Mon 30 Apr 2007
As you probably know, a good many writers who are well-known in other fields other than crime and mystery fiction have, on occasion, produced books which fall into the category of interest to us here — even if you have to wrench the boundaries out of shape a little, à la Art Buchwald, whose passing was covered here earlier this year, as you may recall.
Axel Madsen, who died of cancer a week ago yesterday in California at the age of 76, is one of those authors. His entry in Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, is admittedly slim, but there it is nonetheless, and without the need for a stretch of any kind at all:
MADSEN, AXEL (1930-2007)
* Borderlines (New York: Macmillan, 1975, hc) [Mexico]
It is doubtful that Mr. Madsen made much money on the book, which will be returned to shortly. He began his writing career as a Hollywood film reporter in the 1960s and 70s, according to an obituary from the online edition of the Examiner, becoming famous if not wealthy by foregoing fiction and instead producing an eye-catching array of biographies of Hollywood stars, fashion designers, and other jet setters of the world.
Subjects of his books include Billy Wilder, John Huston, Coco Chanel, Barbara Stanwyck, Andre Malraux, Simone de Beauvoir, and John Jacob Astor, and the list is far from complete. According to the Examiner, who should know, “his most popular works, however, were salacious Hollywood fare such as Gloria and Joe: The Star-Crossed Love Affair of Gloria Swanson and Joe Kennedy in 1988 and The Sewing Circle: Female Stars Who Loved Other Women in 1995.”
It was Al Hubin who spotted Mr. Madsen as the author of Borderlines, the book largely taking place in Mexico. One webpage entitled Archaeology in Fiction Bibliography calls it a novel of stela smuggling.
Strangely enough, googling on the phrase “stela smuggling” brings up only the site already cited. It must not be a very common occupation, it is to be presumed, but it is still somewhat surprising that the profession has not been taken up more widely, considering that a stela is — among other possibilities — a “Maya stone monolith, frequently engraved with hieroglyphs.”
One online bookseller offering the book for sale describes it thusly: “A story of international smuggling for the highest of stakes: power and reputation. It is a fast-paced suspense novel that could be taken from today’s headlines – and one that ends with a cynical plot twist.” Right down our alley.
Borrowing again from the article in the Examiner: “Born in 1930 in Copenhagen to a Danish father and French mother, [Axel Madsen] grew up in Paris and worked for the New York Herald Tribune in the early 1950s.
“Following a stint with United Press International in Canada, he headed to Hollywood in the 1960s. There, he did publicity for movie studios and worked as freelance correspondent for various publications before dedicating himself full time to writing books.”
[UPDATE] 05-01-07. Excerpted from an email from Victor Berch, who also pointed out several typos, since fixed:
“Just read your obit notice on Axel Madsen. Am not sure whether you want to include his book: Unisave: Ace Books, [Feb] 1980. It is s-f, but deals with killing off the elderly population (what greater crime??).”
From the blurb on the cover: “In a dangerously overpopulated world the first line of defense has been breached. The birth quota had been a civilized measure: each adult had the right to replace himself with one child. Couples with two children reported to their local population care centres and were quietly restricted. But this had not stabilized the worlds population at 24 billion. Now, a harder less ‘civilized’ choice has to be made. The proposition — Geriatric Bingo — death for 1 in 3 amongst ‘eligibles’ in a standing room only world.”