Book Reports: The Empty Trap by John D. MacDonald (1957)The Executioners by John D. MacDonald (1958)

I bought these books, paperbacks, from Hooked on Books for $2 and $3 respectively. So that’s a testament to how expensive books can be at Hooked on Books and also a testament to how much I like John D. MacDonald.

The Empty Trap details a revenge-based story told partially in flashback. A hotel manager finds himself working for a syndicate-connected hotel owner and discovers that he has no way out of the business. Unfortunately, the woman telling him this is the hard-but-soft songbird wife of said owner. The hotel manager figures the only way out is to absquatulate (meaning 1) with some of the mobster’s money and the mobster’s wife; the mobster thinks the hotel manager and the wife should indeed absquatulate (meaning 2). The goons leave the now-former hotel manager for dead in the Mexican desert, but in leaving him only mostly dead, they set the stage for revenge.

The Executioners reminded me a lot of the movie Cape Fear (or at least the promos I’d seen of the movie), and a quick glance at reveals why. The book was the source for the movie. Ah. As you might already know with that hint, a man and his family suffer the unwanted attention of a released felon against whom the father testified. The police and other locals provide little help, so the family goes on the run and finally has to make a stand.

Both books have plots that have become stock over the last fifty years, but I read them to see how John D. MacDonald did them. He did them well and rapidly; these books weigh in at fewer than 170 pages each and respresent the best of the immediately post-pulp era.

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