CARTER BROWN – Donavan’s Delight. Belmont Tower, paperback original, 1979.

— This review first appeared in The MYSTERY FANcier 3#6, Nov-Dec 1979.


   A few issues ago I was lamenting the discontinuance by Signet Books of their publication of the works of Alan Yates, who writes as Carter Brown and who is one of the very last practitioners of the tongue-in-cheek hardboiled style pioneered by Bellem, Latimer and Prather.

   Yates published 179 short, snappy novels between 1953 and 1976. Then, for a while, he dropped out of sight. There was one science fiction novel published under his real name by Ace Books last year, so at least we knew the guy was still around.

   And now, after a two year hiatus, “Carter Brown” has returned and Donavan’s Delight is the first of an all new, gaudily packaged series of books for the Belmont Tower line.

   This one stars millionaire industrialist-adventurer Paul Donavan, who is one of Yates’ more interesting series characters. As the book opens, Donavan and his “man,” Hicks-an ex-mercenary who is more drinking and fighting buddy than butler-are confronted by a running lovely (nude, of course; the lovelies are almost always nude in Carter Brown books) who is being pursued across the open English countryside by a nasty with a whip on horseback.


   Donavan and Hicks step in, naturally, and before the first chapter is out they’re tossed head first into an adventure of contraband weapons to third world nations, CIA shenanigans, quite a few nasty ladies and gentlemen and a brothel that specializes in the perversions of the very rich.

   Like all of Yates’ previous books, this is almost novella length (my calculator figures it at about 40,000 words) and consists of mostly dialogue, some of it crude. There is violence and some graphic sex, and there isn’t a single word in all of the 139 pages to tax the vocabulary of anyone with at least a tenth grade education.

   This will seem like pretty base stuff to readers of Ross Macdonald and LeCarre — and maybe it is; Yates is a pulpster, make no mistake, and certainly not to everyone’s taste — but if he’s no great shakes as a stylist, the man does have his good points and they too are fully in evidence in Donavan’s Delight.

   The book boasts a superbly controlled narrative drive, two striking lead characters (in the figurative as well as the literal sense), Yates’ usual knack for sucking you into an interesting storyline right from the start, and a twisty, complicated whodunit mystery plot that is well resolved by the closing, violent denouement.


   Litrachoor it ain’t, for sure. But it is fun of the “quick read” variety, and I for one am glad that “Carter Brown” is again back on the scene.

Editorial Comment:   The science fiction novel referred to here by Steve was a new one for me, and of course I had to go looking for it. It didn’t take long, and as you see, I even found a cover image for it. The title is
Coriolanus, The Chariot!, a paperback original from Ace (July 1978). According to one ABE bookseller, it takes place “on the planet Thesbos, where the Word of Shakespeare is Law.”

   I certainly don’t know how I missed this one. And no, there’s no snark involved in that statement at all.