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Donald Hamilton, 1916-2006

Monday, April 02, 2007
Earlier today, Steve Lewis of Mystery*File reported that author Donald Hamilton died late last year, November 20th to be exact. Hamilton was best known as the creator of secret agent Matt Helm, who dispatched the enemies of America in a series that stretched over thirty years. Charles Ardai, whose Hard Case Crime recently reprinted Hamilton's Night Walker, has now confirmed the news.

I've read at least a couple of Hamilton's books just in the months since his death. His thrillers were told in a straightforward style that kept you turning the pages right until the end. Too bad that the Matt Helm movies were reworked as vehicles for sodden playboy Dean Martin. Any resemblance to the rugged outdoorsmen of the novels is strictly accidental.

These days the Helm books seem dated and rather chauvanistic (females smitten by the rough-hewn Helm invariably call him "Darling"), but they still have style, humor, and the power to entertain, though not the sophistication of, say, Len Deighton. I also suspect that the Helm series, along with John D. Macdonald's Travis McGee, was a large part of the inspiration for the "men's adventure" series that sold so well during the 70s and 80s.

As I noted upon Richard S. Prather's death, it seems like so many giants of the mystery genre have passed on lately. Let's hope that Donald Hamilton is noted among their ranks.

posted by Graham Powell at 11:10 AM