ANARCHAOS by Curt Clark, Ace Books, 1967
This is the 63rd in my series of Forgotten Books.
The WorldCon fever is upon me and this is the last writing thing I need to do before I go. About the time this gets posted I should be on the first of several Southwest flights headed off to Reno. This week’s book is ANARCHAOS by Curt Clark, a pseudonym of mystery grandmaster Donald Westlake. Westlake did not write a great deal of SF, but, like many writers of his era he stuck his toe in the water to see what was happening.
The planet Anarchaos for which the novel is named has no planetary government or laws. It operates on the principles of Anarchy and Chaos. The people are rough and tumble and weaklings are killed for their supplies and money. Since there are no laws, murder is not a crime.
Enter Rolf Malone, recently released convict. His original plan was to join his brother on Anarchaos in a job. His brother was a high placed engineer within one of the off-planet concerns which was operating on Anarchaos. Rolf has a temper control problem which led him to be incarcerated. Just as he is preparing to come to this wild world, he receives word that his brother has died and that the job arranged for him is no longer available.
The anger management issues lead Rolf to Anarchaos. En route, his weapons are confiscated on a less tolerant world, even though he is merely passing through. So, upon arrival he scouts out a cab driver to take him to his brother’s old company. En route he kills the cab driver, steals his weapons and the cab.
No one wants to talk about the dead brother. They are all confused by Rolf’s arrival. Wasn’t he aware that the brother was dead and there was no job? If so, then why did he come? Obvious cover-ups are happening and Rolf puts himself right into the middle of it all, with mixed success.
The novel has been described by others as a combination of the character Parker, created by Westlake in his Richard Stark persona, in space. Not a bad comparison. Both men are resourceful and have anger management issues. Both have plans that might not be fully formed when executed and which may not go off as planned. But both men succeed in their various quests.
All in all, this is a fine, action filled novel with unexpected twists and turns, as you would expect from Westlake. The book is readily available from the usual sources. ABE has more than 30 copies for under $10 including shipping. EBay has copies of the paperback and the subsequent 2004 hardcover edition as well as the omnibus TOMORROW’S CRIMES which includes the best of Westlake’s science fiction (and it is published under the Westlake name, too.
So, if you like the mysteries of Donald Westlake, you might like this. If you have not read him, the Grandmaster title should give you a clue. Generally he wrote some of the best stuff around. The Parker Richard Stark novels are more noir, the Dortmunder novels are comic, and others skirt all the facets of the mystery genre. Check him out.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.