Thursday, January 29, 2015

All My Lovers - Alan Marshall (Donald E. Westlake)

She didn't move, didn't cry out, didn't even stiffen. He swung the belt again, pleased by the smacking sound of the leather hitting her skin, and still she didn't move. His arm worked back and forth, and the belt whipped away and cracked against her skin, whipped away again and sliced back. "Scream, dammit," he said, his voice low and tense. "Scream."

1961, Midwood (Tower) Publications
The cover indicates this novel is "The Bizarre Story of a Marriage Made in Hell!" and, brothers and sisters, it ain't kidding! I had no idea when I picked this book up that it was written by Donald Westlake. I grabbed it because it's a Midwood paperback and I usually pick up Midwood books if they're in decent enough shape and the price is reasonable. Reading it I was mildly impressed by how well written it was for a "sleazy" little page-turner. That was before I learned Westlake had written it. Then it was a big "no duh!" moment for me.

We first meet the novel's heroine Lou, short for Eloise, at a party in Greenwich Village. The scene is abuzz and the crowd is high, as Lou sits on a sofa waiting for her boyfriend, Jeffrey, to return with their drinks. While waiting, Lou is fending off another drunk putting the make on her. She decides that she's too old for this phony Greenwich Village bullshit and talks Jeffrey into taking her back to his pad, which we soon discover, she pays the rent on. Wild sex ensues...Midwood style!

Meanwhile, Martin is waiting for his wife to return home from her latest fling. He's a 30-something year old successful finance guy with a spread overlooking Central Park. Basically a real dick. He passes the time abusing, torturing and raping his young Puerto Rican housekeeper, whom he insists on calling Roxanne. And with this we're introduced to the lovely couple Lou and Martin, and their fucked up marriage.

Later in the novel we learn that Lou and Martin's trouble started on their wedding night, when Lou made the big mistake of telling Martin that she wasn't a virgin. Not just one or two guys either, but lots of guys, from high school and on through college. Martin, a guy with serious "mommy" issues doesn't take this news about his new bride too well. Especially since he's still a virgin. It's all too much for him to deal with, How could Mommy do this to him? He has a meltdown and leaves her alone in their hotel room. On the way out of the lobby he tells the bellman that there is a woman ready and waiting for some action up in his hotel room. And there you have their marriage in a nutshell.

For reasons never clear, divorce is out of the question. Martin insists that Lou remain his wife, no matter how many lovers and gigolos she hooks up with. For his part, he's happy beating and raping helpless women and prostitutes, and paying them off for their participation.

Soon enough, Jeffrey has had enough of Lou and her fucked up marriage to Martin. He kicks Martin's ass and bolts out of her life, back to the Village and back on the hunt for his next sugar momma. Meanwhile Lou pines away for her lost love, Sebastian (nicknamed Bastard!) to return which, as things in novels must follow, he does.

From there on out it's Bastard and Lou, Martin and prostitutes, hot sex, whippings, hot sex, beatings and more hot sex culminating in a final betrayal that I didn't see coming.

So, good old stuff from the early days of a terrific writer. Thanks Midwood!

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