#70 – The Removers, Donald Hamilton BOOK REVIEW

August 26, 2018
krauserpua

The Removers

There is a big difference between show and tell. Much of old-school game advice is based on the latter. For example, a DHV story does not – ironically – demonstrate any higher value. That would be showing. You are literally telling a story. You are telling the girl about your high value [1]

Game that involves showing is more effective. Lots of that comes under subcommunication but banter, teasing, challenging and passing congruence tests are all cases in which your behaviour is showing you possess attractive character traits rather than merely assuring the girl you possess them.

Good writing will also prioritise show over tell. Rather than simply tell the reader that a character is angry it is better to have that emotion expressed through their actions or dialogue so the reader can infer the anger that produced it. Effective writing invites the reader to paint the picture themselves. Donald Hamilton is rather good at that and it was only when reading The Removers, the third in his Matt Helm series, that I could finally conceptualise why I enjoy his writing.

Howard Dodd

I dare say this vibe has something to do with it too

Let’s give an example, beginning with the context. In book one, Helm was a retired government assassin who married a woman, Beth, who knew nothing of his past. After fifteen years of married life as a civilian he was dragged back into Cold War espionage, culminating in his wife walking in on him just as he tortured a Soviet female spy to death. She divorced him, on the grounds that she couldn’t bear his savagery and he wasn’t the man she thought she’d married etc [2]. Book two is all overseas and she doesn’t feature. This third book brings her in as a main character.

She sends him a letter asking for help, as her new family is in danger and his skills are now in need. This is the first bit of show. Hamilton doesn’t make a big deal of Helm ruminating on Beth’s chutzpah in divorcing him over his savagery and then not two years later asking him back precisely because he’s a hard man. The reader makes the connection. “Cheeky bitch, tell her to fuck right off” was my instinctive reaction.

She’s married a British ex-pat called Logan and runs a ranch in the Nevada mountains. Helm shows up and his introduction to Logan is more show-not-tell. Logan asks Beth to give them some privacy then leads Helm into the study, pours him a drink, and politely explains his help isn’t needed.

I’d picked up my drink. As I turned from the bar, I brushed against it, and the camera in my hip pocket struck wood with a solid, quite audible thump. I reached back instinctively to check on its welfare. He was still speaking in his polite way; but at the sound, and my motion, his voice stopped and his hand moved, very fast, towards the lapels of the khaki bush jacket he was wearing.

It was a gesture that called for some violent response on my part. Fortunately, my encounter with the boy, earlier, had put a guard on my reflexes. I merely stood still and waited. His hand stopped. I drew a long, slow breath and continued reaching back without haste, drew the Leica from my pocket, and laid it on the bar.

“I thought I’d get some pictures of the kids before I left,” I said.

His face was quite wooden. HIs hand rose to straighten the knot of his necktie. “Quite so,” he said.

Then there was silence in the big room. I wanted to laugh, or to cry. I had him taped now. The practised, instinctive gesture had told me everything I needed to know about him. That’s the trouble with holsters. They give you away too badly, shoulder-holsters in particular.

That’s excellent subtle writing, as it’s the first real sign that Logan isn’t just a regular guy. What did you take away from the scene? What missing pieces did your brain insert to make sense of it. To me, all of the following spring from the page:

  • Logan has a background in gun-play and violence
  • The family is in a state of high alert and acting jumpy
  • Beth wasn’t honest with either Matt or herself about disliking men of violence as she appears to have married another one
  • If Beth thinks Logan isn’t enough to handle the problem, it must be serious
  • Logan telling Matt he doesn’t need help isn’t an empty boast
  • Matt probably shouldn’t turn his back on Logan

There is a lot going on in that scene that Donald Hamilton doesn’t need to spell out for you. He doesn’t need to tell you “Logan was a hard man, scars etched on his face and psych after a career as bodyguard to a local mobster. Though he’d tried to put his past behind him, the emergent threat to his new family had caused the old skills to reawaken inside him.”

That would be lame. Hamilton’s version is far superior.

Cherry Delight

If you want it in-your-face try this kind of thing

As an aside, I find instinctive gestures tell you a lot in daygame. I find a girl’s first reaction, in literally microseconds from when she realises you are opening her, tells you a lot about how it’ll go. If her immediate unthinking reaction is to light up with pleasure, you’re onto a winner.

