Sunday, August 25, 2013

World Without Women - Day Keene and Leonard Pruyn

World Without Women has one of the dopiest heroes in it that ever took center stage in a cheap pulp paperback that I've ever read. Published by Gold Medal Books in 1960 and written by Day Keene and Leonard Pruyn, World Without Women is a tasteless and misogynist look at what happens when a mysterious "illness" wipes out most of the world's women in a matter of weeks.

Reed and Connie Renner have just returned from a year-long getaway to the the Galapagos islands, conveniently missing out on firsthand experience of the mysterious disease that wipes out most of the female population on the planet. Their trip to the islands was an attempt to rekindle their marriage. Instead, they've learned that, while they like each other a lot, they're both way too shallow to get along with each other in marriage. They return in their boat, dock it, and drive home to their mansion on the coast of California. They think things are strange because the usual throngs of people about are nowhere to be seen. On the way home they pass a high school that is surrounded by a mob of scruffy men held cordoned off by a bunch of cops and soldiers. Two girls leave the high school under heavily armed protection by the soldiers. Reed decides he's going to help out and asks a nearby cop what's going on. The cop hits him and tells him to get lost. Reed and Connie then go home to make cocktails and dinner. Reed attempts to call his lawyer partner Matt Healy a number of times but can't reach him. Off he goes to buy steaks at the grocery store, where he asks a male clerk if America is at war. The reason Reed wonders this is because he sees no women shoppers; just a bunch of dejected looking slobs buying alcohol and frozen dinners. He returns home, calls Matt Healy again and, finally reaching him, learns that all the women have died. Learning that Reed's wife Connie is alive and well, Healy arranges a team of soldiers to set up camp on the Renner's front lawn. This has to be done because all the men in the city have turned into a bunch of lust-mad perverts who'll stop at nothing to get a woman.

Society without women has gone to shit. Martial law prevails. Any man who touches or attempts to force himself on any surviving woman who is not his wife will be shot on sight. Surviving women are quarantined in their homes, and are told to "stay fresh and attractive" for their husbands so that maybe they'll reproduce. All women of child-bearing age are ordered to comply with their husbands' demands, and also undergo monitoring by a newly formed Potential Mothers Survivors agency (PMS).

Events progress, Reed and Matt attempt to rescue the wife of their building's elevator operator from gangster Tony Acaro's fortified house. Reed performs a citizen's arrest, instead of just shooting the sleazy gangster, even after it's clear that Acaro has held women captive there as playthings for him and his goons. On the way home from their little adventure, Reed suggests that he and Matt Healy get Connie and get all dolled up and go out for dinner at Chasen's. Matt Healy has to explain to the dolt that it's against the law for women to go out "all dolled up." Besides, Chasen's isn't around anymore. And furthermore, he's secretly had a crush on Connie for years, and doesn't think he'll be able to sit around looking at her breasts over a steak and martinis and not want to kill Reed.

Later in the novel, Reed Renner is selected by the authorities to go to Mercerville and visit the women's prison there and talk to the Warden in charge. Seems the warden is a female survivor named Kathy Cervantes who was a childhood friend of Reed's. Reed always wondered why Kathy Cervantes never put out for him when they were teenagers, and this is his big chance to find out. He quickly learns that Kathy is a lesbian, and not into men at all. He learns this by using techniques perfected by guys like former congressman and mayor, Bob Filner; like putting his hand up her skirt and grabbing at her breasts. Of course she doesn't respond, because she's a lesbian, and well, that explains it. It's not that Reed Renner is an asshole after all! It's determined that Kathy Cervantes can no longer run the prison, because she's a degenerate lesbian. She then commits suicide by stripping off her clothes and running out into the throngs of lust-mad men surrounding the prison. This makes Reed Renner sad, but at least he now knows why Kathy was never in to him before as kids. Time to go back to L.A.!

Meanwhile, back at the coastline mansion, Connie (remember Connie Renner, Reed's wife?) decides she's had enough of taking sleeping pills and feeling sorry for herself. She bakes a cake for Reed's birthday. Only Reed is busy with the end of the world and all that crap, which just pisses her off all over again.

Reed returns to L.A. and learns that Tony Acaro has been let out of jail, and is out for revenge. He's going to get Connie Renner, just you wait! And then...oh, what the hell, why bother?

This was an interesting idea squandered into a really dumb novel. I'm not sure who it would have appealed to, outside of pinheads like Rush Limbaugh. And it's too bad, because Day Keene is usually a reliable writer of paperback thrillers. He was way off his game on this one. As for Leonard Pruyn, I don't have any information on him. On to something better next time.

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