I’ve been reviewing Robert McCammon’s novels since Usher’s Passing was first published back in 1984. I wrote that particular review for Fantasy Mongers magazine and stated that Mr. McCammon was one of the best writers in the field at that time. After almost thirty years (has it been that long?), nothing has changed. Mr. McCammon is still writing, and he’s still one of the finest authors in today’s marketplace.
That’s not an easy accomplishment for any writer.
What has mystified me for the last decade is why none of the major publishing houses have really given Mr. McCammon a shot. His “Matthew Corbett” series (Speaks the Nightbird, The Queen of Bedlam, Mister Slaughter, and The Providence Rider) is truly one of the most creative, entertaining, thought-provoking, historical adventures around. I know Putnam published The Queen of Bedlam, but they did such a terrible job on the book that I tend to think they felt it wouldn’t sell more than ten copies. Listen, I’m a sixty-one-year-old man; yet, I still get excited whenever a new “Corbett” novel is announced. These books should be on every country’s bestseller lists. This means the publisher needs the ability to produce several hundred thousand copies of the book and do at least a hundred thousand dollars worth of publicity. It should also be noted that these novels would make excellent theatrical movies with either Toby McQuire or Elijah Wood playing the role of Matthew Corbett. Done correctly, the movies could easily become as popular as the first three Spiderman films or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wake up, Hollywood, and take a look at the money-making aspects of this fabulous series! If Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter can be turned into a major summer movie, then so can the “Matthew Corbett” series.
Subterranean Press has published the last two novels in the series (Mister Slaughter and The Providence Rider), and I have to say this publishing house has a done a magnificent job on the creation of each book. Everything from the type of paper, to the font, the binding, the interior illustrations, and the cover art has been done with a sense of true love and utter craftsmanship. These are beautiful books to behold and to own, even the trade hardcovers. My hat goes off to the owner of Subterranean Press, William Schafer, for publishing such beautiful books. This is the way Mr. McCammon’s novels should be published, not the way Putnam did it.
Now, let me discuss The Providence Rider. There will be some spoilers here so prepare yourself, or skip this part of the review.
The story takes place the winter after Mister Slaughter (one of the most terrifying novels I have ever read because of its total believability), and Matthew Corbett still hasn’t recovered fully from his encounter with a villain who’s heart was filled with nothing but pure, murderous evil. Even Matthew’s partner in the Herald Agency, Hudson Greathouse, is still dealing with the physical injures he endured from Tyranthus Slaughter. Everyone is therefore taking it day by day, until a series of explosions happen and businesses are suddenly destroyed.
You see, Professor Fell, who had a contract out for Matthew’s head, has unexpectedly decided he needs the aid of the problem-solver in rooting out a traitor or two within his own organization. The professor wants Matthew to come to his island and attend a conference under an assumed name and use his skills in problem solving to point the finger at the man, or men, who have betrayed the criminal mastermind. The only catch is that Matthew refuses the invitation. So, the professor has his men, under the command of Jason and Rebecca Mallory (aka Aria Chillany and Jonathan Gentry) blow up certain businesses, putting Matthew’s name on the wall of the establishment across the street from the massive destruction. It isn’t long before Matthew becomes a prime suspect in what’s taking place. Due to a number of extenuating circumstances, the young man eventually has no choice but to accept the professor’s invitation. Even worse, Berry Grigsby (the problem solvers true love) and Zed are forced to accompany Matthew on the trip to an island in the Caribbean.
When Matthew arrives to the island with the name of Nathan Spade, an employee who works for the professor, he soon encounters several criminals of the vilest type. The professor informs him that one of the people is a traitor and must be found and killed. Professor Fell promises to pay Matthew handsomely for the task and to make sure no harm comes to either Berry or Zed before they are returned to New York.
Before Matthew even begins his search for the traitor, however, he incurs the wrath of the Thacker brothers, who have their eyes on him. It’s only with the help of Minx Cutter, an expert at forgery and knives, and Fancy, an Indian who knew Walker in Two Worlds, that Matthew has even a slight chance of escaping the island and doing some necessary damage to Professor Fell’s organization of death and mayhem.
Before the end of the novel, Matthew Corbett will see the gruesome beheading of a man at the dining room table, he’ll intentionally set up two men to be tortured in the most horrible manner, watch a huge, frightening octopus eat a decapitated head, have the best sexual encounter of his life, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. All in all, this is just another day in the life of a professional problem solver.
The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon is an excellent, historical thriller that paints a picture of New York City during the early 1700s and what life was like. The times were definitely hard and death was usually quick. That Robert McCammon is a master of his craft can be seen on every page and in every sentence and with every word written. He knows how to use words to describe locations and characters that come to light in the reader’s mind like a spectacle of colors. In fact, many of the scenes stay with you long after the novel has been read. Some even reappear in your dreams during the darkness of night.
His lead character, Matthew Corbett, gives us a young man who has certainly lost his innocence during this exciting four-book journey and seen the reality of evil that exist within our world in all of its hideous glory. Even so, he continues to use his skills to insure justice prevails and that those who would maliciously hurt others are destroyed. Matthew, however, is not a person without his own flaws and weaknesses. He knows what they are and has to constantly fight them in order to succeed at the tasks put before him. In other words, he’s a human being who’s always striving to do the right thing in the most chaotic situation.
Don’t just read The Providence Rider, but grab all four novels and devour them like a man who hasn’t eaten in a week. They will leave you wanting more, and that’s what the author intends on giving the reader during the next few years. He plans a ten-book series and is already at work on the fifth novel. I just hope to be around long enough so I can review the last “Matthew Corbett” novel.