You would imagine that any author who published more than forty novels in a career that spanned nearly a half-century would be best known today as a writer of fiction. But in the case of Howard Hunt (1918-2007) you would be wrong. Long after his novels are forgotten - - and most of them are already forgotten - - he will be remembered for his role in the Watergate burglary. Hunt, incidentally, throws in a few passages showing disillusionment with postwar America in Lovers Are Losers but stays away from any reference to communists and McCarthyism.
Lovers Are Losers by Howard Hunt. Fawcett Gold Medal (1953), 160 pp.
Engineer Chris Powell arrives in Los Angeles after two years in the remote countryside of Bolivia. He has come at the request of Dick Barden, once his college roommate, now an ineffectual drunk living off the family money and hoping to marry movie star Angela Carling. Dick wants help straightening out his teenage sister, Diana, who has gotten involved with a friend of her stepmother, sometime actor Laszlo Kardos. Chris agrees. In breaking up a sexual encounter between the two, he is stunned by Diana’s unclothed beauty. He soon learns that Diana, to keep embarrassing pictures from becoming public, has been paying large sums to a charity run by her stepmother’s lawyer, Roscoe Follins. Chris decides to take on all of Dick and Diana’s adversaries.
This is a fairly successful entry into the sub-genre of tough-guy novels in which the protagonist is not a professional crime-fighter. Chris Powell is hard boiled - - and also loyal, energetic, determined, and a bit perplexed by the behavior of rich Angelinos. He is not quite a convincing lover, however, so his relentless pursuit of everyone threatening Diana seems unmotivated. None of the characters, including Chris and Diana, is likeable or especially interesting. Some of their behavior, which might have been shocking in 1953, hardly seems worth mentioning today. But the story moves along quickly and should hold the attention of fans of noir fiction.