RARA-AVIS: Gold Medal: The Avenger

From: James Reasoner ( james53@flash.net)
Date: 12 Aug 2002

THE AVENGER, Matthew Blood, 1952

Considering that "Matthew Blood" was really Davis Dresser and Ryerson Johnson and that the protagonist of this book is named Morgan Wayne, I really expected a variation on Dresser's Michael Shayne. What I got was something completely different. Instead of a PI, Morgan Wayne is solidly in the line of lone vigilantes that stretches from Race Williams and Richard Wentworth down to Mike Hammer and Mack Bolan. The authors drop us down in the middle of the plot and never really slow down long enough to explain things, expecting the reader to catch up as the plot careens along. After a while, it becomes clear that Wayne--who is either a gangster himself, some sort of government agent, or something else entirely--is trying to break up the drug traffic in New York, but some of the questions raised about his real identity and background are never answered.

This is a hard book for me to evaluate. There's a lot of that sappy Fifties love talk that's been brought up before in the discussion of Gold Medals, a good bit of psychobabble, some lurid talk about drugs that's about on the level of "Reefer Madness", and some really crude writing. The ending is sort of a letdown, too. Having said all that (you guessed it), I liked the book. I have a real fondness for books in which a lot happens in a short amount of time, and that's certainly true here. There's one more Matthew Blood book, and I plan to read it, too.

Best, James

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