Post by franklinmarsh on Mar 26, 2008 17:10:28 GMT
Girls Of The Night - Petra Christian - NEL - September 1973
'For the NEL Sales force - the best gang I ever banged.'
Sally's assignment was 'witchcraft', but how far should she become involved...?
Sally Deenes is struggling to live by her writing , but finds it an unrewarding and lonely life. When she is offered the opportunity to join a new magazine with a pro-Women's Lib policy, she is only too pleased to accept. At first her work is dull routine, but after a strange encounter with her boss, Maggie Turnbull, she is given an assignment to investigate witchcraft. Suddenly Sally is plunged into a strange half-world of black-magic ritual, sexual promiscuity, and 'fertility rites'. How Sally manages to turn her experiences into a story that eventually makes the front cover of the magazine is just one of the coincidences in this amusing and bizarre story of her encounters with the 'Other World'.
Sez the back cover. I was in two minds as to whether to bung this stuff into the witchcraft section as there's not a lot of sauce, less spice than your average korma, but it is,well, you get the picture. Petra's identity was revealed in Pulpmania. I'm still not sure as to whether the two (alleged) authors co-wrote the books, or did a book each. The only other PC I've read was a later one, Hello Sailor, which I recall as fairly balls-out (ahem) Confessions raunch. The earlier tomes seem to be a little more sedate.
Sally is jobless at the start of the book, but someone suggests she try writing. Purchasing a typewriter and stationery she gets off to a bad start. A secretarial and English course at night school improve her skills and then she bumps into 'Chris Bishop' (see Pulpmania) at a party. Chris not only knows publishers who are looking for people to write new novels and has some interesting ideas about writing and books - '...Writers are like everybody else : they've got a job to do and someone pays them to do it...' - He's also a firm believer in books as ephemera - they're just there to be thrown away. He sends Sally to see 'Mark Jameson' (more NEL in-joke shenanigans) who wants series novels. Despite her misgivings, Sally trots out three books (GOTN was the fourth Petra Christian novel - don't you just love this weird pre-post-modernism?) but then hits writer's block. MJ suggests she get a job that will allow her to keep on writing - a journo. And soon our heroine is installed at Freedom Girl magazine. Hard-drinking Editor Constance Elliott has read one of Sal's books and is convinced that Ms Deenes is exactly the kind of liberated, free-thinking girl that readers will identify with. Sally comes down to earth with a bump when she's assigned to experienced hack Maggie, who sets her to filing and typing Mag's private letters. This is the kind of drudgery that Sal was hoping to free her readers from. Things take a turn for the worse when Maggie invites her to dinner, and makes a pass. Sally refuses and storms out. (It's not that kind of book! Well, not yet.) Next day at work, she tells Constance that she wants to resign. The editor confirms that Maggie has already blurted out the story, and will leave if Sally doesn't. Constance needs both women, so offers Sally a chance to get out of the office on assignment. '...Know anything about witchcraft?' When Sal asks what this has to do with Women's Liberation, Constance replies,' You expressed an interest in the aspect of women's-lib that we called political exploitation. This is where a woman or her body or her beauty are used for commercial gain. Well, if you don't already know, black magic is big business in this country. There's a lot of money being made by nefarious practices...Withcraft is a growth industry, and it needs a lot of recruits...You've seen those Sunday-newspaper shots of the rituals. Noticed how many of those witches are actually young and pretty girls?...'
Sally gets given a file of old press cuttings to start her investigation, and Martin to take photographs. The snapper warns her that journos aren't too keen on investigating witchcraft. It seems some people take it seriously and can dish out some serious harrassment to snoopers.
Sal decides that the easiest way to get the lowdown is to join a coven. She finds mention of Joshua Renn, a full witch, in her file, and calls him via directory enquiries. Josh warns her off in good old Dennis Wheatley style. He's in fear of his life, career ruined and health precarious - all for dabbling. Sally presses ahead, and, the following night, is given some unclear instructions on where to find a coven. It turns out to be a derelict boarded-up house. Although she and Martin wait, nothing happens. They give it up as a bad job and go home. Sally is plagued by guilt. Renn had told her to be there that night. She returns alone to see a light burning upstairs. Hidden across the road, she watches various shadowy figures arriving. She dashes to a phone box and calls Martin, who eventually joins her. They break into the house - to find nothing - except candle stubs, a strange scent and warmth. The next day, as Sally approaches a tube station, she is accosted by a matronly woman, who knows her name and asks why she came to the house. Slightly taken aback Sally tells her that she wants to join up. The woman confirms that they left the house as they had divined danger - possibly from Sal's companion. If she's serious about joining, she should come to the next meeting - alone. So begins Sally's initiation, investigation, and a whole host of nudity, sex, strange rites, sex, awkward photography, sex - all dealt with in the most offhand, throwaway, non-erotic, ridiculous fashion. A definite piss-take of the avid one-handed reader. As Trash Fiction would note - all tease.
Thanks, Franklin. I knew you'd make a better job of this than I could.
So begins Sally's initiation, investigation, and a whole host of nudity, sex, strange rites, sex, awkward photography, sex - all dealt with in the most offhand, throwaway, non-erotic, ridiculous fashion.
A definite piss-take of the avid one-handed reader. As Trash Fiction would note - all tease.
That's pretty-much the impression I got after flipping the pages of the two that I found. The second one is In the Club (1975)
Sally Deenes has never turned down a worthwhile proposition in all her chequered career, When she is asked to pose as a businessman's wife, and help him run a country club, she is only too happy to oblige - in every way.
Situated in a delightful old manor house, the club offers every sort of sporting facility: huntin', shootin', fishin' and golf. But it is the indoor sport that attracts the visitors, and Sally is soon busily engaged in ensuring that the guests enjoy every dish on the menu.
There's a kind of On the Buses air of desperation about that blurb. Or a Waiting For Basil Brush to Say Boom Boom air. The books do look entertaining/amusing, better than the blurb suggests. But nothing Tom Sharpe hasn't done better.
I like the dedications.
Girls of the Night is dedicated to:
For the NEL Sales force -
the best gang I ever banged.
"What are you going to do now, Quatermass?"[br][br]"Start again."