Helm comes to learn that a local mobster is pressurising Helm’s ex-wife and children so that Logan will come out of retirement to fix a smuggling problem in Mexico. At the same time, that mobster’s chief henchman is a Soviet assassin – Martell – hiding under the criminal front and Helm’s superior, Mac, has tasked him with trying to figure out why such a high-level operative would be messing around as a mob henchman. Towards the end of the book, Helm and Beth are held captive by the Russian in a forest cabin, with Logan semi-conscious and incapacitated on the bed there.

Hamilton uses show masterfully to leave the reader thinking Beth is a vile cunt. He’s dropped little hints that Beth has been manipulating both ex- and current- husbands, that she’s hypocritically jealous of a young woman Helm has started banging, and that for all her sanctimony over the moral turpitude of Helm’s profession, she herself has conspired with Logan to send thugs to kidnap that young woman as leverage over the mobster (she’s the estranged daughter).

Despite this, Helm is helping. Hamilton doesn’t spell out his motives too obviously but we are led to suppose it’s more because his own two children are involved rather than any chivalrous instinct towards the ex-wife. Helm is a hard man, not a sap.

They are captured because Helm is exhausted and needs to sleep. He gives a shotgun to Beth and precise instructions that if she hears any noise at all she’s to fire the gun into the wall immediately, so that the potential assailant pauses and gives Helm time to wake up. The assailant – Martell – comes, Beth doesn’t fire, and both are captured.

Beth moved forward as awkwardly as if she were trying out her first pair of high heels. She stopped by the sofa and looked down at me.

“I, I’m sorry, Matt.”

“Sure,” I said.

There were no signs of a struggle. They’d just walked in, probably through the open study door near the fireplace – there was an outside door in the other room, I recalled – and taken the loaded gun from her before she could bring herself to shoot. I should have known that was what would happen, if the occasion should arise. I’d asked too much of her, although it hadn’t seemed like much at the time.

She had that strange aversion to making a mess, or a loud noise – to making a fool of herself – that seems to afflict all respectable people. The idea of discharging a great big destructive firearm, or even a little one, in her own living room, perhaps for nothing, had seemed just too outlandish. She’d waited until she was absolutely sure it was necessary, and then, of course, it had been too late.

Read out of context like that, you may have the impression Helm is forgiving her. No, he’s not. Partly it’s in the “sure” he replies, a somewhat understated version of “I don’t believe you and now you’ve fucked us royally you silly bitch”. In context, it is more support for Helm’s low opinion of sanctimonious civilians. Throughout the book Beth is painted as a useless hypocrite who wants to talk from both sides of her mouth. She hates violent men until she wants their help. She’s a horse-riding sassy gal who can handle herself, until she wants to play frail doll to be excused for not doing her job. She thinks a soft word and fingertips gently on a man’s forearm are enough to atone for a disgusting irresponsibility that will now get her ex-husband tortured to death after she dragged him into the problem and then obstructed him from solving it.

Frankly, I was hoping the Soviet assassin would just rape and murder her [3]

A theme throughout the Helm books is that civilians don’t appreciate the seriousness of real violence, and through their own wilful ignorance they end up making that violence far worse than it needs to be. Beth is poison for everyone around her, getting herself into scrapes that get noble men killed trying to extricate her, yet she never loses her sense of entitlement and her gratitude is false.

Hamilton doesn’t tell you she’s a cunt, he shows you. It surprises me to know he was married to the same woman throughout his writing career. He knows women like only a bachelor or divorcee should know them.

If you’d like to read more about an elite-level professional who takes down targets with consumate ease, consider my memoir series and other products here.

[1] A DHV story is just one type of DHV. There are others which involve showing, such as preselection or a display of competence in something.
[2] She took the house and kids too.
[3] He does rape her later, and she manages to fuck that up too, squandering a glorious chance for them to escape

Totally off topic… this is hilarious. The fact you have to stop and think before you realise it’s parody is a good tell for what a complete fucking moron Jordan Peterson is:

2 Comments

  1. Great writing, and love the daygame lessons sprinkled in there.

  2. Good post Nick. Would you say social media, particularly Instagram, is one of the easier ways of providing “show” DHV’s? I always find that I do better with girls who have seen my social media stuff rather than just relying on the “tell” DHV’s I’m giving.

    That Peterson parody is hilarious. Finally, somebody else agrees on how much of a clueless gamma he is. Classic 1950’s traditional conservative views with a poor understanding of SMV/SMP. Daygame Infinite would make his head explode. [He’d hate Daygame Infinite. It’s logical, clear, empirical, and uses genuine examples. That makes it the antithesis of JBP. K.]

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