The Deadly Desire by Robert Colby. Fawcett Gold Medal (1959), 144 pp.
Hoping for some relaxation at the beach, various folks in their twenties and thirties take up short-term residence in a small Malibu apartment building. The group includes Stan Royce, a handsome TV producer; Rod Lindquist, a successful businessman, and his chubby but once pretty wife, Muriel; two fun-loving boat builders, Jay Humphrey and Bruce Erickson, who have been buddies since the Korean War; and Laura Bishop, a virginal music teacher who wishes she could loosen up. Everyone’s attention quickly turns to the remaining resident, voluptuous Star Osborne, who’s willing to do more than just flaunt her sex appeal. She sleeps with Stan, who responds with dread and abhorrence. Others in the group, however, have different reactions as Star’s provocative behavior continues.
This story makes sense only if readers believe that Star could be a sort of daytime succubus, able to destroy a man’s will power and upset his life through sexual energy alone. When she pre-enacts the famous leg-crossing scene from Basic Instinct, they won’t doubt she’s a demon. If, on the other hand, readers think Star’s a girl who just wants to have fun, they’ll expect the men themselves to take responsibility for their actions. Colby might have added a dash of satire or irony to the narrative, which moves around from character to character. But instead he remains deadly serious. When he offers a detailed explanation for Star’s behavior at the end of the book, he only weakens the story. Readers who accept the premise might enjoy the novel; others will probably find it a trifle overwrought.