Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Bonus FFBs for Wednesday: Manny deWitt Omnibus (Girl in a Big Brass Bed, The Spy Who was Three Feet Tall, Code Name Gadget) --Peter Rabe

This is something of a confession.  Most people think that Peter Rabe's Manny deWitt series is composed of some of his weaker novels.  Maybe that's true, but they're the first Rabe books I read, and they led me to the earlier Gold Medals that I enjoy so much.  I've mentioned before that in the early '60s I was reading almost exclusively spy fiction, so the book that caught my eye was The Spy Who Was Three Feet Tall. I bought it, read it, and wasn't chagrined when I discovered that it wasn't really spy fiction at all.  DeWitt is, in fact, a lawyer, and he's not three feet tall.  That's a different character in the novel, which concerns the building of a road in Africa.  DeWitt works for a man named Hans Lobbe, and it's often difficult, if not impossible, for deWitt (and the reader) to figure out just what Lobbe wants him to do.  This results in any number of complications, which are all sorted out in the end, but not until deWitt's had a number of adventures that aren't exactly Bondish but are entertaining in their own way.  There's a good bit of humor, too, although not everyone appreciates it.  More on that a bit later.

Reading this book led me back to The Girl in the Big Brass Bed and later to Code Name Gadget.  I'd read all three before I got onto the Daniel Port books and genuine classics like Kill the Boss Goodbye.

Rick Ollerman provides another of his typically fine introductions to this new Stark House triple-decker, and it's clear that he doesn't admire these three books as much as he does Rabe's earlier Gold Medal novels.  One reason is the humor, which Ollerman doesn't find funny.  I did, though I admit it was 50 years ago when I did.  Today I might feel differently.  The younger me recommends these books, so check 'em out.


George said...

I bought these books when they were first published. I've read other Peter Rabe books but not these three. I'm ordering this STARK HOUSE omnibus Right Now!

Rick Ollerman said...

Rabe himself thought the humor didn't quite come off--it's quite different. On the other hand, I find these books actually read better after the first time. Perhaps because the twists and turns are easier to follow and you can more easily enjoy what Rabe's trying to do...? Anyway, I'd recommend them, too. For those who want a true Peter Rabe spy adventure, there's always BLOOD ON THE DESERT, which is a very fine book.

Matthew said...

I remember liking The Spy that Was Three Feet tall, though I wouldn't consider it the best book I've ever read.