Monday, April 02, 2007

Donald Hamilton, R. I. P.

When I read the news on the Mystery*File blog this morning, I hoped there was some mistake, but Donald Hamilton's death has been confirmed. This is truly bad news. I'd hoped that someday we'd see the rumored final Matt Helm novel in print, but I don't have much hope of that now.

Hamilton was a wonderful writer, as anyone who's ever read his books already knows. The Matt Helm series alone would be enough to establish him as an important contributor to the crime, mystery, and spy fields, but standalones like Line of Fire are, to me, even better. His Westerns are good, too, and several of them (most notably The Big Country) were filmed. The Matt Helm books were filmed as well, but not so notably.

Recently Hard Case Crime reprinted Night Walker, so at least that one's easily available. The Helm books turn up on eBay all the time, and they're cheap. If you've never read Hamilton's work, you should. It's top of the line, and I'm very sorry to hear he's gone.

Update: Steve Lewis of Mystery*File has confirmed that the unpublished Matt Helm novel does indeed exist. Read his comments here.

15 comments:

  1. Hamilton is one of the most entertaining writers I've ever read. Any day I find a book of his that I haven't read is a good day.

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  2. First Prather and now Hamilton. I'm starting to take this personally.

    What sad news.

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  3. Anonymous2:21 PM

    STOP THE PRESS. Steve Lewis tells me that maybe Hamilton isn''t dead but MAY be living in a home for the elderly and infirm. Steve may be able to sort this all out. --Ed Gorman

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  4. I'm afraid it's true, Ed. Check with Steve again to be sure.

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  5. Scott Cupp3:03 PM

    Either way there will be no more new books. Don Hamilton's Matt Helm books are the touchstone for spy novels. And everything else was worthwhile, particularly the westerns.

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  6. Rumor has it that there's a completed Helm novel. I'd love to see it in print, but now I don't think it will ever be published.

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  7. I've heard the rumors for years about an unpublished Matt Helm. I'd always hoped it would eventually see print. I guess not now. Other than his Helms, I'd only read a western or two. I'll have to see about finding some more.

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  8. Jeff Meyerson6:57 PM

    Bummer. That stinks. I still have a bunch of the Helm books yet to read, at least, but I'm sorry he's gone.

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  9. Richard Heft7:56 PM

    I've read at least 30 of Hamilton's books and enjoyed every one of them; in fact, I finished reading THE DEMOLISHERS just yesterday, unaware that Hamilton had passed (preceded in death by a few hundred of Matt Helm's fictional enemies). Like John D. MacDonald, Hamilton was amazingly even in his prolific output; I can't name a real clunker among his works. I can recommend DEATH OF A CITIZEN as a minor masterpiece of the espionage genre; I think it clocks in at 128 pages, too! Although Gold Medal established itself as purveyors of manly fiction (its second book published was entitled MAN STORY), it's starting to look as if Ann Bannon and Vin Packer will be the last Golden Age GM writers standing.

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  10. And Stephen Marlowe.

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  11. Richard Heft9:00 PM

    Do you want to stretch a point and include Gore Vidal? (We must be forgetting someone else.)

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  12. Hey, why not include him? And I'm sure you're right. There must be others.

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  13. Richard Heft10:45 PM

    Lawrence Block, Kurt Vonnegut, and William Goldman are all still alive, as is Robert Wade (half the team that published as "Wade Miller"); I'm not sure about Ovid Demaris, Lou Cameron and A.S. Fleischman.

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  14. Fleischmann is alive. Too bad about Hamilton. I've especially liked his westerns and recommend THE MAN FROM SANTA CLARA the best. It Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime is as alert as he has been all the time, he'll dig out the unpublished Helm, no doubt about that.

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  15. I'm pretty sure Lou Cameron is still alive. He was still writing Westerns under a house-name within the past year or two, but I think he's officially retired now.

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