Thursday, April 7, 2022

Glen Chase’s Cherry Delight #1 The Italian Connection

The Italian Connection, published in 1972, is the first of Glen Chase’s Cherry Delight sexy crime/spy thrillers.

Glen Chase was one of the pseudonyms used by Gardner Francis Fox (1911-1986), a prolific writer for comic books who became a prolific pulp writer. In the 70s he found a lucrative niche for himself churning out sexy paperback crime/spy thrillers with very heavy lacings of sleaze and more than a dash of kinkiness.

We think of the 1950s and 1960s as the period in which television came to dominate popular entertainment but it’s not as simple as that. Television took a huge chunk of the entertainment market away from Hollywood but the book market was thriving as never before. The period from 1945 to the end of the 70s was the period of the paperback boom. Books went from being a luxury item to being ridiculously cheap. The public developed a voracious appetite for books.

The 50s and 60s was also a period in which TV and movies were subject to extraordinarily strict censorship. Sex was a subject that could not be addressed. Sex did not exist. As far as TV and movies were concerned married couples slept in separate beds and never saw each other naked. The book market was much more lightly censored. Booksellers and publishers were occasionally prosecuted for obscenity but in practice you could get away with dealing with sex in books without much danger. You could even get away with dealing with illicit sex and kinky sex.

The result was an explosion of sleaze fiction in the United States. There were numerous publishers specialising in sleaze. Writers, if they had the ability and the discipline to write a lot of books very quickly, could make a good living from sleaze fiction.

Censorship in movies was slowly relaxed in the 60s but censorship of books became even lighter, in fact almost non-existent. Paperback sleaze fiction continued to be lucrative because over the course of the 60s sleaze writers were able to keep pushing the edge of the envelope. Descriptions of sex went from moderately graphic in the early 60s to very graphic indeed by the early 70s.

Sleaze fiction was popular but it was even more popular when combined with crime, espionage or adventure.

Which brings us to Cherry Delight. Our heroine is Cherise Dellissio but she has red hair so inevitably everybody calls her Cherry Delight. Cherry is a professional crime-fighter. She doesn’t work for the F.B.I., she works for a top-secret agency which employs methods that the Bureau would consider to be highly unorthodox, probably immoral and possibly illegal. The agency’s job is to combat the Mafia, and they can’t do that effectively if their hands are tied by a bunch of pesky rules and laws.

The agency is the New York Mafia Prosecution and Harassment Organisation, or N.Y.M.P.H.O. as it is generally known. Cherry works for the elite Femme Fatale squad. The Femmes Fatales are highly trained with advanced martial arts and firearms skills but their main weapon is sex. As such their bedroom skills are of a very high order. When it comes to bedroom skills Cherry Delight has no equals. The secret to Cherry’s success is that it’s not just a job to her. She really really loves sex. Some girls might not enjoy having to have sex with gangsters and sleazebags in the line of duty but this doesn’t bother Cherry. No matter what the circumstances and no matter who the guy is Cherry likes sex. And oh yeah, she doesn’t mind having sex with girls occasionally.

And she is always prepared for action.

As far as sleaze is concerned The Italian Connection hits the ground running. It opens with Cherry lying naked in a coffin. But she’s alive. She knows she’s alive because she’s incredibly sexually aroused. That may have something to do with the fact that her N.Y.M.P.H.O. colleague Mark Condon is tickling the intimate parts of her anatomy with a feather. But this is not mere pleasure. Cherry is on a case and she needs to be in the mood for sex to carry out her part in the operation. The idea is that Cherry is going to be sent to Joe Turessi as a gift. Joe Turessi is a Mafia big wheel. Cherry is supposed not just to give him a good time that night but to give him such a good time that he won’t want to part with her. That’s how N.Y.M.P.H.O. intends to infiltrate Turessi’s criminal operation.

It should be explained that, as a clever front for their crime-fighting activities, the Femmes Fatales work as call girls.

Cherry seems to be succeeding in her efforts. She quickly figures out that Turessi is kinky. His kink doesn’t have anything to do with coffins. It’s a particular kind of voyeurism, a very very kinky kind. Turessi is having a really good time and so is Cherry. Then something goes very wrong.

Cherry will have to find a different way to infiltrate the Mafia. Her new plan takes her to an orgy. She needs to blend in with the crowd (she is a trained secret agent) so she picks a man and starts having sex with him. The things a girl has to do for her country. But Cherry has never shirked her duty.

The Mafia have gained possession of a high-tech gadget which would give them even greater power than they already have. It is a threat to the whole world. This gadget is the McGuffin that drives the plot.

And yes, there is a plot. Cherry spends an astonishing amount of time having sex but in between she does find time to do some actual crime-fighting. The plot is serviceable enough and it has to be said that there are lots of action scenes. There are gun fights and fist fights and cat fights. Cherry is a sex machine but she’s a violence machine as well. OK, maybe her skills in marksmanship and unarmed combat are a bit too formidable to be entirely plausible but this is lighthearted pulp fiction which has zero interest in realism. The indifference to realism is something I applaud. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this writer is his ability not only to switch from a sex scene to an action scene in the blink of an eye but to combine sex and action in a single scene. In this novel love-making can be deadly, and unarmed combat can be sexy.

Cherry is basically a crime-fighter but the book does have some vague spy fiction overtones and there’s even a very slight science fictional element.

The sex is very graphic but it never seems crude. Perhaps that’s because Cherry is so clearly having such a good time. And even when she has to have sex with a bad guy or a deadly enemy she makes sure that he enjoys the sex. It’s a matter of pride for her. The violence is not graphic but the fights are fairly exciting.

If you’re looking for sleazy, sexy, lighthearted action-filled pulp fiction then The Italian Connection delivers the goods. This book might be trash but it’s incredibly enjoyable entertaining trash. Highly recommended.

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