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The melting man (1968)

Novel (279 pages, 87,400 words)

First edition 1968
First edition
Pan paperback 1973
Pan paperback
Charter paperback (US) 1980
US paperback
Compilation 1986
Compilation

Rex Carver Companion
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The Book

Rex Carver is asked to recover a lost car by millionaire Cavan O'Dowda. It soon becomes clear that what O'Dowda wants is not the car but some secret materials hidden in it. The villains include agents of African politicians and, given the rather thin characterisation, it is difficult for the author to keep all traces of racism out of the book. There is no mention of the secret service mandarins Manston and Sutcliffe, though the French agent, Aristide de la Dole, now working for Interpol, reappears from Doubled in Diamonds. Carver himself behaves with unmotivated recklessness, and in the end it is hard to retain much admiration or sympathy for him. Indeed he behaves just like the idiotic heroes that Canning satirised in his essay "The trouble with heroes" in Suspense, August 1960.

Publishing History

This is the fourth and last of the Rex Carver books, published in 1968 by Heinemann and in 1969 by Morrow in the USA. There were several paperback editions and it was included in an ill-assorted "three of the best" collection by Ravette in 1986, together with A Delivery of Furies and The Python Project.

It has the same rather breathless progress round Europe as the other three books, in this case Geneva, Evian, Cannes, Turin, and various towns in Alpine France (see pictures below), and one gets the sense by the end that Canning was ready to ditch his hero and move on to more interesting subjects.

 

"The chateau, with a façade almost as long as Buckingham Palace, was big enough to give a millionaire aa feeling of not being too cramped." (Page 106)
This picture is of the Imperial Palace Hotel at Annecy, but I think Canning may have had it in mind for O'Dowda's chateau.
"... by five o'clock I was at Talloires, which is a small place on the east side of Lake Annecy. I got a room at the Abbaye which overlooks the lake." (Page 185)
"I drove along the road to Annecy for a mile and then turned left-handed up to the Annecy golf course." (Page 195) Foyer of L'Auberge du Père Bise in Talloires. "The écrevisses were delicious. So was the omble chevalier poché beurre blanc which followed them." (Page 188)
Len Deighton writes in his ABC of French Food (1989), "Over the years [omble chevalier] has become more and more scarce. Nowadays it no longer appears on the menu at L'auberge du Père Bise and the waiter whispers of its arrival."