Book Report: Devil’s Holiday by Fred Malloy (1952)

Well, this was a book in a plain brown wrapper.

The cheap binding mirrors a Walter J. Black sort of binding. A novel title like Devil’s Holiday and an author named Fred Malloy, I was sure someone was going to get icepicked. But you learn something new every day. Like that there was a lurid genre of what they called sleaze or soft-core pornography featuring tawdry, descriptive scenes of seduction as it were. In 2009, you wouldn’t call this pornography. But fifty years ago, apparently, hoo-whee!

The book centers on the afternoon, evening, and night of Christmas Eve. Young couple (almost 30, so Old Married Couple in 1950s books) is kinda on the rocks. When husband came back from the war, he was different and the wife had almost taken a lover in his absence, but did not. The afternoon of Christmas Eve, the husband gets together with a young woman from the office and, after heavy drinking, they spend the afternoon in a hotel. He leaves his wife’s Christmas gift in a cab with her, and he starts fruitlessly seeking her to find it. She returns it to the wife, and the husband’s infidelity is thrown in her face. So she goes out on the town to get even and to give him grounds for a divorce because she loves him and doesn’t want him to be the villain in the divorce. So he goes out to a dive bar, hooks up with a ruffian from Missouri, and they drink, get into a fight, and try to meet women.

The characters at the root have a basic love for each other but cannot communicate it, and they’re swept into a series of poor decisions that are fueled by the constraints of the norms of the time and more alcohol than it would take to kill me and preserve me.

I don’t know what it says about its times that the relatively tepid sensual descriptions in the book were considered sleazy or pornographic. I also don’t know what it says about our times that 1950s sleaze has more conflicted characterizations and internal dilemmas in a simple plot than in much contemporary fiction of a more lofty-goaled but still genre fiction.

I might try this author again if I stumble over another one of his works, but I gather they’re pretty rare.

Books mentioned in this review: