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Death of a Citizen

(Matt Helm #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,083 ratings  ·  124 reviews
Name: Matthew Helm
Code Name: Eric
Mission: #1 - Death of a Citizen
Remarks: A citizen dies - and a wartime special agent is reborn, as the girl with the code name of Tina walks into a cocktail party & 15 years of Matt Helm's complacent postwar life slips away. Suddenly the old automatic reactions take over, & Helm is thrust back to the time when he'd been a lethal
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Mass Market Paperback, 142 pages
Published May 12th 1975 by Fawcett Gold Medal (first published January 1960)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  1,083 ratings  ·  124 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: spies, hardboiled
"If President Kennedy is a fan of British secret agent James Bond, he should switch his allegiance to Matt Helm. For there isn't a thing the incredible Bond can do that U. S. agent Helm can't do better."

Back in the day when I was a teenager and read just about anything I could get my hands on I read fistfuls of 1960s equivalents of the dime novel and one of those writers that came into my hands was Donald Hamilton. I have always been a fan of the Bond films and so reading the Matt Helm series
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Mike (the Paladin)
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy-fi, thriller
Reviewed 2010, updated 2018.

Matt Helm, paragon of virtue, epitome of political correctness, man of the people....oh wait, that's another guy.

I guarantee some if they read this book today will be offended. Others will point to it and say, see I told you men were dogs, but don't go too fast, Helm likes his cat. The story here is okay. Who is the villain, what will be the outcome? Will Helm's new life survive the incursion of his old life?

Not a bad read actually a pretty good read especially if
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James Thane
Death of a Citizen was first published in 1960, at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and introduced Matt Helm, a secret agent on the order of James Bond, but without all the gadgets and the British mannerisms. During the Second World War, Helm had belonged to a super-secret group of agents/assassins, headed by a guy named Mac, and once the war ended, he left that life and became a private citizen. By 1960, he had established himself as a husband, father ...more
Charles  van Buren
Taut, realistic beginning to the set

Review of Kindle edition
Death of a Citizen
Publication date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Titan Books
Language: English
ASIN: B00BE24UMM
240 pages

Published in 1960 to acclaim and praise, DEATH OF A CITIZEN was the first novel in what was eventually a 27 book series about American espionage agent and assassin, Matt Helm. Typical of the praise heaped on author Donald Hamilton and his creation Matt Helm aka Eric was this review by noted author and critic Anthony
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Jim
I am so excited to see this series being re-issued FINALLY. Hamilton wrote a final book before he died, but it had been so long since his previous book that they wouldn't publish it. He's gone, but his son has it & we may finally get to see it in a few years, IF the series sells well. I'm pre-ordering the books as soon as they become available. The first two, this one & The Wrecking Crew came this week. The third book, Matt Helm - The Removers is due out in August.

Although I just read
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Werner
Jan 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Noir fans
Recommended to Werner by: My Goodreads friend Jim
Spy/espionage fiction began to develop in the early 1900s, around the same time the mystery genre was becoming popular. Some literary critics consider it a subset of the latter, and the two certainly have affinities; but I consider the former a distinct genre. I've read in it enough (though in some cases I can't recall the names of the books!) to know that it has its own history, influences and strands, which could be the subject of an essay in itself. The particular strand the Matt Helm series ...more
Jim
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I needed a comfort book & chose this one. Quick read & wonderful. The ruthless common sense displayed by Helm is such a nice change of pace from most of the current heroes or even many of the old ones. He's an American James Bond without the tricky gadgets. He has no sense of fair play or sentiment - usually. He'll shoot a man in the back & wonder why anyone considers the direction he was facing to be of concern. The object was to make him dead, right? Of course, he's not quite as ...more
Monnie
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the early 1960s, James Bond pretty much ruled my world of books. My husband and I saw the first movie, "Dr. No," at a local drive-in theater, were intrigued, and then discovered the books by the late Ian Fleming that were written between 1953 and 1966. I loved them so much, in fact, that they are the only books I've ever read more than once.

That decade brought our attention to another popular series of books featuring U.S. government counter-agent Matt Helm. In all, there were 27 of them; in
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Jim
April 2018: I needed a pallet cleanser for my mind. I've run across too many gooey, illogical heroes & heroines who make stupid decisions simply to extend the story & add excitement. That's never a problem with Matt Helm. The books are short & Stefan Rudnicki's voice works perfectly for this first person narrative. Best of all, Helm does what's necessary & to hell with anyone's feelings. He has his priorities right.

