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Cape Fear

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  12,997 ratings  ·  322 reviews
An insane criminal threatens to destroy a family, and the police are powerless to protect them.

For fourteen years convicted rapist Max Cady nursed his hatred for Sam Bowden into an insane passion for revenge. He lived only for the day he would be free—free to track down and destroy the man who had put him behind bars.

Murder was merciful compared to what Cady had in mind—an
Mass Market Paperback, Crest K788, 224 pages
Published February 1965 by Fawcett Publications, Inc. (first published 1957)
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Robert I also agree that the movie was as good as the book. In fact, I thought the movie was better. The original movie, that is. The remake really turned me…moreI also agree that the movie was as good as the book. In fact, I thought the movie was better. The original movie, that is. The remake really turned me off. For me, it was entirely Mitchum who made the movie credible.(less)

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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  12,997 ratings  ·  322 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-books, 2018
When rapist Max Cady gets out of jail, he goes looking for the man who put him there, Sam Bowden...

Cape Fear, aka The Executioners, was the source for a couple pretty good movies, one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, and, in a way, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play so I figured I should give it a read when it showed up on the cheap.

I watched the Martin Scorcese version of the movie in recent memory and the book is a less intense, less interesting version. No philandering on Sam's part, no
Joe Valdez
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
The Executioners is the 1957 thriller by John D. MacDonald, the prolific author of pulp mystery and science fiction; the scent of nearly sixty year old paper in the edition I purchased was one of the book's mainline pleasures for me. MacDonald is best known as author of the twenty-one Travis McGee mysteries--with titles like The Deep Blue Good-by, A Tan and Sandy Silence or The Lonely Silver Rain color coded for airport travelers--and this novel, which received not one but two classic film adapt ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading John D. MacDonald’s excellent 1957 novel The Executioners (now published as Cape Fear because of the films) was a study in contrasts between the two films and the author’s original vision.

The story goes that Gregory Peck, the star and producer of the 1962 film, did not like MacDonald’s title and so picked Cape Fear because of its ominous tone and because films with place names as titles tended to do well at the box office. Having read the original (which stands the usual test of the book
I'm late to the game with John D. MacDonald, this being the first of his novels I have read. There will be more, by the gods. Yes, the book is dated, both in ideas and dialog, first published in 1958. It still works pretty well, in a retro sort of way. The conversations between the husband and wife seemed off, couldn't buy it at all. I have to say that the original movie is preferable to the book for me, something that doesn't happen very often. I know the remake starring Robert DeNiro took some ...more
3+ stars - A riveting thriller authored by John D. MacDonald and published in 1957, ‘Cape Fear’ originally titled ‘The Executioners’ was translated into film in 1962 and again, almost thirty years later, in 1991. The novel takes place in MacDonald’s present day of ‘57 in the fictional town of New Essex. Sam Bowden, a small-town lawyer lives with his beautiful wife, Carol, and three kids, the effervescent and highly capable fourteen-year-old Nancy and lively boys Jamie, eleven and Bucky, six year ...more
RJ from the LBC
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published as The Executioners, this stand-alone suspense novel is best known for its two movie versions. The story is simple: a recently released rapist stalks and threatens the family of the man who testified at his trial. Despite the corny Eisenhower-era dialogue, the plot moves along briskly and keeps us in suspense, although the ending falls a bit flat. ...more
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, fiction, crime, american
The best kind of John D. MacDonald novel. I've read so much Travis McGee, I've forgotten that John D. could write different characters. I liked Sam Bowden and his wife a lot. They seemed to reflect me (and my situation) more than Travis McGee ever did. I could relate better. It seemed a bit more grounded, less of a heroic caricature. ...more
Debbie Zapata
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
I don't recall ever reading this intense MacDonald title, but I knew the basic story. Not from the two movie versions, I've never seen those, either. And after checking wiki after I finished the book, I don't plan to watch the movies. Neither one remained true to MacDonald's plot, and in my opinion his version is the most satisfying for the characters and the reader.

