Thursday 14 November 2019



Ah, yes. THE ADULTERATORS, the thrilling account of a couple of desperadoes whose violation of the Pure Food and Drug Act brought a nauseated nation to its knees, and— Oh, it’s THE ADULTERERS? Oh. Well, never mind. THE ADULTERERS was my second effort for Bill Hamling’s Nightstand Books. Like its predecessor, CAMPUS TRAMP, its cover was the work of Harold W. McCauley. I wrote the book in the fall of 1959, and it’s not hard to find its beginning in my own life a little over a year earlier. In May of 1958 I left the employ of Scott Meredith and went home to Buffalo, where I wrote my first novel, STRANGE ARE THE WAYS OF LOVE. Then, with my friend and Antioch roommate Steve Schwerner, I headed to Mexico to devote two months to rest and recreation before returning for another year at the college. We flew to Houston, hitchhiked to Laredo—and that last empty stretch of road from Freer to Laredo, where the book begins, has not faded from memory. We were a long time waiting for a ride, and learned later it was because nobody wanted to pick up a hitchhiker on that stretch of highway; if you did and he put you out of the car, you’d die out there. Well, the guys who picked us up weren’t worried. They were Tex-Mex gangsters in a block-long Caddy, and the car’s welcome A/C was cool, but they were way cooler. 

THE ADULTERERS features George and Mona Sutton, a sexually incompatible couple on their way to a Mexican divorce. But they meet a helpful guide named Ernesto, and that changes everything. Now Steve and I had met an Ernesto of our own, and he was helpful enough to steer us to some pot, but this Ernesto took George to a live sex show, and it made an impression on the fellow. And, not too long afterward, Mona drank enough rum and Coca-Cola to float a light cruiser, and wound up as the sex slave of El Tigre, who might have been a narco-trafficker if the career category had existed back then. So it’s a story of evolving depravity. And it’s dedicated, you’ll note, to Steve and Letitia. You already know who Steve is. Letitia was a young woman at work in one of the establishments we visited, and he became quite fond of her. But, you know, those summer romances never work out…

Another accompaniment to the week's commuting and another early Lawrence Block book, with a smidge of criminal content and a whole lot more about sex, though because of the era it was written and published nothing very explicit.

George and Mona are married and not especially happy. They love each other, but don't get along in the sack. George strays on occasions for relief and satisfaction. Mona has sampled other men, but with the same dissatisfied result. A trip to Mexico - kill or cure. Either a spark will ignite the flames of passion in them both and they have a happy ever after or they seek a divorce and go their separate ways.

The vacation needless to say does not go as planned....... visas, border crossings, hotel rooms, bars, a tour guide, a sex show, a separation, Mona to a bar and drunkenness that leads to a pick-up and a somewhat life changing encounter. George to the show and some agreeable companionship.

Without spoiling things there's a parting of the ways. Mona's encounter with the cruel El Tigre, an insatiable abuser and sadist, as well as criminal king-pin unlocks her libido and provides her with what she has been missing. George descends into the bottle and ends up in a flea-pit room, scrounging nickels from tourists for rocket-fuel wine, day after day after day. An encounter with a couple of Princetown men sees George reacquainted with Mona, herself the star of the kind of show you might not want to take your mother to. George finds some short-lived rage and purpose to his life.

Best book ever, nope, far from it, but it kept me entertained and amused for a few hours. I was curious to see how it all turned out and while the story and the eventual denouement was slightly implausible who cares. It did what it needed to do.

3 from 5

Read - (listened to) November, 2019
Published - 1960
Page count - 182 pages (4 hrs 20 mins)
Source - Audible download code received from author's assistant
Format - Audible


  1. Well, trust Block for a good sense of place, etc., Col. And even in this early stuff, it strikes me that he does characters well. This isn't my sort of story, but as ever, all credit to him for doing different sorts of books.

    1. Margot I am weirdly in a sense enjoying these, maybe not as much as his later stuff, but I'm still entertained.

  2. I am absolutely loving your gorgeous blog!I love this blog.Thanks for sharing.