloyd Kevin” was the pseudonym of Harold G. Sweet, who published about a dozen stories under that name in the Western pulps during the Fifties and another handful under his real name. There’s not much information about him on-line. According to a newspaper in San Bernardino, California, in 1953 he was a civilian employee at Norton Air Force Base and had written a novel under the Lloyd Kevin name. However, HER CHEATING HEART, published by Monarch Books in 1962, appears to be the only Lloyd Kevin novel that exists, and I couldn’t find any under the Harold G. Sweet name. Did Sweet write this book in the early Fifties but didn’t sell it until a decade later? Or did that book mentioned in that newspaper article fail to sell at all? A little biographical blurb in HER CHEATING HEART refers to Lloyd Kevin as being the pseudonym of a “well-known author of Westerns and contemporary novels”. We may have to chalk that up as editorial hyperbole, or else Sweet was writing under other name (or names) I don’t know about, which is certainly possible.

All that being said, how’s the novel itself? Well . . . kind of a mixed bag. This is a “down on his luck drifter finds trouble” yarn. That plot has been used many times, so the appeal in a book like this lies in how well the author handles those traditional elements. The protagonist in HER CHEATING HEART is Trigg Melnor, and I have a mixed reaction to that, as well. Trigg is a good, tough, Ennis Willie-style protagonist name; Melnor doesn’t have a lot of punch. But anyway . . . Trigg hitches a ride to a big construction project in Arizona where an old friend of his has promised to get him a job. The government is building a giant missile base, and Trigg has experience operating heavy machinery. All the workers live nearby in a trailer park, and Trigg’s old buddy Hutch expect him to stay with him and his wife Joy. Trigg didn’t even know Hutch was married, let alone to a beautiful, hot-to-trot redhead who immediately falls for him.

But wait, that’s not all. The boss of the construction project, Kirby Breckline (a much better name), is an old enemy of Trigg’s, and he’s involved with Joy as well. Then there’s Breckline’s scheming wife Eunice, and a possibly sinister Italian with a secret and an agenda of his own.

With a set-up like this, I kept expecting HER CHEATING HEART to turn into a noirish crime yarn, but it never really does. There’s an attempted murder, but it’s not the focus of the plot. For the most part, this remains a domestic drama all the way through, concentrating on Joy and the three men who are involved with her. The problem is that Joy is a really bland character with almost no personality, so you have to keep asking yourself why these guys want her in the first place. She practically disappears from the pages in the scenes she’s in.

However, the book does a pretty good job of depicting blue-collar construction workers and the early Sixties setting. Trigg isn’t a very likable protagonist, but I did wind up rooting for him, at least a little. There are some poignant scenes and a very occasional touch of welcome humor. The plot lurches along and comes to a sort of satisfying climax. HER CHEATING HEART isn’t a book you want to go out and search for, but if you ever come across a copy at a reasonable price, it’s not terrible. I know, that’s about the faintest praise I can offer.

It does have that really good Tom Miller cover, but you know the old saying about not judging a book by it’s cover. That’s true here, only the opposite way around from the usual meaning. The cover is probably the best thing about HER CHEATING HEART.


David Cranmer said...

Often I look up information on writers only to find scant information. Such a plethora of forgotten talent fading into the past.

Anonymous said...

I've find the following note in the "Catalogue of Coptright Entries, 1962 Third Series: July-December:

Her cheating heart, by Lloyd Kevin, pseud. Monarch Books. (A Monarch books original novel, 286)
© Lloyd Kevin; 6nov62; A593560

Greetings from Italy,
Tiziano Agnelli

James Reasoner said...

I think you're the one who put me on Sweet's trail to start with, Tiziano. As always, I appreciate your research. You're good at finding these authors.

Anonymous said...

Glad to be helpful. I've always been interested in bibliographic researchs!