Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review of Of All The Bloody Cheek


Killing people is a grim business. This is why, in fiction, hitmen are either tormented, existential figures or your garden variety psychopaths. It is rare to find a fictional contact killer who approaches his work with aplomb and joy de vivre. Augustus Mandrell is such a killer. The invention of Englishman Frank McAuliffe and the hero of three published books (and a rumored unpublished fourth one), Mandrell is the world's greatest hitman, and he's going to make sure you know it.



Starting with Of All The Bloody Cheek (Point Blank, 2005), which was first published in 1965, Mandrell narrates his adventures with relish. Cheek is more of a collection of four connected novellas, than a proper novel. The stories take place in the late 30's and early 40's. In each section, Mandrell relates the story of one of his "commissions," with each one being more elaborate than the next. Mandrell even has a nemisis in the form of an American Army Lieutenant (later a major) named Proferra, whose encounters with Mandrell leave him increasingly mutilated and unhinged.



The events may be historical, but McCauliffe gives Mandrell an urbane, witty, voice that is still engaging over 40 years after it initally appeared. McCauliffe has succeeded in creating a unique hitman who provides a wonderful counterpoint to his more serious counterparts. Unfortunately, Cheek is the only book in the series in print. Point Blank had, at one point, intended to reprint them all, but that plan seems to have fallen by the wayside. Pick this one up while you can still find it.

8 comments:

Cullen Gallagher said...

What information do you have about the unpublished fourth book?

Bill Crider said...

This is a wonderful book. I know that Point Blank at one time planned to publish the fourth book in the series, but now that seems doubtful. Too bloody bad.

Nathan Cain said...

Cullen,

The Point Blank edition of Of All the Bloody Cheek has a biographical note about McCauliffe, that states that the final manuscript has been found and will be published, but that's four years old now, so who knows if or when the book will surface.

Will Eley said...

Frank McAuliffe is not English. He's a first generation American of Irish immigrants. Born in NY.

marty said...

Can anyone elaborate on "The Marengo Campaign" essay that begins the book? I honestly don't understand the connection.

Nathan Cain said...

Marty,

What edition of this book do you have? My copy has four "commissions" and brief preface, and that's it. I don't see anything about the Marengo Campaign. That was some sort of Napoleonic somethingerother, wasn't it?

marty said...

Nathan,

Okay, it seems like I have a legit screw-up here. I have the copy as shown on both Amazon and Point Blank Press' website, which I assume is the most recent.

The first 29 pages of the book, though, are from a different publisher (Leonaur), and they're a really boring historical essay. After that, though, is the complete book.

I was hoping I wasn't missing something about the book, some hidden theme or whatnot.

Nathan Cain said...

So the book has extra pages from another book? Weird. I wonder how many copies are like that?