Titan Books’ Matt Helm deal doesn’t include The Dominators


The Dominators, the unpublished 28th Matt Helm novel by Donald Hamilton, isn’t part of Titan Books’ plans to reissue the series of novels starting in 2013.

Gordon Hamilton, son of the late author, relayed the news to a listserv concerning the literary Helm. Here’s the full text of the short message:

” That is not part of the present deal, but l am working on getting it edited, and then we’ll see.”

The first 27 Helm novels were published from 1960 until 1993, with the first five published 1960 to 1962. Donald Hamilton wrote The Dominators around 2001-2002 but couldn’t secure a publishing deal. Hamilton died in 2006.

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A few early Matt Helm novel highlights


With the news that Titan Books plans on bringing Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels back into print in 2013, those unfamiliar with the stories might wonder what the fuss is all about. So we thought we’d present a Helm sampler.

Helm isn’t so much a spy, as a counter assassin — he goes after enemy targets, with the intention of making a “touch” before those targets can harm U.S. interests. He had done during this World War II, then spent 15 peaceful years before his past caught up with him. A few quick highlights of some of the early books:

Death Of a Citizen (1960): Family man Helm is at a party in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when in comes “the girl we called Tina during the war.” Helm, back when his code name was Eric (possibly a reference to his Scandinavian heritage), he and Tina had performed an assignment during World War II.

She drags Helm back into the business, but things aren’t what they seem. We’re introduced to his old boss, Mac, with his “gray and cold” eyes who is still in business. Eventually, Helm is blackmailed, with one of his children as hostage. Helm is not somebody to be trifled with but Mrs. Helm also discovers the truth. As the book ends, “I wondered how soon Mac would get in touch with me again…I sat there and wondered how I’d answer him, when he came. The terrible thing was, I didn’t really know…”

Death Of a Citizen was done as a one-off. An editor at Fawcett Gold Medal called up author Donald Hamilton, suggesting a name change from George Helm and killing off the wife would result in a series. Hamilton renamed the character Matt. Mrs. Helm survived but the marriage would not.

The Wrecking Crew (1960): At the start of the second novel, Helm has had a refresher training course and is sent to Sweden to go after a Soviet agent called Caselius. Once more, things aren’t what they seem. Eventually, Caselius has a hostage and tells Helm to give up his weapon. “I let him hear me laugh. He was running that gag into the ground. He must really have been watching American TV, the corny ideas he kept kicking around.”

Shortly thereafter, Caselius attempts to surrender. “Like I say, he must have been watching TV.” Helm makes the “touch.” Hamilton reportedly took an unfinished story he was dissatisfied with, rewrote it to insert the Helm character.

The Removers (1961): It’s a year after Helm separated from his wife. He travels to the Reno area to visit his ex- and his kids. The former Mrs. Helm, however, seems to have a weakness for men with a secret past. She’s now married to a former mob enforcer, who’s being pressured by his former associates.

Meanwhile, the trip isn’t entirely personal. Helm’s quarry is Martell, a Soviet operative who has been embedded with the mob. This was Hamilton’s first story where he knew from the start it was part of a series. There’s also a scene where Helm goes to the “recognition room” to study up on adversaries. Among the dossiers he studies, “There were Dickman, Holz, Rosloff, Martell and a deadly female we only knew as Vadya, all with the highest priority.” Thus, Hamilton lays the groundwork for future adventures.

As for the title, Mac does the honors in a flashback scene where he addresses some trainees. “If you were working for a criminal organization, you’d be known as enforcers. Since you’re working for a sovereign nation, you can call yourselves…well, removers is a very good word.”

The Silencers (1962): The early part of the story includes seedy settings, including a strip club in Mexico across the border from El Paso. It ends up getting into Ian Fleming territory where a Soviet operative has smuggled into the U.S. an electronic device that will seize control of a U.S. missile to kill some VIPs. Hamilton’s smooth writing sucks you right in. The novel also introduces Gail Hendricks, a woman who has gotten involved in the middle of all this. Helm falls in love with her, but again Hamilton’s smooth prose doesn’t make it sound outlandish at all.

Murderers’ Row (1962): Helm is behind the eight ball right from the start. His assignment is to beat up a fellow woman agent; that agent is supposed to be interested in defecting and the beating is to make it all look good. Also, she is to get a cast, as a way to have a hidden weapon.

“I wasn’t halfway through the scientifically brutal roughing up program Dr. Perry had laid out for me when she died…she’d trusted me to know what I was doing, and it’s no fun to find yourself holding a corpse and wondering what the hell went wrong.” Things go downhill from there. Helm makes a number of wrong guesses and assumptions but works his way out of it.

“You lucked out, didn’t you?” Mac asks near the novel’s end. Helm has to admit he did and attempts to resign. But he relents when he finds out he didn’t kill the woman agent.

The Mister 8 Web site a couple of years ago did a more detailed analysis of DEATH OF A CITIZEN and THE WRECKING CREW.

Matt Helm novels returning to print in 2013, Titan Books says


Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels will return to print in 2013, Titan Books announced in a post on its company blog.

An excerpt:

London, U.K. – December 9, 2011 – Titan Books announced today that beginning in 2013, they will reissue the original Matt Helm® spy thrillers written by Donald Hamilton, starring the famed counter-agent whose career included 27 novels spanning more than three decades, four films, and a network television series.

The first Matt Helm® novel, Death of a Citizen, was released in 1960, just two years after publication of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale—which hadn’t yet caught on in the United States. Otto Penzlernoted, “Whereas Bond was a sophisticate who knew wine, expensive cars, and tuxedos, Helm lived much of the time in the American Southwest, drove a pickup truck, and wore flannel shirts.” The novel introduced a man in his mid-thirties, 6’4” and intelligent, who had been a military assassin eliminating Nazis during World War II.

Actually, Casino Royale was first published in 1953, but we’re not going to quibble with the other details. The Helm novels were like a mix between Mickey Spillane (the first person narration) and Ian Fleming (international intrigue). The 27 novels were originally published between 1960 and 1993. The author penned a last, unpublised Helm story around 2001. Hamilton died in 2006.

The news was reported earlier at a post on the Existential Ennui Web site. You can learn more about the Helm novels BY CLICKING HERE to read an essay by journalist and spy novelist Jeremy Duns. We first found out about the news from a post Mr. Duns did on Facebook, linking to Existential Ennui.

Finally, CLICK HERE to view a 2000 HMSS article about how the Helm novels weren’t exactly faithfully translated to the screen in the four Dean Martin films of the 1960s.