Camp Follower by Florenz Branch. Phoenix Books (1942), 256 pp.
Carol Cramer, hoping to marry her soldier-fiancé, has made a surprise cross-country trip to Los Angeles. But she gets the surprise: He has married someone else. Carol has no money, no job prospects, and is about to lose her crummy apartment. At first, her good-looking neighbor, Jeff Wayne, thinks she’s working some kind of sex scam. When he learns she just has trouble keeping her clothes on, he has an idea. Jeff’s going to San Diego to be inducted. She could move there too and they could spend his off-duty time together. Carol agrees to the plan, without quite realizing that men in San Diego will also find her attractive.
This novel falls short as an exploration of love on the homefront, but it still has its virtues. Carol Cramer lacks the sophistication of the typical Stonebraker protagonist. She can’t make plans; she has no ability to read men; and she gets into needless trouble. Although jobs in defense plants receive mention on several occasions, the author implausibly turns Carol into a maid for a family of irritating rich folks. Only in the last hundred pages does the war take center stage. Recruits suffer fear and loneliness, while their behavior comes under the scrutiny of local do-gooders. As literature, the novel has little to recommend it. As reportage, however, it still delivers (as it did in 1942) a sense of wartime America.