Monday, February 26, 2024

The Floods of Fear - John and Ward Hawkins

As this novel opens, disastrous flooding from spring rains and snowmelt has spread over a large region, and a group of convict laborers under the command of one guard are stacking sandbags along a dike, trying to keep it from collapsing. But they’re doomed to fail, and when the dike gives way it’s a catastrophe that leaves only three men alive: Donavan, a murderer; Peebles, an armed robber; and Tom Sharkey, the guard who was in charge of the work detail. It’s no surprise that the three of them wind up together, trying to survive. Then, a short time later, they come across Elizabeth Matthews, a pretty young college girl who’s also been stranded by the terrible flood. Peebles wants the girl for himself, Sharkey wants to get the two convicts back behind bars, and Donavan, well, Donavan has his own agenda, and it includes murder and revenge.

Once that set-up is in place—and it really doesn’t take long—THE FLOODS OF FEAR becomes a pure, white-knuckled, man vs. nature/man vs. man suspense novel, with a little bit of a Gold Medal hardboiled crime angle as well. This wasn’t a Gold Medal book, but it certainly could have been. Instead, THE FLOODS OF FEAR by the writing team of brothers John and Ward Hawkins was serialized in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST in 1956, published in hardback by Dodd, Mead that same year, reprinted in 1957 by Popular Library under the title A GIRL, A MAN, AND A RIVER, and finally reprinted recently by Black Gat Books, the edition I read.

This is an excellent novel, well written and very much character-driven but also with plenty of action. Donavan, especially, is an intriguing and compelling character. Not everything turns out the way you’d expect at first, although along the way it becomes apparent what the authors are building toward. And the big finale doesn’t disappoint, either. I really enjoyed THE FLOODS OF FEAR and give it a high recommendation for readers who want an intelligent, fast-moving novel of suspense. It’s available in e-book and paperback editions on Amazon and from the publisher.

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