|Aug 1 2023
You know, you spend a lot of time looking in the mirror considering I'm dating you for your money.
Above: an uncredited cover of a femme fatale and her preening man painted for Norman Bligh's 1950 novel Waterfront Hotel, about a woman named Brenda Seton who lives in a Maine cannery town and whose only ambition is to marry rich and move from the Flats to the Hill. Or perhaps not even marry. The owner of the cannery wants her for a mistress and is willing to pay in cash, house, and stock. Brenda might just accept the offer if she can't have her true love, local banker Bob Blaine, but because she's grasping, manipulative, and fake you know her plan will go pear-shaped. Just as crime doesn't usually pay in 1950s novels, neither does sex. It often—as in this case—leads to retribution from male characters via predictable means.
But there's one aspect of the book that isn't predictable—it has a couple of bizarre fights. Brenda's main rival Rhoda, who can throw knives with deadly effect, attacks Brenda, strips her naked, and makes her walk home through a driving rainstorm. Brenda gets her revenge during a fight in the cannery in which she disarms Rhoda, pins her prone, and slices her from neck to ass with her own knife. Cannery women—they'll cut a bitch. Is the book good? No. We think only a man would write a woman character who's forgiving about being raped, which happens to poor Brenda. Also, we never understood why her preferred epithet, uttered at least twenty times, was: Let him die! But we'll say this—Bligh conceived something a bit unusual here.