A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini:

EDWARD S. AARONS – Assignment-Angelina.

Gold Medal #749, paperback original; 1st printing, March 1958.


   Like many writers from the period 1920-50, Edward S. Aarons began his career in the pulp magazines. He also wrote three mystery novels in the late Thirties, and several more in the late Forties. But it wasn’t until the paperback original boom of the early 1950s that he achieved major success and recognition, with his “Assignment” series of espionage novels featuring the action-packed adventures of CIA agent Sam Durrell.

   Along with exotic locales across the globe, violence is the main ingredient of the Durrell series; a great deal of blood is spilled in a great many different ways, both by Durrell and the various villains he encounters. Assignment-Angelina is typical.

   It begins (rather irresistibly) with the coldblooded murders of four men in four different sections of the country: a filling-station owner in, Arizona, a building contractor in Indiana, an advertising copywriter in New York, and a fisherman in Louisiana.


   We know from the first who is responsible — a trio named Mark, Corbin, and Slago — but we don’t know why. Durrell’s search for the answer leads him to a beautiful woman named Angelina, who may or may not be an ally, and into the usual muddle of James Bondian political intrigue.

   It also leads him from Washington to the bayous of Louisiana (where Durrell is right at home; he is part Cajun) to New York City and ultimately to a mountaintop in the rugged Poconos where the slam-bang finale takes place.

   Despite all the violence and melodrama, this and other Durrell novels are compulsive reading. Aarons, was an accomplished writer, with excellent descriptive abilities (particularly in depicting the various locales of his stories) and an expert sense of narrative pacing.


   A total of forty Sam Durrell books were produced by Aarons from 1955 to 1975, among the more noteworthy of which are Assignment to Disaster (1955), Assignment Stella Marni (1957), Assignment-School for Spies (1966), and Assignment-Sumatra (1974).

   After his death in 1975, a number of additional Durrell novels appeared by Will B. Aarons, said to be his son. Two of Aarons’s non-series books, Escape to Love (1952) and Girl on the Run (1954), are good examples of the paperback-original suspense novels of the early 1950s. A 1948 hardcover, Nightmare, is notable for its high level of tension and drama.

   Aarons also published numerous novels under the pseudonym of Edward Ronns, among them Terror in the Town (1947) Gift of Death (1948), and Catspaw Ordeal (1950); most these were later reprinted in paperback under his own name.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

Editorial Comment: On the primary Mystery*File website there is a long comprehensive overview of the “Assignment” series by Doug Bassett. Following the article is a long list of all the books in the series, plus a full description of the investigation that took place several years ago which finally discovered the true identity of Will B. Aarons. (Follow the link provided.)

   Two other books in the Sam Durrell series previously been reviewed on this blog are:

       Assignment Stella Marni.

       Assignment Zoraya