Once again I’m cheating a little bit with this Forgotten Book, since the Stark House edition of it will be out next month (paired with another A.S. Fleischman novel, DANGER IN PARADISE), but for now it’s a 1954 Gold Medal that’s never been reprinted, and it’s certainly a novel that deserves to be remembered and, more importantly, read.
This is the first A.S. Fleischman novel I’ve read. He doesn’t waste any time dropping the reader right into the middle of the action. The narrator, Jock Hamilton, is an American running a rubber plantation in Sumatra, and as the book opens, he’s already on the run for the murder of his wife, who he appears to have killed in a drunken black-out because of her habit of cheating on him. Jock himself doesn’t know whether or not he’s guilty, but he’s trying to avoid the cops anyway. He heads for the plantation of an old friend of his who has a rubber plantation in Malaya. On the boat heading upriver, he becomes involved with a beautiful Australian widow who has a couple of professional killers after her. She claims to have no idea who could want her dead, but she accepts Jock’s help in getting away from them. Then, arriving at the plantation, Jock finds his old friend married, and the friend’s beautiful wife has a straying eye that lands solidly on Jock. There’s also the matter of Communists insurgents who have targeted the foreign-owned plantations.
As I mentioned, MALAY WOMAN is about to be reprinted by Stark House. If you like hardboiled mystery/adventure novels, do yourself a favor and pick up this latest double volume, which also includes the usual excellent introduction by David Laurence Wilson and a brief intro by A.S. Fleischman himself, who penned it before he passed away earlier this year. Highly recommended – and I’ll probably be posting about the other half of the book before too much longer.