BEFORE I BEGIN... Let me point out that the book I'm about to review, Mickey Spillane's The Delta Factor (first published in 1967) is (a) out of print and (b) not currently carried by Greenwich Library (although you can request a copy through our teriffic InterLibrary Loan service). The reason I'm reviewing it is that, after nearly 43 years, The Delta Factor was finally followed up by a belated sequel, The Consummata (which we do carry; click here to see), begun by Spillane and completed by Max Allan Collins. However, in order to get readers to overcome any fears of having to read Factor before The Consummata, as well as grab another chance to promote All Things Spillane, I've elected to discuss the merits of the earlier work.
Factor introduces readers to Morgan the Raider, a WWII vet who went into business for himself after the war as a sort of modern day pirate. Recaptured by authorities after escaping prison for serving a 30 year sentence for stealing $40 million (though denying having committed that particular crime), Morgan is drafted by US Intelligence into rescuing a scientist named Victor Sable from a prison stronghold called the "Rose Castle". The prison is located on a Caribbean island called Nuevo Cadiz, where the corrupt officials have hooked Sable and other political prisoners on Heroin in an effort to break their will (and in Sable's case, get him to reveal missile system secrets that the Russians and other unfriendly nations would be interested in).
Morgan, with the help of agent Kim Stacy posing as his wife, has to either break Sable out, or kill him. Problem is, aside from completing the Sable "assignment", trying to prove his innocence regarding the $40 million (which starts popping up in drips during the mission) and helping another woman, Lisa Gordot, escape from the island, Morgan apparently has somebody else on his tail, who's killing women he befriends. But who and why?
The Delta Factor is a exciting thriller that's actually one of Spillane's more mature later works. Though Morgan is as tough as Mike Hammer, he's actually a softie despite his tough talk. His growing relationship with "wife" Kim -who he finds himself falling for- and his friendship with Lisa indicates a kind of "growing up" process for Morgan. Morgan's as strong and capable as any hero, shrugging off any potential danger and able to think on his feet. Yet he's also willing to commit to an actual relationship with Kim. And despite some seemingly misogynistic nasty threats he makes to Kim early on, Morgan, recognizing the meaning of Kim's "delta factor" (the factor is a symbol that separates the female from the male...and that's all I'll say) is able to develop a genuine respect and admiration for her, becoming a more mature (but no less tough), rounded character in the process.
The emphasis on characterzation doesn't mean the book skimps on thrills, however. The book's exciting climax is classic Spillane. And the final scene sets up the next installment of Morgan's adventures.... One that took 44 years to arrive and which I'll review next week. Stay tuned!