IT’S ABOUT CRIME, by Marvin Lachman

STANLEY SHAPIRO A Time to Remember

STANLEY SHAPIRO – A Time to Remember. Random House, hardcover, 1986. Signet, paperback, 1988. Made-for-TV Movie: Filmed as Running Against Time (USA Network, 1990), with Robert Hays, Catherine Hicks, Sam Wanamaker.

   Coming across a [paperback] copy of Stanley Shapiro’s A Time to Remember exactly 25 years after the murder of John F. Kennedy in Dallas was too much of a coincidence to resist, and so I read another volume in the growing library on that event.

STANLEY SHAPIRO A Time to Remember

   This is a science-fiction mystery in which, using time travel, a man goes back to 1963 to try to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting the President. (Shapiro does not refer to any conspiracy theories.) The science portion is not very believable, nor is the fiction much better. There are some dizzying jumps between 1963 and 1985, and much of the suspense is the result of the author causing incidents with a rather heavy hand.

   Still, there are times when Shapiro writes very well, and a chase scene is described as suspensefully as the master, Cornell Woolrich, might have told it:

STANLEY SHAPIRO A Time to Remember

    “I am filled with one overpowering, all-consuming emotion — not to get caught. Escape is what life is about. How and where is not important — only to avoid capture, to find a place to rest and think and to live on. Lungs and heart are called upon for performance levels beyond what they were created for. I know the stark terror an animal feels as it flees the advancing hunters. But that animal has trees and mountains and burrows and caves to hide in. I have only the stairs and the street below.”

   The brief confrontation between a naive scientist and a Dallas prostitute on page 44 is almost, by itself, worth the price of the book. Most important, there is the endless fascination of the single most traumatic event of our time.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 1989.

Editorial Comments:   This is the author’s only entry in the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin. Stanley Shapiro was far more well known as a Hollywood screenwriter: he was nominated four times for an Oscar, winning once, for Pillow Talk (1959). For a full list of his credits on IMBD, go here.