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Friday, 17 April 2015

FFB - The Testament of Caspar Schultz

Real name, Harry Patterson, Jack Higgins' early novels were written under his own name as well as under the pseudonyms James Graham, Martin Fallon, and Hugh Marlowe. One of the reasons for several names is that he was prolific and publishers are reluctant to bring out too many books by a single author. His early books were thrillers that typically featured hardened, cynical heroes, ruthless villains, and dangerous locales. He published thirty-five novels of this type (sometimes three or four a year) between 1959 and 1974, ‘learning his craft’. Then he wrote The Eagle Has Landed

A number of his books feature several recurring characters – Nick Miller, Sean Rogan, Martin Fallon (no less!), Liam Devlin, Sean Dillon and Paul Chavasse.
The Testament of Caspar Schultz was first published as by Martin Fallon in 1962. It was republished in 1979 under the name Jack Higgins; my copy is the 2011 edition. The book was originally entitled The Bormann Testament but, for various reasons and at the publisher’s behest, the character of Martin Bormann vanished from the book and Patterson created a fictional Nazi leader, Caspar Schultz.  As with some of his other books, Higgins re-released an early version with updates, and so in 2006 this book was republished as The Bormann Testament (thereby restoring much of the earlier version, and adding more too.) I have not read this updated version.

Reading this, you have to bear in mind that it was set in 1960 – only fifteen years after the end of the Second World War. There were plenty of Nazis hiding in the woodwork, succulent meat for thriller writers’ plots. And some ex-Nazis were in reality in positions of authority and trust in the world of commerce and politics.

This is Higgins’ first Paul Chavasse novel. Half-French, half English, Chavasse works for a branch of British Secret Intelligence, the Bureau. The book begins very much like many of that period, the super-spy being called in by the nameless Chief to undertake an assignment.

Chavasse is tasked with tracking down a former Nazi, Schultz, and the man’s recently completed manuscript that explosively names ex-Nazi people currently in high places. Certain neo-Nazis are reluctant to see that manuscript published and are willing to kill to ensure its destruction.

This is early Higgins, with its attendant word-repetition, and yet the seeds of his subsequent thrillers can be glimpsed – pace, humour, a brave heroine, dastardly loquacious villains, not too graphic violence (but enough of it), a McGuffin (the manuscript), suspense, swift scene-change, betrayal and morality.

If you want a fast-paced read, then this will satisfy.
The other five Chavasse thrillers are:

Year of the Tiger (1963), The Keys of Hell (1965), Midnight Never Comes (1966), Dark Side of the Street (1967) and finally A Fine Night for Dying (1969).

1 comment:

വിനുവേട്ടന്‍ said...

I just purchased a copy and going to read it... My favourite one is Storm Warning...