|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on October 29, 2019 at 11:05 PM|
Bottom line first – much as I would like to find a better candidate for best mystery novel of 1979 than The Rheingold Route, 1979 doesn’t appear to have given me the material. Many fine authors had an entry in 1979, but none in my judgment had their best stuff or even their above average stuff that year. Among the contenders I have read are John D MacDonald’s The Green Ripper, and Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. Among those that I can’t remember whether I have read or not are Ken Follett’s Triple and John LeCarre’s Smiley’s People. I haven’t read some of the others that were bestsellers that year, such as Robin Cook’s Sphinx, Len Deighton’s SS-GB, Leonard Sanders’ The Sixth Commandment and Robert Ludlum’s The Matarese Circle. None of these strike me as having the reputation or significance to overcome my loose rule against choosing a novel I didn’t read. And as to the LeCarre and Follett contenders, I also have a strong aversion to praising a book I read and didn’t remember. (Though I have to say, I remembered nothing about Agatha Christie’s The Patriotic Murders, which I recently re-read, and it was terrific).
Dismissing the Travis Magee contender and Stephen King’s The Dead Zone is a little harder, but both are authors on whom I have already bestowed “should have won”s, on much better work, and I should have high standards. The Green Ripper just isn’t good, and struck me as more of a wistful gesture on a great author’s part in response to a complicated work than a worthy entry in the tight complex Travis Magee canon. But The Dead Zone is, in my opinion, the first Stephen King novel to really tackle a valuable psychological question. If you had special powers that allowed you to perceive something unseen by others, would that justify otherwise immoral acts? And is that situation distinguishable from being insane? An intriguing and important question, so one’s judgment of The Dead Zone hinges on one’s judgment of how King answers the question – and I can’t talk about that without spoilers.
The Rheingold Route wasn’t great, but it had its moments, and nothing else from its year mounts a strong enough case to overturn it.
Categories: Edgar Winner Reviews (No Spoilers)