Thursday, March 8, 2018

Matt Helm #17 - The Retaliators

Donald Hamilton started his fiction writing career in the later 1940s coinciding with the introduction of paperback original novels into the American literary marketplace. After a series of decent stand-alone mystery, western, and adventure novels, he finally found critical and commercial success with his 'Matt Helm' espionage series that spanned for 27 novels released between 1960 and 1993. The character of Matt Helm was poorly-adapted for the screen in a handful of awful James Bond parody films starring Dean Martin. Those films failed to capture anything that was great about the books. The series never got the film adaptation it deserved.

“Matt Helm #17: The Retaliators” (1976) was a mid-series great installment in the adventures of the cynical-realist assassin. This novel followed a string of tepid, over-long, and convoluted Helm installments apparently designed to showcase Donald Hamilton’s nautical knowledge. Thankfully, the series found its legs again in this land-based propulsive action story.

In the novel, Matt Helm and two U.S. government assassin colleagues are on-the-run and suspected of treason after internal investigators discover mysterious large cash deposits into their bank accounts. The action quickly turns to Mexico where the seeds of the plot against Helm and his co-workers were planted. Many double-crosses and compelling characters surface. Blood flows. Matt gets laid. All good stuff.

Although it wasn’t the best book in the series, “The Retaliators” was nominated for an Edgar award for Best Paperback Original - probably as a means for recognizing Donald Hamilton’s lifetime of quality genre fiction. In any case, it was great to see this beloved series regain the high-quality action that Hamilton was capable of delivering. Highly recommended.