Sam Bowden has to face the ultimate dilemma here. His family is being threatened: how far will he bend his personal rules, his sen
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Max Cady has spent 14 years in prison for raping a minor. The moment he is out of prison, he seeks vengeance from his lawyer, Sam Bowden, for using faulty defense tactics during his trial. With Max Cady closing in on Sam, killing his dog and then going after his wife and 3 children, Sam is forced to take help of professional killers to get rid of his deranged stalker. How does Sam survive this ordeal?

Somehow, I liked the movie better. Robert De Niro aced the character of Max Cady. Riveting, abs
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've watched the two movie adaptations. Robert Mitchum was born to play Max Cady, the bad guy. I enjoy reading JDM's stand alone crime novels, including this one. It moves fast. I plan to read more of his titles. ...more
Cathrine ☯️
A book made into a movie two times which did not meet my expectations. A very dated feel with sexist language that got in the way too often followed by a denouement that was so anti-climactic. Meh.
Read this sometime in the 90's. I remember liking it, significantly more than the movie, but that was likely due to the grossness that is Juliette Lewis.

Not much to say here. This book felt lacking in a lot of ways. The character development felt very shallow and I thought the ending wanted it both ways. MacDonald seemed afraid of anything bad happening to the heroes of the story and the whole thing just got very boring after a while.

"Cape Fear" otherwise known as "The Executioners" follows Sam Bowden and his family. Sam is happy and still in love with his wife, Carol. They have three children together, a girl and two boys. Though Sam is conten
Nik Morton
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
It’s 1957 and Sam Bowden is a dedicated lawyer, a happily married man with a lovely wife, Carol, and three children, Jamie, Bucky and Nancy. Way back in 1943, Bowden was a First Lieutenant on the Judge Advocate General’s Department and became a prime witness in the trial and conviction of staff sergeant Max Cady for the assault on a young woman in an alley. Significant memory – ‘I hard a whimpering in an alley. I thought it was a puppy or a kitten. But it was a girl. She was fourteen.’

Cady got l
Jeff Dickison
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The basis for the excellent 1962 movie "Cape Fear" starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. Remade again in 1991 with Robert De Nero and Nick Nolte. This version is not nearly as good. Lawyer's testimony sends a bad guy to prison who swears revenge on his release. How does the man protect his family? Short, easy read with great tension. See the original movie with fantastic performance from Mitchum as the heavy. Recommended. ...more
Helga Cohen
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thrillers, southern
This stand-alone thriller by MacDonald has been made into a movie twice. The original movie starred Gregory Peck as Sam Bowden and Robert Mitchum as Max Cady. The 2nd movie in 1992 was a Martin Scorsese remake starring Nick Nolte as Sam and Robert DeNiro as Max. This book as many of MacDonald’s books takes place in Florida around a lakeside village. MacDonald is best known for his Travis McGee mysteries. This book was originally called "The Executioner" but was renamed after the movie came out.
Tom Mathews
I have seen and loved both movie adaptations of this book several times and really enjoyed them both but, until now I haven't read the book. For the most part I really enjoyed it but I don't think it has aged all that well. I remember having this same impression when I read the first Travis McGee book. MacDonald's treatment of women is not very enlightened. Even so, it's an iconic novel that I still recommend reading. ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved it!!

John D. McDonald has done a great job here, "Cape Fear" is a thriller about vengeance, insanity, hate, stalking, and dignity in spite of a deadly threat!!

The story itself deals with a family with three kids living in a small town threatened by a convicted rapist after having suffered a long sentence in jail..
Very well written and little by little the tension becomes more intensive page after page!!

