Wednesday, March 02, 2016


By Terrence McCauley
Polis Books
328 pages

In 1953 British writer Ian Fleming wrote “Casino Royale,” and gave the world super spy James Bond, 007.  The irony is Fleming, who had been in Naval Intelligence during the war, set out to portray a believable espionage agent who would appear to those around him as someone innocuous and boring.  Then in 1960 Universal adapted his book “Dr. No,” as a film with debonair Sean Connery in the role and from that moment on, James Bond was altered forever.  Gone was the drab, realistic settings to be quickly replaced with pulpish super-villains, beautiful sexy femme fatales, exotic locales and fantastic techno gadgets.  Hardly the realism Fleming originally envisioned.  That authentic, punch-to-the-gut grit would come from another source, one purely American.

In 1958, mystery/crime writer Donald Hamilton wrote “Death of a Citizen,” and introduced American agent Matt Helm.  Helm was the total opposite of the suave and sophisticated Bond.  He didn’t drink expensive champagne or drive foreign sports car, but what he could do was eliminate enemy agents with a cold, efficient brutality that was uncompromising in its savagery.  Helm’s world of espionage was a stark, realistic landscape most readers had never glimpsed before.  It was if Mickey Spillane had taken over for Fleming.  In fact, many years later, Spillane actually dipped his toe into these waters with his Tiger Mann books.  Still, put up against Hamilton’s Helm series, they too fell flat.  Though many writers attempted to imitate Hamilton’s style, none could capture his unforgiving authenticity.

Until now.

In “Sympathy For The Devil,” Terrence McCauley introduces us to a ultra secret organization known as the University and one of its top agents, James Hicks.  Leagues ahead of the CIA and NSA, the University has developed an amazing data gathering network by promoting the advancement of such modern day wonders as the internet, spy satellites and other cutting-edge communication devices.  These tools make it possible for Hicks and his colleagues to monitor every major metropolis on the globe.

When one of Hick’s assets, a long time experienced agent, is drugged into betraying him, Hick’s finds himself knee-deep in a mystery whose solution maybe reveal a new and catastrophic threat to America on the scale of 9/11.  What he had believed to be a small terror cell operating in New York City has somehow, under his own scrutiny, evolved into something a lot more complicated and deadly with far reaching international sponsors.  A new group of fanatical Islamic Terrorists have begun a multi-faceted plan to attack America unless Hicks can mobilize the Universities’ substantial forces to uncover and defeat them.

With Hicks, McCauley has given us another Matt Helm.  Hicks is a lone; tough-as-nails patriot with no ties or loyalties to anything but his country.  He is a dedicated shadow warrior who will do anything, to include torture, to completely annihilate his enemies.  He understands the barbaric nature of his foes and is more than willing to give them the same ruthless treatment they exhibit daily.  And in so doing, he steps off the pages of this fast paced thriller as a truly remarkable protagonist, unflinching is his purpose and lethal in its execution.  Finally, in James Hicks, Matt Helm has a worthy successor and one we want to see a whole lot more of.  “Sympathy For The Devil,” is one of those rare books that makes you sit up and cheer.  Don’t miss it!  You will regret it later.

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