RARA-AVIS: One Monday We Killed Them All

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 15 Jun 2003

I read John D. MacDonald's ONE MONDAY WE KILLED THEM ALL (1961) a few days ago. (He had three books and four short stories out in 1960, two and nine in 1961, and three and three in 1962.) It would make a nice pairing with W.L. Heath's VIOLENT SATURDAY: they're both set in the southern US, they both have criminals coming to town and waiting while planning something big, and of course they both have dates in the title.

ONE MONDAY is told by Fenn Hillyer, a police lieutenant in Brook City, a small, decaying city in some southeastern state that has hills and backwoods country folk who don't like being bothered. His loving wife is Meg, and his brother-in-law is Dwight McAran, who just got out of jail after serving time for beating a woman to death. McAran's a violent hood who cares about nobody and will use his sister's affection to get what he wants.

The blurbs on the cover of my late sixties Fawcett reprint make the book out to be different than it is: "In just six days McAran tore apart the quiet world of Brook City. On the seventh he rested, waiting for the carnage that morning would bring." No such thing happens.

The tension in the story builds and builds while Hillyer tries to figure out what McAran is waiting for, and then things really get going when McAran disappears one day and there's a riot at the jail he just left. It all ends in a violent showdown. It's fine, solid JDM stuff, though the wife's behaviour is a bit tiring.

Equally interesting to all that is Brook City: JDM explains how industry failed and unemployment and crime rose, how the politicians and organized crime keep each other in check, class and cultural differences between the rural and urban dwellers, and the sociology of small American cities in the late 1950s.


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

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