Saturday, March 01, 2008

Act of Violence -- Basil Heatter

Did you ever look at your shelves and see an paperback so old and crumbly that you thought you'd better read it before it disintegrated? That's the way I felt about this one. Not long ago, I'd read Steve Lewis' post on Mystery*File about Heatter, and that had caused me to look at my books. I have several of Heatter's Gold Medal novels as well as the one from Pinnacle that Steve mentions. I also have some older ones, including Act of Violence, which, as I said, is about to disintegrate. After reading it, I don't suppose it will be a great loss if that happens.

One of the good things about the book is that it's a fine Hemingway pastiche. Some of the writing in the skiing scenes is fine. One of the bad things is that the book was obviously marketed as a thriller, but it's really not much of one. It's more of a love story with thriller elements, and the story kind of meanders. The book's only only 126 pages long, but Heatter never seems to make up his mind about exactly what he's doing.

There's the main plot, which gets lost now and then, about Tony Kamp, an Austrian who escaped from a concentration camp in WWII and who's now a ski instructor in New England. He's being hunted by mysterious forces because they think he knows something, though he doesn't. There's the love story plot, with a woman lifted right out of The Sun Also Rises. There's the plot dealing with prejudice against strangers in small towns. And there's the plot about the severely wounded vet who's trying to recover some feeling of self-worth. My favorite scene, which really has little to do with anything, is the fight with the giant ape. (I'm not making that up.)

I was hoping to find a lost classic, but I wouldn't recommend that you bother looking for this one. Try Harry and the Bikini Bandits, instead.


  1. Last summer I read Basil Heatter's "Virgin Cay", I think it was published by Gold Medal in the early 60s. Was OK, but very similar to those Ingram novels that Charles Williams had out (like "Aground") So far haven't read a Heatter novel that was outstanding, but they usually have neat covers. I'll keep checking them out, I seem to always buy them when I find them...

  2. Heatter wasn't one of the greats, but I remember enjoying all his Gold Medal books. I don't recall much more about them than that, though.

  3. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Read a couple Heatter books, but they didn't do much for me. I think I own a couple, but read some I believe Jeff Banks loaned me. I seem to remember some of the writing being good, but maybe not. Gold Medal was fairly consistent with good writers and easy to read and sometimes very good books, and a number of well written but not so much in the original department. I do miss those books though that didn't have to identify themselves so heavily as one thing or another. That was a big influence on me for better or worse. Joe

  4. Easily forgettable, but fun. And well-written. Not to mention great titles like Harry and the Bikini Bandits.