Mario Puzo writing as Mario Cleri

Quercus pbo £7.99

Released: 4th May 2010

Reviewer:L J Hurst


Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung


Born in 1920, Mario Puzo never fought with the US Army, but at the end of the war it assigned him to its public relations division, serving in Germany. His wartime experiences resulted in 1955’s THE DARK ARENA, and SIX GRAVES TO MUNICH published twelve years later. In between, Puzo worked as a staff writer for the Magazine Management Company, producing stories and articles for Male, True Action, Swank and the like. Unlike that first novel, his periodical stories and then SIX GRAVES TO MUNICH were published under the pseudonym Mario Cleri, as if he were embarrassed by what he was doing. On the other hand, when THE GODFATHER was published, he said, “I have written three novels. The Godfather is not as good as the preceding two.” As those preceding two works were SIX GRAVES and his children’s novel, THE RUNAWAY SUMMER OF DAVIE SHAW, he seems to have had difficulty evaluating his own work.

Although it was published in the late sixties, SIX GRAVES is set in the mid-fifties. It is a revenge thriller, as millionaire Michael Rogan hunts the Nazis who captured him and his wife in the last year of the war, tortured his wife and so killed their unborn child, and repeatedly tortured Rogan, allowing him to hear her screams as she suffered in another room. The plate in Rogan’s head throbs with blood and pain, the place where the final bullet failed to kill him. In the last struggles of the Axis forces, German Nazis, Italians, Hungarians were all part of the torture team. Now, ten years after the war, after a partial recovery and also the loss of his pre-war mathematical skills, but with a new fortune made in early computing, Rogan has the time and means to hunt the men who have gone onto new successes on either side of the Iron Curtain.

What Rogan will have to learn is that with that Iron Curtain, which descended while he was recuperating, the powers that be might not want justice, let alone revenge, wreaking on the some-time Nazis. The only person on whom he might rely is the girl he met for a night in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn, but even with her he must wonder if she will be waiting when he returns from his next mission.

With a little of the sexual liberation of sixties writing in it, but with a background of the still miserable fifties, SIX GRAVES TO MUNICH reads quickly. It makes gestures to, say, the developing techno-porn of Q equipping Bond, particularly in the final chapters as Rogan prepares for a killer chess match, but the descriptions of the technology are unsatisfactorily skimpy and lack credibility. If you’re a David Downing or Alan Furst fan, though, and want something written by someone who was closer to events, you might want to take SIX GRAVES TO MUNICH from the shelves. It will give you an alternate view to the kills.






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