RARA-AVIS: _Murderer's Row_

William Denton (buff@vex.net)
Thu, 4 Feb 1999 04:34:38 -0500 (EST) I was glad to see the final burst of discussion about the Chandler book.
What do people have to say about our selection for this month, the fifth
Matt Helm book?

I've read the four previous books and I like them all a lot. They're
tightly written, have pretty exciting stories and Helm gets the job done.
As someone else remarked, it's really something how much action they could
pack into a 150-page Gold Medal book. I also like to see Donald Hamilton
throw in things about Scandinavia, or photography, or sailing, where he
either knows what he's talking about or knows how to bluff it.

Now, just what is it that makes these hardboiled? Eddie Duggan and
someone else pointed out two things that make the hardboiled what it is:
institutionalised social corruption and a private eye/cop investigating a
crime. These don't form a complete definition, but they do help.

The Helm books feature neither: they concern a professional hit man going
after foreign agents and killing them. Helm is tough, there's no denying
that, and he cracks wise and is good with banter. He's also popular with
the ladies and manages to always meeet attractive ones. These alone don't
make a story hardboiled. There are lots of action series out there that
are bad copies of the Helm series, and there's nothing remotely 'boiled
about them. What does _Murderer's Row_ have in common with _The Drowning
Pool_, or _A Rage in Harlem_ or even _I Was Dora Suarez_?

Perhaps if someone can explain this to me, it would turn up more
checkpoints for the test of hardboiledness. I can see the Helm books have
the right atmosphere about them, but so does a lot of stuff. Maybe I'm
just being too picky.


William Denton                       <URL:http://www.vex.net/~buff/>
Toronto, Ontario, Canada             Caveat lector.

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