Last week I finished reading the third of the Matt Helm novels -The Removers - by Donald Hamilton. I would have probably gotten to it sooner except that it became a very difficult book to locate in my usual haunts. Luckily the Internet provides - thank you Christopher Mills! About two years ago I finally decided to read the Helm novels because I stumbled across the first one in a used book store and was reminded that they exist. That novel, Death of a Citizen, turned out to be far better than I thought it was going to be and I immediately rushed to the second one which was just as good, if not better. At this point that I realized maybe I needed to revisit the series of Matt Helm film adaptations made in the mid 60's starring Dean Martin.
That proved to be a very mixed bag. I still haven't rewatched or maybe even watched the 3rd and 4th of that sad, misbegotten series of semi-comedic spy capers. I'm sure I will eventually but I'm just not in a big rush.
But the books, the books are turning out to be fantastic. I know that in general they were looked upon at the time as kind of the American answer to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and there's something to that. I find them just as exciting, just as well written and just as engrossing as the in Fleming Bond novels - sometimes even more so.
Hamilton's prose style is spare, precise and his
sense of pacing is excellent. He has a facility for sketching characters very
quickly but effectively and setting up personalities and conflicts in gripping ways.
If you've never read these novels and you enjoy adventure fiction allow me to
highly recommend them. I cannot wait to read more in the series and I'm kind of
surprised to see how quickly Hamilton
was turning these out. They are short novels but these first three came in the
rush of about 18 months if I'm reading publication dates correctly. Amazing!