Friday, September 25, 2009

Forgotten Books: The Augustus Mandrell Series

The three books about master of disguise and assassin for hire Augustus Mandrell make up one of my very favorite series.

You want clever plotting? You'll never find better than in these books, each one of which is made up of four "commissions," all of which take place around the time of WWII (The Big One). The commissions aren't published in linear order. They jump back and forth in time, and they're all interconnected. This is one series that should definitely be read in order if you want to appreciate what a great job McAuliffe did. The plotting within each story is a marvel, but when you read all of them, you'll be in awe. Okay, maybe you won't, but I am.

In fact, the plotting would be enough to recommend these books, but they're also hilariously funny. When I bought Of all the Bloody Cheek way back there in 1965, I had no idea what I was getting. It was a wonderful surprise to read the commissions and marvel and laugh aloud. I eagerly awaited other books by McAuliffe, but it was three years before Rather a Vicious Gentleman appeared, and three more years before I got to read For Murder I Charge More. And that was it. As far as I knew, there were no more Mandrell stories to read.

I was wrong, however. There's a fourth book. I've read it. Supposedly it will be published one of these days. That's been the case for years now, so I'm not counting on it. It would be great if it happened. Maybe it will, since Point Blank did reprint Of all the Bloody Cheek.

I'm not alone in my admiration for this series. Check out this website, for a more detailed overview than I've given. It's a real shame that this series is forgotten. It's one of the greats.


George said...

Maybe Stark House could do an omnibus volume of the Augustus Mandrell series. Wonderful books!

pattinase (abbott) said...

These sound like a treat. I can't understand how I could have read 1-2 crime fiction books a week for my whole life and missed so many. It's quite disheartening.

Juri said...

Bill: here's what JT Lindroos, formerly of PointBlank, more recently of The Outfit, said in my mini-interview:

For recommendations, all I can say is that give our first two books a shot. Leigh Redhead's PEEPSHOW is a fun, sharp and a little exotic hardboiled entertainment by an author who should be huge. Frank McAuliffe's SHOOT THE PRESIDENT, ARE YOU MAD? is a book written by an Edgar winning author right before JFK was assassinated. With a title like that, it's not difficult to understand why it wasn't published at the time.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks, Juri. That one was scheduled by Point Blank, and I'm glad to see it's going to be published by The Outfit. I'll be sure to give it some space on the blog when it appears.

Anonymous said...

Excellent choice, Bill. I keep meaning the reread the first three but you know how that goes.

Patti, you need to read these.


Lee Goldberg said...

You know how much I respect your recommendations, and you've introduced me to so many great authors...but I just could not get into OF ALL THE BLOODY CHEEK. I will have to give it a second try.

I did, however, finally read Jada Davis' ONE FOR HELL last week and loved it. I just finished Lionel Davidson's ROSE OF TIBET and liked that, too, though I felt it stumbled a bit in the last third.

Did you ever read THE FOUR CHAMBERED VILLAIN HEART by Garry Madderon(come to think of it, maybe you were the one who recommended it to me!).


Lee Goldberg said...

That should be FOUR CHAMBERED VILLAIN, not FOUR CHAMBERED VILLAIN HEART. Don't know how that word go in there. Is it creeping senility?

Bill Crider said...

Mandrell must not be for everybody.

I haven't read Madderon's book under any title. Will look for it.

Graham Powell said...

Just an FYI, but the fourth Mandrell book is now available on A happy synchronicity which means I'll have read all four of them only about a month after I found OF ALL THE BLOODY CHEEK at the local Half Price Books.

Bill Crider said...

I'll have to check that out. Thanks for letting us know.