Friday, April 21, 2017

FFB: Dillinger -- Harry Patterson

What if John Dillinger, when he escaped prison in 1934, had gone to Mexico?   That's the question that Harry Patterson (aka Jack Higgins, James Graham, etc.) answers in Dillinger.  

Once in Mexico, Dillinger is forced to work for a brutal mine owner or to have his true identity made known.  While he's there, the owner allows a number of his Apache workers to die in a mine cave-in, causing a small band of die-hard warriors to kidnap his daughter and attack a town.  Dillinger and a group from the mine follow the attackers in a Chevy convertible and on horseback.  So that's kind of fun.  But the plot is slow to develop, and it's hard to work up any enthusiasm for Dillinger or the relationship between him and a beautiful half-Chinese, half-Mexican woman.   So why did I reread the book?  Just to see if it was as unsatisfactory as I remembered, and it sure is.

Now, though, I know why.  The book is a complete rewrite of a 1964 Patterson novel, Thunder at Noon, a book which doesn't even include John Dillinger.  I direct you to Ben Boulden's site for a discussion of the original novel that he published a couple of years ago.  Boulden contends that the original version is very good and far superior to the rewrite.  It would just about have to be.

As a point of interest, I'll note that in Dillinger Patterson uses the names Fallon and Chavasse for two minor characters in the book, names that were used for the protagonists in much better novels by Patterson.  I don't know if those names appeared in Thunder at Noon.


George said...

I enjoyed THUNDER AT NOON when I read it decades ago. DILLINGER sounds like a dud.

Fred Blosser said...

DILLINGER also reboots elements from (the also much superior) THE WRATH OF GOD, originally published in 1971 under the "James Graham" pen-name and reprinted several times in paperback under the Higgins name after THE EAGLE HAS LANDED put Higgins on the best-seller lists. There was an ill-fated movie version of THE WRATH OF GOD in 1972 with Robert Mitchum, Frank Langella, Victor Buono, Rita Hayworth, and Ken Hutchinson. Lee Server talks about the making of the film in his biography of Mitchum: from Hayworth's alzheimer's to Hutchinson severely gashing his hand on broken glass, the production seemed to bear out the old axiom that if something can go wrong, it will. LUCIANO'S LUCK is a better Higgins novel using a real-life gangster as a main character (notwithstanding it also cannibalized an earlier novel, A GAME FOR HEROES).

Bill Crider said...

I've read Langella's memories about the filming of THE WRATH OF GOD.

A GAME FOR HEROES is a good one. LUCIANO'S LUCK is okay, but I like HEROES better.

Rick Robinson said...

I'm almost positive I've never re-read a book just to see if it's as bad as I remembered it being. Since I probably would have skipped this in the first place, I was saved that effort - twice.

Mathew Paust said...

Thanks for the warning--and the background.

Ben Boulden said...

I looked at my notes from my reading of THUNDER AT NOON and both Martin Fallon and Paul Chavasse appeared. Interestingly, the Paul Chavasse novels were originally published as by Martin Fallon. And of course Martin Fallon (as different characters) appeared in two novels, the best is A PRAYER FOR THE DYING. Fallon's other appearance was in Patterson's second novel, CRY OF THE HUNTER.