DONALD HAMILTON – Death of a Citizen. Matt Helm #1. Gold Medal #957, paperback original; 1st printing, January 1960. Reprinted by Gold Medal many times (*). Titan Books, paperback, 2013. Film: Plot elements of this book were included in The Silencers, 1966. otherwise loosely based on the Hamilton title of that name (with Dean Martin as Matt Helm).

   I have read, or at least I think I have, that in the first draft of this first Matt Helm adventure, Hamilton did not intend it to be the first of the series, but at the suggestion of his editor, the book was rewritten so as to hint that more adventures were yet to come.

   I don’t know if the story is true or not, but as far as more adventures are concerned, the hint is certainly there. I’m sure that any red-blooded male, after reading this first one back in 1960, would have to been faunching at the bit for the next one to come out. Luckily the wait wouldn’t have been long. Book number two, The Wrecking Crew, came out later that same year.

   And 1960 was a year that (in my opinion) that Donald Hamilton was in the prime of his writing career. Death of a Citizen is as lean and mean as they come, and while Matt Helm is fairly rusty at the job when the book opens, by the end he’s back in the same hard-boiled mode of action as he must have been during the war (WWII).

   Since then. though, he’s gotten married, has three kids, and a little bit of extra belly fat. He’s a writer now, and is pretty good with a camera. A comfortable life. Until the night of the Sante Fe cocktail party when Tina comes back into his life. Tina, whom he worked with during the war. Very closely, you could even say. And then the dead girl he finds in his bathtub. His current comfortable life is over in a flash.

   Hence the title. Helm and Tina are back on the run together again, and it’s quite a ride. In the world of Matt Helm you can be certain of one things: that not everything is as it seems. He tells the story himself, as opinionated about everything in the world, major or minor, from the start. He does not care for women wearing pants, for example. I don’t believe that in followup books he ever let the reader forget that.


(*)   Of the dozen or so copies of this book described on abe.books as being First Printings, I found it amusing to see that none of them are.