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November 15, 2010

Book Review: The Sexecutives & For Love or Money by Ed Wood, Jr.

The Sexecutives, from the front cover of the novel, is, “The incredible SEXploits of a gang of sex spies who used grotesque measures to blackmail their victims.” Not to be confused with The Sexecutives published in 1963 by Mark Archer, Wood’s book is a series of vignettes perpetrated by the insane gang of sex-for-hire spies. The police question the main character, Dan Harding, relating to him all of these happenings, and asking for his assistance in testifying against Irene, the leader of the group, and her employers.

Buy The Sexecutives Vintage Paperback!

Harding insists that nothing like this has ever happened to him and he is a happily married man. Of course, he says this throughout the entire book, even after hearing how these women have stolen secrets from other businessmen. Harding does finally admit to buying one of the “secretaries” and agrees to testify against them. The majority of the book is made up of vignettes of how the group has screwed (both figuratively and literally) businessmen and government agents out of secrets and money. This is done in many different ways. For instance, the simplest way is to track your quarry to a local bar where he is meeting with other executives. Make sure he notices you and takes you back to the motel room he has rented indefinitely for just such an occasion. Seduce him, have turbulent sex so exhausting that he falls immediately asleep, and then steal his papers or photograph them or listen to him as he talks in his sleep. Industrial espionage has never been so much fun.

Irene Longstreet, the proprietor of the temporary secretaries office was an old hand at the prostitution business. She seems to have come straight from a Wood nudie. She must not have read Hollywood Rat Race like other Wood characters because, “She had tried for the movies… Her talent, in that respect, had not been up to studio standards. Then after a few minor parts in low-budget epics, in which she was required to remove her clothing, she gave up the entire scene.” 

There was hope for Longstreet, though, since, “From the time she was old enough to grasp the meaning of the monetary, she realized that there were no
cash drawers in the casket.” Naturally (for a Wood character), she turned to prostitution. Being a small business owner, she saw the opportunity in aligning herself with a shady businessman whose specialty was industrial espionage. The rest is infamy.

Dan Harding, that rascally fellow, had refused to crack for the entirety of the novel until the detective candidly pointed out that he was on film in a bizarre LSD, body painting rendezvous with an operative of Irene Longstreet. Not even the scandal could turn Harding from his moral obligation:

With the cooperation of business man Dan Harding, the entire gang of spy blackmailers were rounded up. The tapes and pictures were easy to locate, because as soon as one was locked up another would talk simply to save their own skins. The psychedelic paintings on the film were set aside, but when Dan Harding said he would go all the way, that was exactly what he meant… One gang is gone! But there are so many more all over the world and there will always be those who will keep their mouth shut and go on paying and paying…and sometimes paying with their lives… It would seem a pretty high price to pay for a few hours of stolen pleasures on the good ship JOLLY POP!

I have no idea what the good ship JOLLY POP is, or why it is capitalized. Unless, of course, the good ship JOLLY POP is yet another clever Wood-euphemism for a penis. That’s it! Penises are good ship JOLLY POPs! That would make vaginas, LOVE CANOES. JOLLY POPS don’t fit in LOVE CANOES but that isn’t the point, the point is that nautical terms and ship names are viable alter egos for the genitalia of all species of animals that have two different sexes! Mystery solved… moving on.

The film rights to The Sexecutives were purchased by Don A. Davis and turned into a film, with a screenplay by Wood, called For Love or Money. The film itself is nothing too special. Dan Harding is kept, but the ring of blackmailers is anonymous…no Irene Longstreet, no single, devious businessmen. Suffice it to say that Wood could make even sex boring.

In accordance with a popular concept of the time, Olympia Press created a Fotoreader for the film. This consisted of an abbreviated text of the film (written in narrative format) coupled with stills of the film on opposite pages to illustrate the story. The text of The Sexecutives was edited to fit in this format and the book was released as For Love or Money as an Olympic Fotoreader.

Finding The Sexecutives is fairly common. Wood used the name David L. Westermier, which isn’t a clever reworking of a name like his other pseudonyms (Woodrow Edwards, Ann Gora, etc.). Copies of The Sexecutives trade for around $40. Be wary of the smut novel by Mark Archer of the same name. It was published 5 years earlier and has nothing to do with the Wood novel. Finding copies of the For Love or Money Fotoreader is more difficult. Expect to pay in the area of $125 - $150. There were a series of Fotoreaders, including The Acid Eaters, which has made them a collectible item. Wood’s name only adds to the value.

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