RARA-AVIS: Edward S. Aarons and underrated books

From: Doug Bassett ( dj_bassett@yahoo.com)
Date: 14 Feb 2000

I just finished Aarons's ASSIGNMENT: HELENE and have a couple of others waiting for me -- ASSIGNMENT KARACHI and ASSIGNMENT SULU SEA. I also have DON'T CRY, BELOVED, though that's more of a gamble, since I've never read a non-Durell Aarons before.

Anyhow, every time I read Aarons I'm struck by how underrated the guy is. He didn't have the same amount of talent of his labelmate Donald Hamilton, but he's never less than entertaining. He's particularly good with settings -- you really feel like you're at the places Durell visits. (I read somewhere that Aarons was a pure armchair traveler and never actually saw the places he wrote about. If so, that makes his achievement even more remarkable.) His plots are always lean and fast-moving, his action sequences solid, and I think he's also good with characterizations. He can often introduce a lot of complexity in his secondary characters with just a few scenes.

I think he's underrated partly due to the titles, which are godawful, and partly just because they seem dated. And they are, admittedly -- they're very much of their time. (HELENE, for instance, deals with post-colonial unrest on a make-believe island that I think is supposed to be Indonesia.) But if you can get past the surface details, I think you'll be entertained.

Anyhow, I thought it might be fun if some people would nominate their own picks for "Underrated hb books". By
"underrated" I don't mean "favorite"; I mean those books which you really like, but which the mass of hb fans either don't know about or don't care about. Aarons's Sam Durell series is my pick.


===== Doug Bassett dj_bassett@yahoo.com
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