Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, April 15, 2021


 A Rabble of Rebels by "Gordon Ashe" (John Creasey) (1971)

Patrick Dawlish is a typical John Creasy hero:  smart, handsome, tall, physically powerful, and well-liked by his peers for his willingness to take risks that other men would leave to their underlings.  Dawlish, whose career spanned 51 books, began as a Bulldog Drummond type of character in 1938, taking it upon himself to solve crimes rather than the police.  As World War II heated up, Dawlish worked for MI5, where he would often parachute into occupied Europe to rescue prisoners of the Nazis -- earning him a reputation of a modern day Scarlet Pimpernel.  Retiring at the end of the war, he essentially became an unpaid private eye -- fighting injustice with all the fervor of a man who hated crime and its effect on innocents.  Then, 36 books into the series, he was appointed Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Crime at Scotland Yard and was assigned as England's representative to an international consortium of police officials assembled to battle crime that crossed national borders -- a group that became known as the Crime Haters.  Dawlish's work for the Crime Haters drew international attention after major criminal organizations were brought down one after another, and he became more and more integral to its workings.

A Rabble of Rebels was one of the last books in the series published before Creasey's death in 1973.  (Creasey was so prolific -- he once had seventeen books published in a single year -- that books under his various pseudonyms continued to be published for several years after his death.)  Creasey quite often -- especially late in his career -- would use current events as a springboard to his stories.   Something that may not wear well a few years after the book was published.  In this case the theme was student riots triggered as a response, whether to racism or political exploitation or antiwar fervor or what have you.  Sadly, Creasey's theme here still strikes a chord in this post-Trump era of rising white nationalism.

Student protests were rising at Mid-Cal, a university in San Francisco, urged on by a highly organized group of professional agitators.  Gerald Lee and his sister Catherine were outside among the fringe of protesters when they both realized that the crowd would soon turn ugly.  Getting ready to leave, Gerald saw a group of four young thugs trying to prevent three girls from also leaving.  Gerald intervened, and was thrown to the ground and was viciously kicked to death by the four -- an early casualty of the student violence that was beginning to appear in cities across the world.

One member of the Crime Haters was New York City Assistant Police Commissioner Randy Patton.  Patton had become close to Dawlish during a tragic, earlier case.  Patton's daughter Dodie, now a college student in Boulder, also became close to one of Dawlish's aides, Gordon Scott.  Dodie returns home to tell her father that there is something shady going on with the protests on her campus.  At the same time, Gordon Scott arrives in New York to investigate for Dawlish and Scott uses the opportunity to propose to Dodie.

Patton had had an underground agent on site at Mid-Cal and the agent was now on his way to report some of his findings.  Patton's man never made it -- he was killed on the flight to New York.  The three girls whom Gerald Lee had rescued from the thugs during the protest, were killed by a bomb blast, along with their mother and a policeman.  This left only Catherine Lee as the surviving witness to her brother's murder and she is put under police protection.  Gordon Scott, now on the West Cost, falls instantly in love with Catherine the moment he meets her.  (But what of Dodie, you ask?)  Just before a bomb-throwing car reaches Catherine's apartment building, Dawlish arrives on the building roof in a helicopter and rushes Catherine and Scott away.  As they pull away, they see the building explode and burst into flames.  A number of policemen and residents of the apartment building were killed'

A pattern is emerging for the student riots, indicating that they are controlled by a powerful organization.  But for what purpose?  Dawlish and his colleagues had called for an emergency meeting of the Crime Haters to gather all information from the different countries on the increasingly violent student unrests.  It was decided to hold the meeting in the newly-formed, little-known African country of Golana.  But even here they could not escape the terrorists.  The country's new university, due to open that fall, is burned in an attempt to thwart the upcoming meeting.  Several attempts are made on Dawlish's life; one in London also threatened Dawlish's wife Felicity.  The student riots are becoming more deadly as the body count rises in universities throughout the world.  The situation in some countries has escalated enough to threaten political instability and the fall of governments.  Can Dawlish and the Crime Haters do anything to stop the madness and catch the persons responsible?

And what of Gordon Scott's unintended love triangle?  That, at least, will have to wait for another book.

A slam-bang thriller with a menace that requires more than a dollop of willing suspension of disbelief, dated in some of its attitude, and naive in its approach, A Rabble of Rebels still hits the spot and shows why Creasey was one of the world's most popular thriller writers.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty sure I read some of his books in the seventies. Will have to look at the list.