I've seen the two movies adaptation, but the novel is in my opinion much better!
Kirk Smith
Nov 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Maybe a +3.5. I expected too much from this because the movie was so tense and action packed. The book does a better job developing the characters, but still it is overshadowed by the film. A good book nevertheless.
James  Love
Excellent suspense thriller. Enough differences between the two movies and the book to make it worthwhile. John D. MacDonald never fails to deliver a great novel.
Zuky the BookBum
Scorsese really did me dirty. The De Niro movie may be outrageous but my god does it make you sit in the edge of your seat. This book did the exact opposite. I was so far IN my seat I was practically sinking into the cushions of out boredom.

It took me 2 months to read this 197 page book! Unlike in the movie, there is no tension or feeling of fear in this version of the story. Considering it’s small page number, this felt incredibly slow.

One thing I love about the film is the disfunction within t
Carla Remy
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The death of a beloved family pet is so sad but dealt with very effectively for the plot. Emotional. Interesting (in the way John D. MacDonald always is). The end was a touch less than explosively climactic. The title is not great, probably why it was famously filmed (twice) as Cape Fear.
Winter Sophia Rose
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Gripping, Intense Cliff Hanger Till The End! I Loved It!
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's 60 years since Cape Fear was first published.
It's been adapted for the screen twice. First in 1962, directed by J Lee Thompson, and again in 1991 directed by Martin Scorsese.
I can't think of many books that have been good enough to warrant being filmed twice in 30 years.
It stands as a testament to just how great this book is.
What makes a book a classic? I'm not really sure but this is one of them.

When Sam Bowden helps send Max Cady to jail for raping a 14 year old girl he has no idea how t
Roger Pettit
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
"Cape Fear" is a workmanlike, competent novel that falls under the heading of "pulp fiction". It is set in small-town America of the 1950s. The central characters are a young couple - Sam and Carol Bowden - and their three children. Sam is a successful lawyer. When he was serving in the US forces, he gave evidence against a fellow serviceman - Max Cady - who, as a result, was court-martialled and subsequently imprisoned for rape. After serving 13 years of his sentence, a psychotic Cady is releas ...more
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
"[Society] is not set up to deal with a man who is trying specifically and irrationally to kill us," MacDonald writes in 1957. And over half a century later, that's still true. (Sandy Hook, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Boston Marathon, etc.) MacDonald offers no solutions. While the author is successful at painting a picture of a family in terror, the climax of the story falls disappointingly flat. But perhaps MacDonald was writing a book about what it would be like to live life in terror and he is su ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published as The Executioners this story is best known for the movie adaptations (and subsequent Simpsons parody).

When Max Cady is released from prison after serving time for rape, he seeks revenge for the guy that testified against him.

Those that come to this story with prior knowledge maybe slightly disappointed, it's a quick enjoyable read and I'm glad that I've ticked it off the list.
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, classic, fiction
This is a classic thriller. A superb author, John D MacDonald, and two of the all time greatest actors, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, turned this story into a really scary movie. That movie was so powerful that decades later I could see the book characters on the silver screen. That made the book a five star for me. The dark and stormy night scene is what I remember most clearly.
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2019
Took me a while.
Mixed feelings. Started well, but then it just started to vanish. Maybe just because it took me a while to read it. I don't know, maybe it is just me. Great main character, I have to say
Craig Pittman
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This year marks the centennial of John D. MacDonald's birth, so my new year's resolution was to read as many of his non-Travis McGee books as I could. I started with one of his best-known books, "Cape Fear," originally titled "The Executioners." I liked it, but it's not what I expected.

"Cape Fear," originally published in 1957, has been made into two classic movies -- the original from 1962, starring Gregory Peck as the law-loving hero Sam Bowden, and Robert Mitchum as the ex-con Max Cady who's
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John D. MacDonald was born in Sharon, Pa, and educated at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Syracuse and Harvard, where he took an MBA in 1939. During WW2, he rose to the rank of Colonel (, and while serving in the Army and in the Far East, sent a short story to his wife for sale, successfully. He served in the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. A ...more

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