Friday, September 21, 2007

The Last Tomb -- John Lange

John Lange is the one of the names Michael Crichton used before he became a rich and famous writer under his own. Actually, I prefer the Lange books to Crichton's current novels, but that's just me.

The Last Tomb
is Bantam's 1974 re-titled reissue of Easy Go, originally published in 1968 by Signet. I reviewed that edition for 1001 Midnights back in 1985 or so, and when I ran across a copy of the Bantam edition the other day, I thought I'd re-read it. It's the story of a group of modern tomb-robbers in Egypt. Harold Barnaby, an Egyptologist, comes across the directions to a heretofore unknown tomb while translating some hierogylyphics, and he enlists a journalist named Pierce to help him find and loot it.

Pierce recruits the team in the book's first part. The second part is the search for the tomb. The final part is what happens after the tomb is found. Naturally things don't work out as the would-be robbers had planned.

I enjoyed reading this one again. It's fast and light, with plenty of local color and history worked into the narrative. I have no idea if Lange had been to Egypt, but he makes you believe he's describing sights, smells, and sounds that he's quite familiar with. The story's the thing here, not characterization or philosophy, and the story's good enough to carry you (or me, anyway) right along.

Hard Case Crime has reprinted one of the Lange novels, but this one, while equally good (maybe better), isn't really the kind of thing that would interest that publisher. You'll have to luck into a used copy somewhere. Don't bother looking on the 'Net unless you want to pay a lot more than the book's worth.


Mark said...

I too am a "John Lange" fan. Reading those books feels like he was trying to do his own version of MacDonald or some of the other adventure/mystery guys of the time. The story is that he used the pseudonym when he was in medical school because the college wouldn't let him publish under his real name. *shrug* I'm with you, in any case. Lots of muscle in the Lange books, before he started writing movie-scripts-in-a-hardcover.

Bill Crider said...

I agree. I'd take any of the Lange books (or Jeffery Hudson) over the stuff he's been doing for so long under his own name.