|Beacon Books, 1961|
But really, The Running Girls by Al James is more adventure novel than sexy novel, with its plot of Cuban counter-revolutionaries and smuggling and what-not. Actually, it's not really an adventure novel either. It's really just a novel about a hapless dupe who allows a hotblooded babe rope him into a wacky plot involving embezzled money and corrupt Cuban officials. Yeah, there is sex going on, and a lot of perky breasts, heavy breathing and hot kisses, but it all happens off the page instead of giving up the lurid details.
Rex, the novel's hero, is a mercenary pilot who, along with his Cuban partner Ferdy (short for Ferdinand) unknowingly give a ride to a teenage stowaway in their crippled DC-3 on a trip back from Haiti. Their plane is conking out over Tampa Bay, barely missing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as they coast in to a rough landing on Davis Island. I grew up in Tampa and could totally see the bridge beneath their wings as they fly over the bay. It's one of those bridges that should be avoided if you're afraid of heights. Davis Island is one of those locales where old moneyed rich bastards in Tampa live. But I digress. Rex and Ferdy manage to land their heap to discover a beautiful stowaway hiding on board. Since she's Cuban, Rex decides he's going to turn her over to immigration authorities to have her sent back to Cuba. Ferdy argues passionately on her behalf, suggesting that they should let her disappear into Ybor City instead. This was back in 1960, way before Ybor City became the obnoxious douchebag selfie-central it's become since. At the time it was a hot spot for cigar factories, bakeries, restaurants, clubs and anti-Castro sentiment among its mostly Cuban exiles. I know this because in grade school we'd go there on field trips. Not for the counter-revolutionary stuff, but to see how cigars got made and to eat fresh onion rolls. Anyway...Rex isn't persuaded by Ferdy and Luisa's pleadings. Not even Julie, Rex's girlfriend, can sway him. But it doesn't matter because within minutes a couple of scar-faced goons show up and wave their guns at Rex, Ferdy and Julie, demanding they turn over Louisa for immediate arrest and transfer back to Cuba where she'll be executed. But before they can make off with Louisa, whose clothes are now strategically torn to reveal her hot body, they're chased away by a couple of Coast Guard officials who show up to chew Rex and Ferdy out for flying over MacDill Air Force Base without permission.
So, Rex turns Louisa over to the Immigration and goes home to have sex with Julie. Julie tells Rex that she wants marriage, but for the time being will act like a wife, or something like that. In other words, they screw...off the page though. Later, at a restaurant in Ybor City, Rex is handed a message to meet someone named Maria about a flying job. Maria, it turns out, is Louisa's older sister, and wants to thank Rex for all personal like for rescuing her from the two scar-faced thugs that afternoon. She rubs her body against Rex's in a vain attempt to get a rise out of him but...okay, she gets the rise out of him, but he remains faithful to Julie. Louisa is also there with Maria, and she would like to thank Rex as well, but just then, the two goons from earlier show up and spoil the party. They bop Rex into submission and take him, along with Maria and Louisa, out to a phosphate plant on the coast where they proceed to rape Louisa while Rex and Maria watch, tied up and helpless. Louisa then tries to fight back and gets stabbed to death in the ensuing struggle. The two thugs then run away, leaving Rex and Maria behind.
This review is getting longer than the book itself, so I'll just cut to the chase and let you know, if you haven't already figured it out, that Marie recruits Rex for some payback that somehow includes a crazy little sidejob that involves flying to Cuba and returning with some embezzled loot. Rex makes it to Cuba only to discover his plane has been sabotaged. He's captured by Cuban soldiers and thrown into jail where he shares a cell with a little scamp of a chick who is convinced that pleasuring the guards will insure her release. What follows is a mockery of a trial where everyone sharing Rex's cell is sentenced to the firing squad. Everyone except Rex that is. Instead, he's released and told to go back to the U.S. and let everyone there know that Castro is the big kahuna and isn't going away, or something like that. Rex then hangs out in the Hotel Internacional for a few days, getting waited on by a hot little Cuban gal named Lolita. Lolita makes it clear that she's to see to his every comfort and desire, but Rex keeps it in his pants since he's now in love with Maria...that's right, Maria. He came to that conclusion while waiting to get tossed in front of a firing squad. Never mind that it's because of Maria that he's nearly been executed. He's not quick on the uptake, which if you'd read this far into the novel would be more than obvious.
So, where were we? Oh yeah, in the Hotel Internacional with Lolita flashing her hot legs at Rex. Then who should show up but Julie, who has decided to fly into Cuba to find Rex. She comes up with some story like taking a wrong turn over Miami, or something like that, and ending up in Cuba. She convinces Rex to continue with his assignment of collecting the embezzled loot and taking it back to Florida to help fund Maria and the counter-revolutionaries. Rex doesn't need much convincing. He's blinded by Julie's wanton ways and quickly agrees to get the money and fly back to Tampa with it. Things go awry again, and this time both he and Julie are arrested by a pot-bellied colonel and a couple of sloppy soldiers. Rex manages to convince the soldiers to shoot the colonel instead of him and Julie in exchange for ten grand each. Then off they go...back to Tampa.
I thought I was cutting to the chase here. What the hell? I doubt anyone is actually going to find this book and read it anyway, so I might as well let you know that Rex discovers Marie has been using him as a patsy all along. The million dollars he was sent to Cuba to get was really just money her wealthy Cuban banker boyfriend left there before he fled to the U.S. All it took was tricking Ferdy...remember Ferdy?...to secretly stow her sister Louisa on board Rex's plane back in chapter one. Ferdy did this because he was secretly married to Maria, only Maria turned traitor to the anti-Castro rebels to shack up with a millionaire asshole instead. The scar-faced goons were then hired by Maria to kill Louisa in front of Rex so that she could recruit Rex to fly to Cuba and get her boyfriend's dough, all in the name of the noble cause to free Cuba. And I think, but I can't swear to it, she actually put out for Rex somewhere in the whole mix of things. There's a fight and some wrestling around with guns, during which Maria gets shot in the middle of her lovely head. I don't know if her millionaire boyfriend gets killed, because a couple agents show up to save the day. Rex decides he really loved Julie first, and the two of them go off into the sunset of Tampa Bay. The end.
Yup, that's about it. The Running Girls wasn't terrible, it was just kind of dopey. It was short, it was tawdry, it was cheap...two bucks cheap, found on the shelf of a used bookstore with its spine promising "women ready to give a man anything!"
Hey what the hell, I never said I wasn't a sucker for that stuff anyway.