Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Donald Hamilton dead


Spy writer Donald Hamilton has died - and already in last November! You would think that the death of a writer of Hamilton's caliber would've been noticed by media, but no. He hadn't published anything new for 15 years - if my memory serves me right -, but he was a best-selling author in the sixties and seventies with his Matt Helm books. Hard Case Crime reprinted recently his standalone thriller from the fifties called The Night Walker, which should at least have merited more obits.

I've never been much of a spy thriller fan, but Hamilton's Matt Helms are so fast-paced and tough that I'm willing to forget that, at least when it comes to the very first books in the series, especially the first, Death of a Citizen (1960), and the second, The Removers (1961). The books have had a lasting influence on me: Matt Helm says in one of the books (maybe he says it in all of them) that if you come into a room and catch the enemy by surprise, shoot him. Don't talk, just shoot. I remember this everytime whenever there's a scene in a movie or a book in which someone surprises an enemy and even though they have guns in their hands and they aim to kill the enemy, they start talking and telling about how they are going to kill the guy.

Aside from his spy thrillers, Hamilton wrote top-notch westerns. The best to me was The Man from Santa Clara (1960). His westerns are tough, fast-paced and intelligent.

Here's an overview of his works and here's Wikipedia. Here's a Finnish site, in English. John Fraser on Hamilton at Mystery*File. Has anyone ever seen the sole film Hamilton scripted in 1957? I seem to remember that Matt Helm talks about his short tenure in Hollywood in the beginning of Death of a Citizen. Imdb.com also says that the film version of Death of a Citizen is at works.
By the way, the cover above (presumably by Barye Phillips) was used in Finland to accompany a Shell Scott novel by Richard S. Prather, another paperback legend died recently.

3 comments:

Anders E said...

Hi Juri.

Just a (very) belated comment, adding that Hamilton's passing has not been mentioned at all in Sweden either - and this is where was from and where he spent his last few years. But nope, not a single word. Not even in Uppsala, where he was born (and where I live). Zero. Zilch. Nada!

Anonymous said...

Weird, truly weird.
juri

Anders E said...

The latest issue of Swedish crime fiction fanzine Jury carried a nice obituary. But that's it, I'm afraid.