Some books just have great titles. When I learned that Kitten with a Whip was set in California, I immediately got on the internet to find a copy. It turned out that the novel was written by the highly successful San Diego writing team of Robert Wade and Bill Miller. They produced 28 novels, often of the hardboiled variety, from 1946 to 1959 and five more before Miller died in 1961. Apparently, nearly all have California settings. Wade, incidentally, still lives in San Diego and still does some writing.
Kitten with a Whip by Wade Miller. Fawcett Gold Medal (1959), 174 pp.
David Patton, an aircraft stress engineer, is baching it for a few days while his wife and daughter are out of town. He wakes up Saturday morning to find an intruder in his suburban San Diego home. She's Jody Drew, who has just escaped from juvenile detention and is looking for an outfit to replace her prison nightgown. She tells him of her hard life. He decides to help by buying her some new clothes and dropping her at the bus stop. But her sexy figure and farewell kiss make him realize his interest in her is not entirely altrustic. After visiting some friends, he returns home and is shocked to find Jody in the kitchen. His weekend with her is just beginning
This story has all the makings of a male fantasy: wife leaves town, young but experienced babe shows up to enliven suburban doldrums. But this is more of a cautionary tale. Young women, the story tells men over thirty, can cause a lot of trouble if you don't know how to treat them. And David's problem here is that he can't find the proper attitude toward Jody so he can't take control of the situation. He's trusting then suspicious, sympathetic then condescending, attracted then repelled. Her moods change too, and, not surprisingly, he can't figure out what she's up to from one moment to the next. The authors want to show Jody as more than mercurial and mischievous; they want her to be dangerous. But they don't quite succeed in portraying her that way. So while the story progresses logically, the ending seems unjustified by what's gone before. Even so, the novel offers an entertaining read.