A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Flying Delta

Mickey Spillane's The Delta Factor, which the famed author wrote in the mid-1960's, was an okay little thriller with an okay little plot: A con man and adventurer known only as "Morgan the Raider" is arrested by the government for allegedly stealing 40 million dollars from the U.S. Treasury or some other federal agency (it wasn't all that clear). Morgan is offered a deal, however: if he uses his skills to successfully break a guy out of prison (a political prisoner being held in one of those fictional communist island nations so popular in action movies and thriller novels) the feds would go easy on Morgan's prosecution and maybe not investigate too closely the whereabouts of the 40 million, either.

Things generally move along nicely, though some three-page sequences could have been done in two pages, and some three-paragraph descriptions could have been summed up in one or two paragraphs. Also, some of the plotting was strange: for example, Morgan is told by the feds to find a way to get himself arrested and incarcerated once he's in the communist country, so that he'll be in the same prison as the guy he needs to spring. But when Morgan gets down to the country, that plan is never referenced again, and Morgan undertakes an entirely different plan to get himself in the prison, one that doesn't involve him getting arrested. It's almost like Spillane forgot what he wrote before.

But despite the above observations, there's a nice sense of place as Morgan moves through the Caribbean country's neighborhoods and casinos, making the necessary contacts, and putting his plans together. Also, an additional layer of menace soon surfaces, in the form of competitors and enemies from Morgan's past who have their own reasons to be interested in Morgan's latest mission.

This being a Mickey Spillane novel, you also get frequent bursts of violence and action, which are entertaining, as well as impossibly alluring women, who are also entertaining. The women have decent roles in the plot, too, which was nice.

Spillane, the creator of Mike Hammer, wrote only one Morgan the Raider novel (this one), though a partial rough draft of a second Morgan novel was recently polished up and completed by writer Max Allan Collins. Though I can't say that The Delta Factor blew me away, I liked it well enough to check out in the near future what Spillane and Collins have come up with for the follow-up, The Consummata.

It's said that Spillane's negative experiences with the producers of the movie version of The Delta Factor so turned him off that he lost enthusiasm for the character, and that was why he didn't produce further books about him. That may be so, but it also could have been that, like me, the author might have found the book to be certainly good enough but not really great, which would also be a pretty good reason for not moving right into the writing of future installments. Spillane did have a reputation for being- rightly or wrongly- hard on himself and started but never finished many, many manuscripts.

But, in the end, if you like thrillers, especially thrillers from the classic paperback era of the 50's and 60's, I'd say give this a whirl. Whatever else one can say, this is a quick, painless read with many good moments.

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