Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Robert Colby: The Captain Must Die

Thanks to Kindle and Prologue Books, I was finally able to read this magnificent crime paperback by Robert Colby that has been getting praise from the likes of Ed Gorman for some years now. I've earlier read some very good short stories by Colby and his paperback novel Beautiful but Bad (Monarch 1962), but this one has eluded me. Not anymore, of which I'm very glad.

The Captain Must Die (Gold Medal 1959) is one of those late fifties to early sixties noir paperbacks that tell about paranoia, broken dreams and people's hatred towards each other. This is firmly set in the world of well-being suburbs and tells about what's going behind the happy facade. This is also about the effects of war and the frustration that it breeds. Colby weaves his plot smoothly, albeit he has also fragmented it in a way that seems way ahead of its time - at least for a 50-year old crime paperback! Some scenes are very exciting and suspenseful. The ending may a be a bit too happy, though. (The cover lets us suppose it's a war novel. It's not - the war is in the background all the time.)

Here's Cullen Callagher on Colby's novel, and here's Ed Gorman, calling it a masterpiece. Here's Peter Enfantino's essay on Colby. Load the novel here. (And congrats to Prologue Books for doing this. There were some formatting and scanning errors in the Kindle version, but not so many that I'd actually complain.)

More Forgotten Books here.

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