RARA-AVIS: Gold Medal: Matt Helm #8

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 21 Aug 2002

It's been a while since I read a Matt Helm book, so Gold Medal month makes a good chance to get back to working my way through them. Today I read the eighth in the series, THE RAVAGERS (1964, #d1673).

Canadians on the list, especially those east of Alberta, will have a special interest in this one: it starts in Saskatchewan and ends in Nova Scotia. Matt Helm vists Brandon and Montreal, drives over the north shore of Lake Superior, and never really has anything nice to say about Canadians. I think Donald Hamilton once got stuck around some annoying drivers on the Trans-Canada and wanted to get back at us.

The story's an interesting one: a woman is planning to go to Nova Scotia to turn some secret papers over to Russians on a boat. Helm's boss Mac tells him his job is to make sure she gets through. The papers are phony. The problem is that other US government agencies don't know they're fake, and they're going to try to stop her. She, her daughter and Helm drive across the country, dealing with spies and escaped prisoners, and there are lots of twists and turns as Helm tries to make sure she makes it, which is the opposite of his usual assignment. There's a sense of non-stop motion to the book: they only stop to sleep at night and even then the action doesn't flag.

We've talked about Helm's professionalism, and it's important in this book. In one tense situation he holds back from killing a fellow American agent, and that causes trouble. Later Mac lectures him, and at the end the enemy agent appeals to his ruthlessness, knowing that he's as tough and cold as they come.

The other three Gold Medals I've read this month were all 160 pages long, which is five 32-page signatures. This was 144 pages, which would be 4 x 32 + 16. "144 pages of tight, fast action," is how I described Gold Medals to a friend, and this is one of those.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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