Sunday, December 17, 2006

Meet Augustus Mandrell

A reader who apparently wished to avoid publicity (he sent me e-mail, rather than post to this blog), introduced me to Frank McAuliffe and his stories about the amazing professional killer Augustus Mandrell. Mandrell is an impossibly suave, cool international master of disguise about whom McAuliffe published three collections of stories between 1965 and 1971.

I've just finished the first volume, Of All the Bloody Cheek, and I'm here to tell you McAuliffe must be one of the slyest, hippest, funniest, sharpest most satirically minded writers who has ever written crime fiction. He offers the reader thrills, surprise endings, laugh-out-loud jokes, and a memorable protagonist. Mandrell may remind you of the Saint or of James Bond, but he's deadpan funnier than both without being at all groaningly spoofy. And he' s not all thrills and laughs, either. The third story in Of All the Bloody Cheek, for example, has a rather poignant moment just before its end.

The stories are set in Europe on the fringes of World War II, and a sharp vein of political and social satire runs through them. The satire is occasionally ahead of its time. Here, for example, is Mandrell, who also narrates the stories, commenting on two military men's assessment of Mandrell's methods. Mandrell, one of the men has said, operates through a network of intermediaries that includes "disbarred barristers, unlicensed doctors, a homosexual or two.":

"This homosexual angle," Lieutenant Proferra said. "What about Mandrell himself?" As I mentioned, Proferra was an American.

Click here for more on Augustus Mandrell, McAuliffe, his narrative technique, his satirical vision and more.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff Meyerson said...

Peter, as a very long-time fan of McAuliffe and Mandrell, let me just say you have impeccable taste.

I'm hoping the rumor about the fourth, unpublished Mandrell book coming out soon is true.

December 19, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks, Jeff. I have more Mandrell and McAuliffe to look forward to. My copies of Rather A Vicious Gentleman and For Murder I Charge More are on the way.

The fourth Mandrell book is apparently more than a rumor; Point Blank Press announces it here: http://www.pointblankpress.com/, though the announcement gives no date.

What do you know about McAuliffe's non-Augustus Mandrell books?

December 19, 2006  
Anonymous Robert W. Franson said...

Thanks for your links to my Augustus Mandrell / Frank McAuliffe review at Troynovant, and for spreading the word!

December 21, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

You're quite welcome. I enjoyed your brief essay about Mandrell/McAuliffe. It's one of the better author essay/appreciations I've seen online.

Your advice to read the stories in order was to the point; I enjoyed the references to previous stories as I made my way through Of All the Bloody Cheek. My copies of Rather a Vicious Gentlemen and For Murder I Charge More are on the way. I expect to discuss McAuliffe and Mandrell more, for the pleasure of the discussion and, as you say, to spread the word.

December 21, 2006  

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