Brian Garfield died on December 29, 2018 at the age of 79, but he left behind a legacy of important work in the American action-adventure fiction cannon. His obituaries primarily focused upon the fact that he wrote “Death Wish” and “Hopscotch,” but he also authored several great westerns as well as many paperback originals that never received the Hollywood treatment.
After learning of his death, I felt moved to read one of his 70 novels, and I chose 1975’s “Target Manhattan,” which was originally released under the pseudonym Drew Mallory. Today, the short book is available from Mysterious Press under Garfield’s own name, and it’s well worth your time.
The entirety of “Target Manhattan” is written in the form of transcripts from interviews conducted by a special commission established by the New York Civil Defense Emergency Control Board in the aftermath of a significant “disaster” in New York City. The reader is left to gain an understanding of the scope of the tragedy and the manner the events unfolded from the contents of the formal testimony comprising the book. It’s a brave literary approach that would have failed in the hands of a lesser author.
The incident in question - as depicted on the original Ballentine paperback cover art - involves a lunatic pilot in a WW2-era bomber plane circling Manhattan and threatening to bomb the city unless he receives a $5 million ransom. The scheme to get away with the dough is rather brilliant until he runs up against some pretty clever civil servants who hatch their own plan to stop him.
Beyond that, telling you any more about what happens would be book reviewer malpractice. However, I’m comfortable saying that this book is an unheralded classic of the suspense genre - a real, old-school, high-stakes disaster movie on paper. The government response sequences addressing this exigent threat reminded me a lot of the original “Independence Day” movie, and the after-the-fact interview format of the novel reminded me of Max Brooks’ “World War Z” novel. Perhaps the aircraft spec talk was a bit much for me as a layman, but it never distracted from the story.
Brian Garfield, you are missed - but your work lives on forever. And this one comes highly recommended.
Buy a copy of the book HERE