Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spanish Eyes

The late Jon Messmann was a very busy writer during the 1940s–1980s, primarily of original paperback westerns and crime dramas. One source claims he also wrote comic books for Fawcett, which published the adventures of Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher, Bulletman and other fondly remembered superheroes. I've read a couple of his Revenger novels, and my impression is that he may have been too good for the men's adventure series. That isn't a putdown of the many talented writers who toiled in the pulp trade during the 1970s, but whereas many of them were obviously pounding out each novel in a matter of days, Messmann often reads as though he took extra time and care of his characters. Whether that actually was the case, I don't know, but Messmann's Revenger books are filled with flowery language that signals that either he was trying too hard for the genre or he was padding his page count.

In addition to the Revenger and a western character called the Trailsman, Messmann wrote six novels about Jefferson Boone. Once a diplomat for the State Department, Boone was inspired to right wrongs after the death of his father. As the Handyman, Boone is often called upon to chase international kidnappers and terrorists. In the sixth and final Handyman book, 1975's THE INHERITORS, Boone's government contact, Charley Hopkins, sends him to Spain to look into the death of an American diplomat who was murdered, just like his father was. There's no connection between the killings, but the Handyman is intrigued enough to go to Spain to investigate revolutionaries called the Inheritors who are plotting to overthrow Franco.

My first Handyman experience is a good, solid read with plenty of sex and action. Boone gets it on with a pair of Spanish spitfires, one the aristocratic daughter of his contact, Don Hernanez, and the first chapter finds him roaring through the Spanish countryside in a Ferrari blasting the crap out the gunmen setting booby traps for him.



Anonymous said...

holy crap I literally just read this for my column.

James Reasoner said...

Messman's writing had a distinctive voice, one reason I've always enjoyed his books. His entries in the Nick Carter series are very good.