I also really liked the lack of political correctness. Fact or
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Malum
This is an odd book for me to review. While I never considered abandoning it, I did set it down and totally forget about it several times.

I think my problem is that not much really happens in it. A large chunk of it involves a road trip, and we get travel information just as much as we get cool spy stuff. Also, the big action scene that comes near the end was a total dud. The main character literally kept saying things like "I could have shot her, but I didn't", and "I could have hit him in the
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Dave
It is the beginning of one of the best espionage series out there and it is easy to see how more recent spy novels are in some sense derivative of the Helm books.

Helm's books take place in a world where men are men and women are women. The men are tough no-nonsense types and the women seductive temptresses in dresses and heels.

The writing is superb and Hamilton somehow can make even a dull cocktail party seem interesting.
Helm was originally a special agent in the European theater with the
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Kurt Reichenbaugh
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp
The series has a heavy continuity element to it, but I never was able to read any of them in order. Helm is a hardboiled spy who is lured back into service by an old partner/lover. His old boss, Mac, is still around from the WWII days as well, and is a master at head games as ever. Helm is a chauvinistic bastard, cold-blooded, and ruthless, which is part of the charm of this series. The earliest novels are generally agreed to be the better ones, but I haven't read one yet that I didn't enjoy. ...more
RJ
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
If James Bond was played by Mike Hammer and lived in the southwest United States, his stories might have been something like this. Expect the usual misogyny and racism we expect from tough guys stories of the late Eisenhower era. There's plenty of action and the plot occasionally makes sense but it drags quite a bit for a 140 page book.
Gary Sundell
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of backstory in this the first of the Matt Helm series. Looking forward to reading the next book.
Toby
After dipping my toes in to the Matt Helm series at random I thought it about time to discover the deadly secret agent's origin story by visiting this first novel in the series. Debuting two years prior to Richard Stark's Parker I can't help but feel like Donald Hamilton laid some strong groundwork for other amoral bastards with this early Helm.

It doesn't reach the same standards that The Hunter does, or even the same level of entertainment as later instalments but Death of a Citizen features a
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Andrew Caldwell
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this ... What does it take for a happily married man, making a comfortable living in a line of work he enjoys to go back to the grim, blood, murder and lust he once knew - 15 years before, half a world away, during a brutal, death-thirsty war?

Matt Helm is that man, he is that citizen. How does the citizen die a death and the spy rise from the ashes of his death?

After reading this I get it!

Nothing like the literary Bond, and nothing like the camped up Dean Martin movies... Fast
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Rose
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't say I cared for this book too much. That may be because I'm a woman. Normally I love books written with men in mind, they're light on the fluffy romance stuff and heavy on the action. This one just didn't do it for me. It was a little too 'stereotypical 50's male' for my tastes.

Even if I didn't know this was first in a long series, I would have guessed it was - not a whole lot happened but Matt Helm, after being out of the assassin business for years, gets pulled back in. I didn't care
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Wreade1872
The spy genre, or ex-spy/detective genre is not one i frequent too often but i've read a few and while not as detailed as a Le Carre or Deighton and still a bit politically incorrect, this is a heck of a lot better than say a Bond story.
A little bit pulpy it ain't shakespeare but its quick and too the point, compelling and well thought out.

The author does a great job establishing his main characters with some flashbacks, although this almost becomes a problem. So many flashbacks interrupt the
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Cheryl
Feb 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw this book at my library's used book sale for 25 cents, I had to have it. I'd seen the old 1960s Matt Helm films starring Dean Martin, and thought I was in for some campy fun. Unlike those films, this novel - first in the series - is dead serious.

It's a gritty spy-versus-spy story set during the Cold War, full of violence, suspense and deceit. It also gives the background story for Mattt Helm - how he became a spy in WWII, and his life since then. The action starts when he
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David Dalton
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, action, mystery
I love these "old" Matt Helm stories. I bought this one, but discovered my Overdrive library has the first 9 or so. I am set for awhile.

The book truly reflects the world at the time it was written, in this case about 1960 or so. Good, bad, or indifferent, the story takes place at that point in time. The story incorporates the values of the early 60's.

Matt is a no-nonsense type of spy. He gets dragged back into the world he thought he left behind after WWII. No such luck Matt. Helm is tough,
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Jim
I didn't read these novels years ago but remember the Dean Martin movies featuring pretty girls and booze. They were fun but didn't match up to the Bond movies. Death of a Citizen matched up well to the early Bond novels. Both the main characters were very different from the film versions.
Edwin
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The first book in the series tells the story of Matt Helm’s regression from a staid family man to the violent and dangerous bad-ass that he was many years in the past. Hamilton’s writing is superb with snappy dialog and observations, and a startling number of plot twists that serve to illustrate how shockingly ruthless Helm really is under the slim veneer of a law-abiding citizen. I would like to imagine that I’m a secret bad-ass underneath my baldness and flab, however I’m surely not, so that’s ...more
Josh
Matt Helm is retired from the war business. His days of covert killing and globetrotting replaced by a suburban comfy lifestyle where his family and writing career consume and fulfil him. However, a chance encounter with a former sexy operative, Tina, at a local party thrusts the agent known as ‘Eric’ back into the world of bullets, blood and bruising fist fights.

DEATH OF A CITIZEN took a while to get going (about a third of the book) as author Donald Hamilton established Helm as a writer and
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Richard
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, crime, espionage
Macho, mercenary, and mercurial.
Leothefox
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been collecting the Matt Helm series for years and I've only just now started to read them. Like some folks I was introduced to Matt Helm via the Dean Martin movie series, which I got in its entirety on VHS for Christmas one year (one of the great scores of my movie-binging youth). When I heard about the books I got really excited and started buying them up anytime I found them at a used bookstore.

I've done a lot of time collecting series without reading them and then getting burned when
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Joseph
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A fine opening chapter for a series. Hamilton provides a convincing character/narrator in Matt Helm, and throws in enough plot twists to keep you interested.
Also, he uses cars and guns as a metaphor for manhood in a way that might be corny to some readers, but I got a kick out of it:
"I dropped into low gear for the last steep grade to the mine. Even that didn't quite do it, and I double-clutched into compound low, which is an unsynchronized gear and quite a trick to get into smoothly while the
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Darrin
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just picked this up, looking for something light and fun, knowing nothing about the character or the film and TV versions that apparently have no resemblance to the original. I found it a thoroughly enjoyable adventure with a light plot, fun characters, and a few good twists -- not as heavy or deep as a Ludlum or Clancy, but more tightly written and better-paced than a James Bond novel. Just what I expected. Twenty-seven books in this series? I'm game to consume a few more.
TJ Creamer
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-told, and faithful to the times (50s-60s), but I have a hard time adapting to some of the technological accuracy (needing to use public telephone booths, for instance) in an espionage story.

The phraseology is also authentic to the times, and that is kinda cute.

The audio book version of this is well-narrated, and was engaging. I just don't think I can overcome my anachronistic desires to read the rest of the series though.
Richard Mellon
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First

First real Matt Helm book I've ever read ... I did see the movies Dean Martin made as the character ... Must say in this book Matt Helm is all business and any light hearted hijinks are not to be found ... excellent adventure and I'm ready for the next one ...
James
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fun, but certainly dated, action adventure novel.

I remembered the name Matt Helm from the Dean Martin movies my father used to watch on TV, and I particularly remember being disappointed that Jerry Lewis wasn’t in them and all Dean Martin wanted to do was smooch girls. I expected the books to be different, but wow, are they ever different (at least this first novel in the series)!

When the novel begins, Matt Helm is a writer of Westerns, a retired 36 year old WWII vet of a shadowy
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Donald Hamilton was a U.S. writer of novels, short stories, and non-fiction about the outdoors. His novels consist mostly of paperback originals, principally spy fiction but also crime fiction and Westerns such as The Big Country. He is best known for his long-running Matt Helm series (1960-1993), which chronicles the adventures of an undercover counter-agent/assassin working for a secret American ...more

Other books in the series

Matt Helm (1 - 10 of 27 books)
  • The Wrecking Crew (Matt Helm, #2)
  • The Removers (Matt Helm, #3)
  • The Silencers (Matt Helm, #4)
  • Murderers' Row (Matt Helm, #5)
  • The Ambushers (Matt Helm, #6)
  • The Shadowers (Matt Helm, #7)
  • The Ravagers (Matt Helm, #8)
  • The Devastators (Matt Helm, #9)
  • The Betrayers (Matt Helm, #10)
  • The Menacers (Matt Helm, #11)
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