DOUGLAS RUTHERFORD – Kick Start. Walker, US, hardcover. 1973; Ballantine, pb, 1976. UK editions: Collins Crime Club, hc, 1973; Fontana, pb, 1975.

   The hero of this book is really not a person; it’s a motorcycle, a Norton Commando to be precise. And while reading the story isn’t as much fun as being able to ride as well as the protagonist does, it’s a close second.

   Kroll commits a crime, gets caught, and is recruited to penetrate an area ravaged by earthquake, accessible only to a skilled biker. He narrowly gets to his destination (a particularly good scene has him crossing a cracking dam), and then things get worse (the dam breaks; the race in front of the flood waters is another high point).

   One of the most entertaining things about the book, though, is the large number of flaws in the plot — or what appear to be flaws. The reader keeps thinking that the author is doing a really sloppy job, right up until the end, when suddenly the flaws are shown to be in Kroll’s interpretation of events.

   He’s been wrong all along; the reader has been right. And the bitterly ironic ending somehow seems highly appropriate.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 3, May-June 1979.


Editorial Comment:  I regret to say that I have not turned up a cover image of the Ballantine paperback, but these two should easily do.

   Rutherford, whose full name was James Douglas Rutherford McConnell, 1915-1988, has a total of 25 titles in the Revised Crime Fiction IV, most of them dealing with motorcycles or motorcar racing (e.g., A Shriek of Tyres (1958), The Gunshot Grand Prix (1972) and Rally to the Death (1974)).

   Of more immediate significance, though, is that under the pen name Paul Temple, he co-authored two novels in that series with Francis Durbridge. See the preceding post.