In my opinion we have here yet another great character that has sadly gone under-appreciated over the years. Created by Donald Hamilton in 1960, Matt Helm (code name Eric) debuted as a gritty, practical, and distinctly American secret agent/counter assassin in “Death of a Citizen.” Here’s what the N.Y. Sunday Times had to say in 1960: “A harsh and sometimes shocking story, told with restraint, power and conviction.”
Get Matt’s complete dossier here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/matt_helm
If you like any of the 50’s and 60’s thrillers – read “Death of a Citizen.” It’s one of my favorites and I know you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for larger-than-life-villains, end-of-the-world-plots, fast cars and fast women, stick with James Bond – “nobody does it better” (a few of you will get that joke). If you’re looking for something a little more based in reality, Matt’s your agent. By the middle of “Death of a Citizen” you’ll wonder how it was never made into a movie and how the Matt Helm movies that did get made could have been so far off the mark.
Now, before I go any further, I should say that the Matt Helm series staring Dean Martin is great in its own campy, whimsical way – probably one of the best spy spoof treatments of the 60’s. Dean’s movies really epitomize the “secret agent” mania that was going on by the end of the 60’s and are pretty enjoyable on a lazy Saturday afternoon. But as someone who really likes the literary Helm series, I can’t help but believe that this somewhat silly treatment of the character is what kept Matt from really reaching iconic status, because the potential is definitely there.
Here’s your chance hollywood – do Matt some justice! Rumor is there’s going to be a new Matt Helm movie based on Donald Hamilton’s novels coming out sometime in the not-to-distant-future. Supposedly Spielberg is involved – doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but it does still mean something. Oh how I hope for a period film, set in the 50’s as the original novel was, told in the same gritty, brilliant way.
But, instead of relying on “the industry” to produce a film that will reflect the real Matt Helm, go straight to the source and read the real thing! Start with “Death of a Citizen and go from there – the continuity from book to book is great.
This is still just one man’s opinion though. So get out there and see for yourself!