RARA-AVIS: I blame Dean Martin

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 19 Apr 2004

I started reading Ian Fleming's James Bond after my father took me to see Thunderball (with the REAL James Bond, Sean Connery), my first
"grown up" movie. I got on a spy kick -- Bond, The Men and Girl from UNCLE, Maxwell Smart, even Robert Goulet in the TV show Blue Light. Although I loved James Coburn's two Flint movies (wanted to be Flint even more than I wanted to be Bond), which worked as both spy films and spoofs of the same, I thought the one Dean Martin/Matt Helm film I saw was ridiculous (Ambushers? whichever was the first). I couldn't believe it was really popular enough to merit a sequel.

Anyway, that movie led to a strong aversion to Matt Helm which carried ove to the books, which I never even considered picking up. Damn, Dean Martin! This list got me to pick up Death of a Citizen. Thank you. Since then, I've read a few Helms, plus Line of Fire (great assassin book) and now, for Southwest month, Assassins Have Starry Eyes. Richard Moore has recently written very well about this book and I have little to add to his recommendation, but here are a few thoughts:

First of all, I agree with Richard that it's a horrible retitling (not that the original, Assignment: Murder, was much better).

One thing that really struck me was how much plot there is in these relatively thin old Gold Medals. The plots of most 300+ page books of today can be summed up in one or two sentences, reduced to the pitch for the movie adaptation. So much happens in this book that it would be hard to boil it down any more than the 176 pages it is.

Finally, Donald Hamilton gives a great sense of place in this book. He does a great job of showing you the southwest through the eyes of a transplanted easterner. He makes a particular point of having his narrator point out the things that surprised him when he moved out there, like snow on cactus. However, even this description serves a purpose, since so much of this book takes place outside the city and the elements play a large role (not to mention embodying the debate in the book over nature and scientists playing with it).

I have yet to go wrong with a Hamilton book I've read. Thanks for turning me on to him. And, again, damn Dean Martin!


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