Friday, May 14, 2010

Forgotten Books: SHOOT THE PRESIDENT, ARE YOU MAD? -- Frank McAuliffe

Okay, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, this is a new book. How can it be forgotten? Crider's finally lost it. You're probably right, as much as I hate to admit it. But here's my thinking.

Frank McAuliffe wrote some of my favorite crime novels, a three-book series featuring Augustus Mandrell, a professional assassin. When I picked up the first book, Of all the Bloody Cheek back in 1965, I don't know what I expected, but it sure wasn't what I got, which was one of the most original crime novels I'd read up to that time. 45 years later, it still is. (See my earlier post here.) Sort of. In 1968 and 1971 McAuliffe published two sequels. But they're not exactly sequels. All three books are made up of a series of linked novellas that play off each other and intertwine in ways that still amaze me after all these years. Taken together, they're really one big, hilarious, incredible book. You should find all three, which besides Of all the Bloody Cheek include Rather a Vicious Gentleman and For Murder I Charge More.

In 1975, McAuliffe submitted another novel to Ballantine books. The Ballantines thought it was too soon after the Kennedy assassination for a comedy crime caper about presidential assassination, and the book was turned down. It took another 35 years for it to appear in print. So it was forgotten for a long, long time.

I'm afraid it might be forgotten again, since it's been published by a small press called The Outfit, which as far as I can tell doesn't even mention the book on its website. You can order it from Amazon, though.

What you'll get is a book unlike any other you've ever read, unless you've read the earlier three. This one's more conventional than they are. It's not a series of linked novellas, but one caper. It's narrated by Mandrell in his usual style, which, let's say, is a unique form of stream-of-consciousness with snarky asides, comments addressed to the reader, and lots more. It's full of narrow escapes, sometimes one after another, and at times it's almost like watching a Marx Brothers movie. Maybe I'm the only one who likes stuff like this now. Others might not get it at all, but it connects with me just like it did in 1965. It's great to have this book in print. I hope it's not forgotten.


Anonymous said...

You're not the only one, Bill. Thanks for mentioning this. I just ordered the last available copy on amazon.

*maniacal laugh*


George said...

Drat! That Jeff Meyerson is so quick! I'll have to wait for my copy. But I know what you're doing this weekend, but I won't tell.

Anonymous said...


One of the few times I beat George to a book. It'll probably never happen again.


Graham Powell said...

I read this a few weeks ago and it's absolutely hilarious. The set piece as Mandrell tries to make it out of the hotel is worth the price.

My favorite is probably still RATHER A VICIOUS GENTLEMAN, with the stories in reverse order (and frequently referencing events we don't read about until later).

One Amazon reviewer described the narration as "sardonic" which is probably the best word for it, though that doesn't really do it justice.

Todd Mason said...

I would think that in 1975 the attempt on Ford's life would be more dissuasive than the various 1960s assassinations, or even the Wallace paralysis shot.

These do sound interesting, and if you haven't, Bill, the Damien Broderick/Rory Barnes novel I FFB'd some moths back, I'M DYING HERE (originally I SUPPOSE A ROOT'S OUT OF THE QUESTION) would probably appeal (though not stylistically daring, just, as I wrote, close enough to Westlake in antic mode to leave one satisfied).

Hm...Crider on a mission ("and all the serpents were driven from Texas, and small caimans came to take their place"), Abbott out of the country, Laity marking papers and/or readhing for her flight to the Sceptered Isle...I smell caper, indeed.