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The Captain Must Die (Prologue Books) Kindle Edition
They weren’t going to kill him right away. First there would be only little things, irritating things, that would build and grow and tighten until Captain Driscoll became afraid. Then they’d begin their reign of terror. That would be the best part. The three revenge-hungry men would savor those moments like a good wine.
And when Captain Driscoll was a broken, sobbing man, when his sanity was almost gone, they would murder him.
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- ASIN : B006PI0U74
- Publisher : Prologue Books (31 December 2011)
- Language : English
- File size : 532 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 194 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1440557993
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from other countries
50's 60's authors like Ross Macdonald, David Goodis, and some of the other million selling Gold Medal writers that were published and still available by various paperback publishers now. Hardcase Crime still bring a lot of these writers to today's readers.
Now in ebook form Prologue Books are also publishing some of these long lost gems, Robert Colby among them. I am happy to have discovered this writer of The Captain Must Die which is said to be one of the best in the hardboiled tradition, in my humble opinion, it is, a tale of revenge told in a tough no-nonsense style, and is right up there with some of the other hardboiled classics. At a bargain basement price too! Brilliant! Would like to have given five stars, but there were a few typo's here and there but not enough to ruin a gripping read.If you like your fiction hardboiled and noirish give Robert Colby a go.
Colby immediately initiates us into the plans of three, but not immediately lays out the truth about what happened 12 years ago. On the other hand Colby gives each character to speak. Everyone has their secrets, everyone has their attitude to the incident from the past, and each has its own plans for the future. Brick, fierce and angry man, suffered the loss of the family. Playboy Cal lost revenue work. Stupid Barney missed waiting with his bride.
I will not reveal a big secret when I say that all these 12 years, Brick, Barney and Cal spent in prison. But it is strange that Colby does not mention how prison term affected the three companions. Colby wrote that they were waiting for retribution and hoarded malice and hatred all the time, but the prison experience and the impact of prison on them - not a word about it, as if all these 12 years former soldiers were just waiting on the bench and not behind bars.
Colby is a little too simple, but he very skillfully creates an atmosphere of growing tension. Moreover, the author succeeds in achieving the effect where we stand on the side of the soldiers at the beginning of the novel. The positive hero is to be captain, but Colby uses in describing him such words and phrases that show the captain in an unfavorable light, as if he were the last bastard, making money on the failure of others. Three real bastards that are greedy for money and the flesh of women are the obvious anti-heroes, but before Colby reveals the secrets of the past, we are on the side of the inmates and ex-soldiers.
«The Captain Must Die» is written by all the canons of the genre, but it delivers the goods on all fronts.
The story unveils itself through a series of flashbacks; at first, you’re left guessing why these three killers are gunning for Driscoll, but as their complex relationship comes out the reader starts to fit the pieces together…
During the war, Brick, Cal, and Barney were stateside to use their battlefield experience to help train new recruits. After a promised thirty-day furlough was revoked and the three G.I.s ordered back to the front, a disgusted Brick incites a desertion. When caught and brought before their commanding officer, Driscoll, the captain had the opportunity to drop the charge and shuffle them aboard a troopship heading back into the Pacific Theater. Instead, he had them tried as deserters—justifying to himself that the court would decide their guilt; in reality, it’s vengeance against Cal Morgan for having an affair with Madge. The following twelve years in Leavenworth destroy the lives of the three privates—careers evaporate, girlfriends disappear—leaving them with bitterness and resentment directed at Driscoll.
These are all failed characters—eroded to the core by the loss and rejection each has felt since the war. Despite his wealth and success, Driscoll lives in fear of poverty and another banking collapse. He’s bitter about his wife drifting away from him ever since he locked away her lover, and struggles along knowing someone is gunning for him, refusing to seek aid for fear of being seen as less than a man. The ex-cons have lost everything—each thinks back to an idyllic pre-war life with a career heading upward and a loving girlfriend—and all that’s left is a devilish desire for vengeance. The attempted desertion was just the catalyst; the war is the cause for the crushing weight that keeps them down, their many burdensome disappointments.
The Captain Must Die is a forgotten masterpiece. It has its flaws—the fragmented nature makes for choppy reading, the flashbacks impeding the pace of the present narrative. (There’s also a few OCR errors in the e-copy, none bad enough to disrupt the reading experience.) But at its best, the prose shines, the dialogue is curt and sharp, the characters are rich in woe and motivation, and the plot arc is impressive. Robert Colby produced a well-executed novel of vengeance and lust with a distinct psychological element, and anyone with a serious interest in 1950s crime/noir should keep an eye out for this one. It’s an almost-perfect novel, and one of the most unique Gold Medals I’ve read.
It's plot is very similar to John D Macdonald's earlier THE EXECUTIONERS, though it's hard to say to what extent Macdonald influenced Colby. (They seem to have been published a year apart.) A "man in the Grey Flannel Suit" type, by all outward appearances very dull and normal, actually has a dangerous secret in his past, and this dangerous secret is now out to come and bite him.
This is an interesting framework for a story, although neither book mentioned above really handles it that well. In both instances the bad guys are much more interesting than the good guy, and they don't shine any refracted light (ie, the good guy is not made more interesting by the fact that these bad guys want to kill him.) CAPTAIN also suffers from Colby's typical deaf-ear to psychology, with various characters turning around on a dime to act as the plot demands it. One might plead formula, but there were plenty of pb original writers who did much better with this.
Worst of all, the bad guys have something of a point, and the "good guy" is somewhat at fault here. While his position is certainly defensible, it's not simply defensible. Yet Colby never really gets into the psychology of all this, never really complicates his case in interesting ways. Again, you can plead formula, or the times, but there were certainly writers out there who were unashamedly writing out rather aberrant psychology, so it's not a position I really buy. It feels to me instead rather like Wouk's THE CAINE MUTINY, ie Colby saw where his story was truly headed and got chicken about it.
Not awful, and certain passages, particulary a sequence in which the bad guys are entertaining local whores, work very well. But a deeply overrated book, certainly second-tier.