Friday, August 27, 2004

Life of a Citizen

After John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, my second-favorite Gold Medal paperback series has to be Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm -- code name, "Eric." As McGee was a realistic take on the P.I. genre, then Helm was the equivalent for the Bondsian "License to Kill" spy. If Bond drove an Aston-Martin, Helm drives a pickup truck (or in one of his more memorable scenes, a Triumph Spitfire that disintegrates during a trip across Scotland). If Bond stayed at the Casino Royale, Helm was more likely to be found at a Budget Inn. Dark, gritty, and cynical, the books were also extremely well-written, with tight, engaging plots and characters.

During the mid-60s, Dean Martin starred in a series of terrible spy parodies so loosely based on Hamilton's series that little remained past the title character and book titles. Keith Allison and Scott Adams have a fascinating article -- FROM DONALD TO DEAN -- comparing the books and movies at Teleport City.

Hamilton, if he's still alive, would be 88 this year. During my research, I discovered this letter from his son, undated, but apparently written circa 2000.

"...
Don has four children, all living, 2 boys and 2 girls. He has 6 grandchildren (5 of whom are mine). Don and I now buy small ships (one at a time), have them renovated and then sell them. We spent a year in Denmark, one year in Poland, g etting the present ship, named "Maagen", worked on. She is now ready for sale, laying in Svendborg, Denmark...

...We moved to Spain [including Don] to get some sun after two years on the Baltic Sea, and now live in Tarifa, the southern most tip of continental Europe. Lots of sun
..."

Sounds like a good life. Hamilton's son notes, "...Don has finished what will almost undoubtedly be his last Matt Helm, as he is now 84 years old and wants to retire from that level of concentration. And it is with great embarrassment that I tell you that, for the life of me, I cannot at this moment remember the damned name of the new book. Oh well. With luck, it should hit the stands within the next 12 months."

The book is apparently titled "The Dominators" and also apparently remains unfinished, at least unpublished.

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