“She was making up her lips, preparatory to getting out of the car. The closer she leaned to the rear-view mirror, the more the tight skirt hiked up her legs. He couldn’t remember when he had seen better-looking legs. There wasn’t a flaw in them from ankle to six inches above the knee. A woman with legs like those should never wear clothes.”
— Brad Curtis, Man Trap
I’m reading a book called Man Trap. It was published in 1963, and is one of a series of pulp sleaze novels, a collector’s item. It was written by a writer who called himself Brad Curtis. He also penned such classics as: The Pleasure Game, Live and Let LIve, Pleasure Play, The Pick-up, and Night Shift.
The book was originally 50 cents. It was re-sold at 25 cents twice, as evident by the penciled-in sale prices inside the cover, and found me for 5 dollars on a frigid winter day at a used bookstore in Fayetteville, AR. A vendor on ebay is currently selling a copy of the same book for thirty dollars. His is in pristine condition. My copy is battered and bruised.
I’ve sailed through four chapters in three rides on the express train, and have just folded over an ancient, dog-earred page 52. In some ways, it feels like I am reading over the shoulder of a lonely ghost from two or three decades back, reliving the story through their eyes.
It goes like this:
Two men, real estate brokers – one young, one just past middle age – get wrapped around the finger of a harlot in satin.
“Her name was Deborah and she could be softly feminine, sleekly sophisticated, wildly wanton, viciously cruel… depending on what kind of game they wanted to play… she was as wicked as she was beautiful. Her victims never realized how corrupt a woman could be… until they were helplessly caught in the web of her sensuous charms.”
All the women in the book are vixens, bitches, liars, and seductresses. The men – whores, assholes, liars, and fools. The point of view roams from character to character without a moment’s notice. Sex scenes are littered with inner dialogue, and descriptions of clothing, style, grace, or lack there-of are often accompanied by tingles, itches, and sweaty palms. The writing impeccably embraces cliche.
I wonder how lurid my life would sound if Brad Curtis pulled out his pen once more.
There are layers. Many, many layers.
In the meantime, as my cyber-bait swims in the cyber-ocean of possibility, my friend Steve questions the validity of my mission. He assures me that he knows that I can take care of myself. But, as we’re sitting on a drunken, crowded, noisy subway car, yelling at each other over the din of drunken, crowded, noisy people, he asks me what will happen if I find myself interested in one of these guys I meet on my journey.
He calls it dangerous.
Connecticut and Rhode Island, have yielded a few possibilities, but nothing’s written in stone. A few weeks ago, I decided to try a blind test to see if the slime factor was site specific or location based.
Here’s one of the emails I received:
The kid has nothing on Brad Curtis.
“What if you meet someone you really want to get to know,” Steve asks.
I shrug my shoulders and arch an eyebrow. “Who says that hasn’t happened already?”
The truth is, I am feeling small waves of caution and regret.
One guy wrote to me:
“the mystery for me is trying to find a sincere, real girl…ive chatted, felt a connection, then poof! gone… nothing…”
“You never know what’s going on in people’s lives,” I answer. Next, I launch into my bit about dating being a numbers game. But, I keep it short and sweet. I can’t decide if I should poof! gone… nothing before or after our date.
If we do hit it off, and we probably will, I don’t want to be a negative number.
In Man Trap, our hero Jeremy Kellner knows how to get out of a sticky situation. After having bedded a real-estate client on “the dark side of forty,” with “soft flesh,” “greedy, little hooks for fingers,” “too much flab around her middle,” and breasts that are beginning to sag, “he thought miserably, oh hell. This was the awkward moment. How did a man get away gracefully from a desiring woman he didn’t want… He looked at his wrist watch and said, “Oh my God. I was supposed to meet McCloud a half an hour ago….”
I might learn a thing or two from Brad Curtis.