Re: RARA-AVIS: Bill's Definition, last of Helm, F Brown, Ellroy show

M-T (
Sun, 28 Feb 1999 23:19:44 -0500 Picking up on Doug Levin's post on Matt Helm: I read _The Wrecking Crew_
and have a few thoughts to add. I hadn't read a Helm book for a while,
so this felt both like an informed first reading and like unexpectedly
meeting an old flame. I felt both eager and uneasy. The uneasiness did
not pass but grew as I read on.

First, a comment on Helm himself. Spiritually, he seems to be an empty
vessel, despite his telling us about his family and his background. His
attitude towards Lou, the photographer's wife in Murderer's Row, is
strikingly ambiguous. I got the impression that Helm didn't quite know
who he was and changed like a chameleon depending on circumstances. He
strikes me as an anti-romantic hero par excellence. He is not admirable
except as a professional. He does not care too much about people, and
only a little more about himself. Whatever he reveals, it's only in the
course of the action.

Second, Donald Hamilton's matter-of-fact, ice-cold style suits the
setting in Sweden perfectly. While the book bears some traces of quick
writing, it does not lose vigor because of this fact.

Third, and in keeping with the definitional mania that we often fall
into, I would say that _The Wrecking Crew_ is about 52% noir, 37%
hardboiled, and 11% western. It's a good mix that scientifically
explains why the Helm series is so enduring.


# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# The web pages for the list are at