Friday, September 11, 2015

FFB Review: "A TIME OF PREDATORS" (1969) by Joe Gores (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

Barry is back today for this week’s installment of Friday’s Forgotten Books. While the book was published in 1969 clearly the initial setup is one that could and does easily happen these days. For the rest of the suggestions this week make sure you head over to Patti Abbott’s blog.

A TIME OF PREDATORS (1969) by Joe Gores

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

This Edgar Award-winner for Best First Novel is a grabber from the outset. Rick Dean, nineteen-year-old junior college student, fancies himself the kind of leader he sees depicted in the war movies he loves. One Friday night, while hanging out at a drive-in movie with equally under-aged and easily-manipulated friends Julio Escobar and Delmer “Heavy” Gander, as well as twenty-one-year-old Ernest “Champ” Mather—and after consuming among them three six-packs of beer—Rick decides that they need to beat up on a gay male because, he claims, he was once allegedly groped by one. The chosen-at-random victim, Harold Rockwell
is, in fact, both straight and married. The unexpected and unforeseeable witness is Paula Halstead, who lives nearby and whose sudden appearance causes the assailants to flee—but not before severe damage has been done to Rockwell and she gets a look at Rick.   

When newspaper reports identify Paula as the wife of Curtis Halstead, anthropology professor at Los Feliz University, Rick worries about whether she could have reported his description to the police, as well as the license number of the station wagon that he and his friends fled in on the night of the assault. Concocting a plausible lie, Rick enlists the unwitting help of Debbie Marsden, whom he’s known since high school, who is a student at the university, and who is enamored of him, to find out where the Halsteads live. Once he has the information, he and his friends pay a visit to Paula. After they depart, she commits suicide.

All of this occurs in the first thirty pages of the Mysterious Press paperback edition I read. What follows is a tense and intense psychological revenge story as Curtis Halstead, frustrated by the police department’s refusal to pursue the case because Paula’s death was clearly a suicide and because the nature of Harold Rockwell’s injury precludes identification of those responsible, sets out to track down and punish the “predators,” as he’s come to think of the gang that hurt Harold Rockwell and Paula, understanding that he’s become a predator himself. Despite his professorial credentials, Curtis is no wimp, having served with Britain’s Special Air Services during World War II. He only needs to get back into shape, to hone old reflexes, to find the leads to those he seeks, and then....

Superbly structured while successfully defying the oft-taught writers’ prohibition against switching viewpoints within scenes, A Time of Predators takes the reader into the minds of its principal characters and thus succeeds in building the kind of suspense that keeps pages turning right up to the finish. At the same time, it will keep readers pondering moral, immoral, and amoral issues from various characters’ perspectives—and there are no lack of those.

Strongly recommended.

© 2015 Barry Ergang

Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. Some of it is available at Amazon and at Smashwords. His website is

1 comment:

George said...

I really enjoyed these early Joe Gores novels. A TIME OF PREDATORS is terrific!