I’m supposed to be concentrating on writing my next MISSING script, which preps in a week. But I made the mistake of picking up Harry Whittington’s A MOMENT TO PREY and couldn’t stop reading it until I was through. Wow. What an amazing book.
I stumbled on Whittington and this classic noir tale thanks to a posting on Ed Gorman’s blog:
I had to get my car repaired so I grabbed A MOMENT TO PREY by Harry Whittington to take along. I’d nominate this as Harry’s best. I’d forgotten how good the monstrous villain is. This is Max Cady (Cape Fear) country, Cady played by Robert Mitchum, not Robert DeNiro (though I’m generally a huge DeNiro fan–he had a terrible script). This may be (and I mean this in a reasoned, thought-through way) the spookiest villain in crime fiction outside of Hannibal the Cannibal. He is a sexual psychopath unlike any I’ve ever encountered before. And the plot is sensational. There are three perfect twists in the storyline, each marking the curtain in the manner of a three-act play. Though it doesn’t offer the depth of John D. MacDonald in backstory, it does, I think, equal MacDonald is sheer storytelling power. And I’d certainly put it above any of the Travic McGees which, much as I like them, were never JDMs best work. Harry cranked them out, never had an agent who tried to move him up, and I don’t think had the faith in himself he deserved. This is a first-class book that merited hardcover publication and many, many, many paperback reprint editions. What you would call a minor masterpiece or cult classic.
He was right.