Friday, February 23, 2024

Tom Harland's Love Camp on Wheels

Love Camp on Wheels is a 1963 sleaze novel by Tom Harland that belongs to the small but intriguing sub-genre of trailer camp sleaze.

Stan manages a trailer camp for Meg. It’s the best job he’s ever had and it pays well. Stan knows that a smart guy would be careful not to let his personal life interfere with his job. Stan is a smart guy, mostly. There are however a lot of temptations headed his way.

And his personal life is already a bit complicated. He’s having an affair with his ex-wife, Mae. Mae’s new husband Larry knows about it but doesn’t seem inclined to do anything about it. As long as Stan and Mae are reasonably discreet everything is OK.

Meg is a lesbian. Linda is Meg’s girlfriend. Linda and her husband Ben live in the trailer camp rent-free. That gives Ben plenty of drinking money as long as he turns a blind eye to her affair with Meg. That also seems to be a stable situation.

These situations could of course become very unstable if anything were to change. If, for example, Stan and Linda were to get involved. Even if they just slept together things might get complicated. If anything more serious happened things would get very complicated very fast. Stan knows this and he tries to keep away from Linda but he also knows that he won’t be able to.

There’s also Sonny and his wife Birdie. They work at the trailer camp. Stan already has enough to worry about. He really does need to resist Birdie’s advances.

The motivations of the characters are mixed. Ben and Sonny are just out to get what they can for themselves and they both have their eyes on Stan’s job.

Stan doesn’t know if he’s still in love with Mae. He doesn’t know if he’s in love with Linda. He doesn’t know whether he really wants either of them, or whether he wants both of them. There’s nothing vicious or calculating about Stan. He just doesn’t entirely understand his own feelings about women.

In the case of just about every character money, sex and love are hopelessly mixed up. Meg wants love but she wants her business to succeed so she’ll make compromises. Mae wants love and sex and she wants Stan but she wants Larry’s money.

And love can be pretty twisted, by jealousies and by guilt and by a desire for control.

Some of the characters are sympathetic, others less so. Ben and Sonny are lowlifes. Meg, Stan, Linda and Mae behave badly or foolishly at times but they’re not bad people. They are mixed up.

As with so much of the sleaze fiction of that era there are noir undercurrents and you can never be sure how how the noirishness will be pushed. The setup is certainly ideal for noir fiction. Things could end really badly for some, or even all, of these people but in this genre it’s not always possible to predict whether the ending will be a happy one or a tragic one.

And like so much sleaze fiction this is a romantic-sexual melodrama. There’s no graphic sex, and nothing that even comes close, but the erotic tensions are overwhelming and the eroticism is dangerous and destructive. Love is dangerous and destructive as well, or at least it can be.

Love Camp on Wheels has plenty of overheated steamy sleazy atmosphere with surprisingly complex characters. It’s all very entertaining and it’s highly recommended.

Love Camp on Wheels is included in Stark House Cult Classics’s three-novel Trailer Tramps paperback, along with Orrie Hitt’s Trailer Tramp and Doug Duperrault’s Trailer Camp Woman. All three were originally published by Beacon Books. These Stark House 3-in-1 paperbacks really are terrific.

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