The Lusting Drive, by Ovid Demaris (Gold Medal, 1961).
Illustration by Ernest Chiriacka, aka Darcy.
It was only last November when I first wrote on this page about Ovid Demaris (1919-1998), an American journalist turned novelist who, over an almost 40-year career, penned both crime novels and true-crime books. I hadn’t expected to return to his oeuvre quite this soon, but the illustration showcased above has been calling out for attention ever since, and today my defenses broke down.
The Lusting Drive was published in 1958 as a Fawcett hardcover release; it took three years more for the Gold Medal line to give it a paperback second life. According to a May 11, 1958, New York Times review by Anthony Boucher, the tale “deals with fairly ordinary people in a small Idaho town who are surprisingly less believable than Ovid Demaris’ usual hoods and sharpies. The story-line, too, is more simple and foreseeable; but there are glints of his old narrative power—plus copious doses of sex. That commodity, which comes and goes in our profession, seems to be back in style at the moment …”
Frustratingly, the Web appears to offer little more in the way of information about this slender work. The only other thing I could dig up was a scan of the back cover (left), on which is offered this provocative hint at The Lusting Drive’s contents:
He was a man on fire.Hmm. It’s a bit odd that so much attention should be paid to the geography of this brute’s brow. But perhaps that’s integral to the plot, and I—having not read The Lusting Drive—just don’t realize it. Artist Ernest Chiriacka, who painted the paperback façade shown above, didn’t choose to emphasize the man’s forehead in his painting, either, though he does beautifully capture a frightening potential rape scene such as that described on the back.
He never stopped once. His hands were everywhere and his lips were suffocating her. She felt her clothes tear and his big strong hands were mauling and brutal. She wrenched herself free.
“I’ll scream,” she shouted. “I’ll scream and they’ll come and get you!” Her eyes were wild with fear as she watched him stand still for only a moment, his hands at his sides, breathing hard, his lips curled over his white teeth and his long hair disheveled over his smooth, smooth forehead.
Click on either image here for an enlargement.