A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by George Kelley & Marcia Muller


DESMOND CORY – Deadfall. Frederick Muller, UK. hardcover, 1965. Walker, US, hardcover, 1965; paperback, 1984. Also: Fawcett Crest, US, paperback, 1967.  Film:  1968, starring Michael Caine.

   Desmond Cory (a pseudonym of Shaun Lloyd McCarthy) has published a wide variety of suspense fiction, including espionage novels, detective novels, and thrillers. He has a firm grasp of psychological principles, and his characters show considerable depth. The details of his settings – frequently Spain – are richly evocative and suggest careful research and firsthand knowledge.

   He is best known for his books featuring British agent Johnny Fedora; in five of these, Fedora matches wits with Soviet spy Feramontov. There is a powerful tension in these novels – Undertow (1963), Hammerhead (1964), Feramontov (1966), Timelock (1967), and Sunburst (1971) – and their plots are complex and action-packed.

   One of Cory’s best books, however, is a nifty caper novel, Deadfall. Set in his favorite locale, Spain, it features an unlikely trio of characters: Michael Jeye, an acrobatic burglar; Moreau, a genius who plans jewel heists; and Moreau’s wife, a beautiful and mysterious woman named Fe. As the three work together to steal a fortune in jewels, Jeye finds himself falling in love with Fe. This loss of emotional control is dangerous, both to their plans and to Jeye personally – especially since the relationship between Fe and Moreau is soon revealed to be not exactly as it seems.

   Against a background of professional crime, Cory weaves a thrilling plot with deep psychological undertones. The three complex personalities are caught up in deadly motion, and themes including incest and homosexuality emerge. The pacing of Deadfall is more deliberate than the nonstop action of the Fedora series, and the overall effect is haunting.

   Deadfall was disappointingly filmed in 1968, with Michael Caine and Giovanna Ralli. Other Cory novels notable for their psychological depth are A Bit of a Shunt Up the River (1974), in which a sociopath escapes from prison; and The Circe Complex ( 1975), which deals with a former prison psychologist who finds himself imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.