Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Bait - William Vance writing as George Cassidy

I’ve seen William Vance’s by-line on a number of Western novels over the years, but as far as I recall I’ve never read any of them. I had no idea that he also wrote soft-core books under the pseudonym George Cassiday until Black Gat Books reprinted one of them entitled BAIT, originally published by Beacon Books in 1962 with a fine cover by Jack Faragasso, who is still with us, by the way, and active on Facebook.

The title refers to beautiful, seventeen-year-old Melody Frane, who lives a hardscrabble existence as a migrant farm worker. The only family she has is a drunken mother, and Melody has to take care of her, as well. She’s working at a cantaloupe farm in Arizona when she meets Kenney Ward, a pilot who works for Harry Ransome, the ruthless tycoon who owns not only the farm but also radio stations, hotels, electronics plants, and other enterprises. Melody and Kenney are attracted to each other, but before a real romance can develop between them, she falls under the sway of Ransome, who beds her, takes her under his wing, and sends her to Los Angeles so she can be educated at a school for aspiring starlets and models run by a beautiful former silent movie star. Ransome claims he wants to hire Melody as his secretary, but in reality he plans to pimp her out to various important businessmen he wants to blackmail.

Although there are crimes in this book, it’s not a crime novel. BAIT is more of a domestic drama as every man Melody encounters, as well as some of the women, try to seduce her. The thread of her developing relationship with Kenney runs all the way through, and anybody who’s read very many of these soft-core books can make a pretty good guess how things are going to turn out.

That predictability in plotting and resolution doesn’t really detract from the appeal of BAIT. It’s a well-written book with some excellent scenes and a pace that never lets up for very long. The sex scenes are frequent but not very graphic, as if Vance wasn’t all that comfortable writing them and got more enjoyment out of developing the characters, the most well-rounded of which is Melody. (No pun intended, honest.) Harry Ransome is also a thoroughly despicable villain. I raced through BAIT and really enjoyed it. I’m not going to drop everything and search for the other “George Cassidy” books Vance wrote, but I am going to check my shelves and see if I have any of his Westerns. The paperback edition of BAIT can be pre-ordered on Amazon, and I’m sure there’ll be an e-book edition as well once it’s published.

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