JOHN JAKES – A Night for Treason. Charter; reprint paperback, circa 1980. Hardcover edition, Mystery House (Bouregy & Curl), 1956. Other paperback editions: Ace Double D-209, 1957; Tor/Pinnacle, 1981.

JOHN JAKES Night of Treason

   In the mid-70s, around the time of the American Bicentennial, John Jakes struck a pan of gold and became famous (perhaps even wealthy) for his Kent Family Chronicles and other works of early colonial and frontier America.

   Before then he was only a journeyman author, writing science fiction and fantasy (Brak the Barbarian, among others), mysteries (the Johnny Havoc series, among still more others) and generally speaking, whatever would sell.

   This is clearly one of his early efforts, and the only way it was reprinted some 25 years later is that someone was convinced that his name on a book would sell the book. In theory at least. It doesn’t turn up in used book stores all that often, and I don’t think it’s because it’s being held onto by scores of discriminating collectors.

JOHN JAKES Night of Treason

   Quoting from the front cover: “G-Man Max Ryan’s assignment is to infiltrate the sinister European Combine in this vintage espionage thriller,” and from the first page on you know it’s the purest sort of pulp fiction writing at its finest. By which I definitely do not mean Bad, but on the other hand, it’s not necessarily a compliment, either:

    “Max Ryan drained the last of his coffee and placed the cup on the counter. His palms had started to sweat. He would have to do it soon, now… Max followed Gib out of the small roadside diner. The semi-trailer hulked like a giant animal on the shoulder of the turnpike. The sky was dark and cold with a pre-dawn chill. Few automobiles moved on the long stretch of highway, far apart.”

JOHN JAKES Night of Treason

   Even though the events are intended to be earth-shattering, the scope is strictly small scale, constricted in budget in the same way the old black-and-white second features at the movies were, back in the 50s.

   A lot of the early action takes place in and around the Coco Club, for example, with a secret mastermind known only by his voice over the telephone orchestrating the nefarious criminal activities of the two or three henchmen he has under his control.

   There is a surprise in store for Max on page 163, and it stunned me as well, at least at first. Given a chance to sit back down and think about it, my second reaction was probably closer to disbelief. You might respond the same way, but on the other hand, now that I’ve read the book and told you about it, think of it this way: you might not need to.

— March 2003

[UPDATE] 06-12-09.   Up until getting this review ready to be posted, I was blissfully unaware of the other two paperback editions of this book. I should have remembered that it once was half an Ace Double, since I’ve been collecting them for over 40 years, but for some reason I can’t explain, I didn’t. Shame on me.