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Cape Fear

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  10,485 Ratings  ·  183 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
Mass Market Paperback, Crest K788, 224 pages
Published February 1965 by Fawcett Publications, Inc. (first published 1958)
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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)

Community Reviews

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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
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
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
Kristin ❋extols death with luminescent brilliance❋
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.

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
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
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
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
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers
THE EXECUTIONERS. (1957). John D. MacDonald. ****.
Sam Bowden was an attorney who lived in a small town with his wife and three children. Years ago, when he was in the service stationed in Australia, he stumbled on a rape in progress. He immediately turned for help and was able to save the girl from further harm. The man about to commit the crime was taken by the authorities, and after a trial was sentenced to life imprisonment. Fourteen years later, the rapist was released. He turns up in Bowden
Lady Delacour
⭐⭐⭐ Three Star Story!
Enjoyed the positive family dynamics.
The husband and wife real to life
flirtatious banter was a hoot!
Loved the HEA ending!!!
Narrator Stephen Hoye was a disappointment.
Almost clean except for some foul language.
Greg Z
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
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Okay, I have to preface this by saying that the movie of Cape Fear (the one starring Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, and Juliette Lewis) is one of my all-time favorite movies. It is SO incredibly suspenseful and well-acted!!! I've never seen the first one (starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchem) but now that I've read the book, I would really like to see the original.

I have to say that the book is not nearly as creepy or suspenseful as the movie (the remake), and there are many differences in plot
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.
„Willst du erst alle Präzedenzfälle suchen und einen Bericht vorbereiten?“

John D. MacDonalds EIN KÖDER FÜR DIE BESTIE (OT „The Executioners“) ist ein lesenswerter Thriller, doch eines muss vorausgeschickt werden: So lustlos, wie das Cover auf der 1985er Neuauflage im Ullstein Verlag, so katastrophal ist die Übersetzung von Charlotte Richter. Fast jede idiomatische Redewendung gerät ihr zum Fettnapf, aber selbst alltägliches Vokabular scheint ihr nicht geläufig zu sein. Am schlimmsten aber ist, d
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
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Clearly this is a story that precedes novels and movies of recent decades. It is written almost like a Hitchcock story, with all of the suspense and build-up, but wherein the main antagonist is barely ever seen. It is and was an important book that must have influenced much of what we see today, but I found the pacing and the end result only somewhat satisfying. It is a great building block for writers to see a "how to" of suspense from a different era.
Mar 24, 2011 marked it as to-read
Stephen King says" Top 10 villains in books:

10. Max Cady Don't recognize the name? Would it help if I said Cape Fear? Cady is the crazed-for-revenge psychopath who stalks the Bowden family in John D. MacDonald's The Executioners (1957). Played on the silver screen by Robert Mitchum in 1962 and Robert De Niro in 1991, but never more scary than in MacDonald's tightly wrapped novel."
Hmm, another rarity of the movie (DeNiro version) being better than the book. It was a great read but the ending was a bit of a let down. I guess it's because the movie is ingrained because I've seen it so many times and there are so many iconic scenes the book just felt a tad limp in comparison. Not bad.
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a heck of a read! Max Cady is a true psychopathic character and his presence brings terrific tension to this story! And this book gave me one of my favorite movies - "Cape Fear" - the one with DeNiro! It was cool to read this!
Rebecca McNutt
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Incredibly disturbing, but nonetheless well-written and vivid, certainly worth reading.
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Years ago, while stationed in Australia during WWII, Sam Bowden apprehended a US serviceman in the process of raping a 14-year-old in a dark alley. The rapist, Max Cady, was sentenced to a life of hard labor.

Now Sam has become a somewhat stuffy small-town lawyer, secure in the bourne of his family: wife Carole, 14-year-old daughter Nancy, younger sons Jamie and Bucky. What could upset this steady if rather boring existence?

After having served 13 years of his sentence, Max Cady has been released
Made into a film in 1962 with Gregory Peck, and a remake almost three decades later in 1991 with Robert De Niro, Cape Fear tells the story of Sam Bowden, the man who put convicted rapist, Max Cody, behind bars. After fourteen years have passed, and Cody has nursed his hatred for Bowden whilst in jail, he is set on planning his revenge—insane, passionate revenge.

Upon reading the summary, and thinking this would be a promising thriller, in both book and film adaptions, I couldn't have purchased th
Easy to see why this novel was movie material because it has the classic story structure as Sam Bowden makes the journey through hell and back. My only real complaint with the novel version is that MacDonald at times spends too many pages on character back story that enriches the characterization, surely, but does not move the story forward. The other major difference from the movie version that was really surprising as I reread the novel is how few times Max Cady appears in scenes in the book. ...more
Kim Harris
I haven't quite finished the book at the time of writing but so far it's a reasonably well written novel which is very much of its time. The reason for reading it is that both film versions (1958, 1991) are studied in my Open University course AA310 (History of Film and TV). I quite liked the 1958 version and absolutely hated the 1991 Martin Scorsese slasher version and I wanted to know which was closer to the film. So far, it is predominantly the 1958 version which is closest to the spirit of t ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If this book had been written nowadays, I would probably give it four stars, but the genre was just starting to gain popularity when Mr. MacDonald wrote this novel, so for its time, I imagine it was quite suspenseful. I have never seen either movie, but this book did make me want to see the earlier adaptation. The newer one, from what I have read in the reviews, seems to have detoured so far off the original plot that it doesn't really seem to be the same story. I do want to see the first movie, ...more
Leigh Thomas
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of Sam Bowden, a lawyer and family man who is thrown into a world of terror when Max Cady is released from prison.

Bowden was a key witness at Cady's rape trial and as a result, Cady was slammed with a life sentence. He is released after 13 years and he's overflowing with revenge.

This book surprised me greatly. Being written in the 60's, I expected an extremely timid thriller. What you actually get is psychological terror at it's finest!

You understand from the outset that Cady i
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
It may be short but it packs in a whole lot of story across its pages; if a certain (in)famous horror writer had penned this, it would most likely be at least 5 times more bloated!
It is of a time and could probably be pigeonholed as 'pulp fiction' but the prose is full of little nuggets of writing gold and the pacing is spot on. Suspense is maintained by the less is more approach in a very Hitchcock like manner with the only slight let down being the way the story was finished (hence the dropped
Rob Smith
Mar 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
As much as I love MacDonald and am reading or re-reading many of his novels celebrating his 100th birthday this year, this is the first time reading this one and it is not a favorite of mine.

2/3rds of the book is terrific. Then it meanders and gets real clunky at the end. i well understand why the 2 film versions had an alternate, and more MacDonald, ending.

MacDonald does his typical crackerjack job of creating a wicked bad guy and an atmosphere of terror. The rest of the characters are also w
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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. After the war, he decided to try writing for a year, to see if he could make a living. Over 500 short stor ...more
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