Friday, November 10, 2017

Forgotten Books: CODE NAME GADGET by Peter Rabe (1967)


This third and final book in the Manny DeWitt series looks more like a spy novel than the first two. This was 1967, spies were big, and I have to think Gold Medal was wishing this was a spy book and wanted would-be buyers to think so. And yeah, there are some spooks in it, sniffing around after the "gadget" of the title, but Our Man Manny is definitely not a spy. He doesn't think like one, doesn't act like one, and doesn't narrate his adventures like one. 

DeWitt thinks, acts and narrates like no one I've encountered before. He's a lawyer who is amused with life, but perpetually annoyed with the people and problems it throws at him. That amusement manifests itself in a lot of wry, clever and nicely crafted narration. As for the people who annoy him most, the chauffeur/smart ass dwarf in The Spy Who Was Three Feet Tall and the pilot/chauffeur/lecher in this novel, they annoyed me too. And his problems? They are in due in large part to his boss (another annoying character), who withholds vital information when sending him on assignments, for no reason other than eccentricity. DeWitt's sidekick in this one reminds me of the perpetually drunk guys who both assist and annoy Rex McBride and other Cleve F. Adams heroes. The difference is that Adams was able to rein them in, so that they annoyed only the hero. 

On the plus side, DeWitt's adventures take him to many interesting locales (in this case Honduras, Ireland, London, New York, Chicago and Tennessee), and Rabe's prose is consistently fine. If you're in the right frame of mind for DeWitt's attitude and humor, and have the patience to let the story unfold, you might find this to be a great read.  

The Stark House Press Manny DeWitt Omnibus is now officially available. I talked about Girl in a Big Brass Bed HERE, and The Spy Who Was 3 Feet Tall HERE