MATT HELM

 
Full Name: Matthew Helm
Codename: Eric
Nationality: American
Organization: US Intelligence
Occupation Agent

Creator: Donald Hamilton
Time Span: 1960 - 2013
ABOUT THE SERIES

       Matt Helm is an agent for US Intelligence.
       Born in Minnesota to Karl and Erika Helm and raised in the Southwest of the United States, Matt Helm volunteered into the army as a young man during World War II. His abilities brought him to the attention of the grayish man known only as Mac, who recruited him to work behind enemy lines.
       During the latter days of the war, Helm was wounded in action and spent several weeks in the hospital. It was there that he met and fell in love with Beth and chose to leave the back alley work he specialized in.
       A discharge and a move back to his native New Mexico followed. Marriage, three children, a sedate life of writing and photography. All became the norm for Matt Helm for 15 years. Then his past crashed into his present and his future was not the same.
       Probably one of the tallest of the spies in fiction, Matt Helm stands 6'4 high. Many times in his adventures he is referred to as a beanpole.
       Helm takes enormous pride in being a bastard. He warns everyone who will bother listening that he will not hesitate to kill them if the situation warrants. The number of people, usually female, who don't believe him and then are stunned when they find he didn't lie is amazing.
       He is an American and proud of it, although he would glare at any hint of overt patriotism, rather professing to just want to be pointed at a target and let go, Male or female, young or old, race immaterial. If Helm's boss indicated it, the target would die.
       Helm's weapon of choice is the long rifle, being an expert marksman from over a thousand feet. He is proficient with pistols and a fair hand with a shotgun but it is the long-distance weapon that he prefers. The information that Helm passes on regarding the weaponry he uses is highly instructive, which is understandable concerning Donald Hamilton's expertise in guns and hunting.

BOOKS

Number of Books:27
First Appearance:1960
Last Appearance:2013

0 Matt Helm - The War Years Matt Helm - The War Years
Written by Keith Wease
Copyright: 2013

An authorized pastiche - this novel explores the days Matt Helm worked for American Intelligence during World War II, including his time with his female partner, Tina.

1 Death Of A Citizen Death Of A Citizen
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1960

When an old colleague appears at a cocktail party and gives Matt Helm the sign of trouble coming, Helm reluctantly agreed to help. When his daughter is kidnapped to force his action, he remembers how good at killing he had once been, teaching the enemy as he went.

2 The Wrecking Crew The Wrecking Crew
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1960

The Soviet agent known as Caselius had killed one too many of Mac’s people and now he was the target for elimination. The mission went to Matt Helm, recently graduated with less than honors from the “Farm” where he had relearned the myriad ways of killing that the organization for which he again worked specialized in.

3 The Removers The Removers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1961

Fully divorced and comfortable with the fact, Matt Helm is surprised that his former wife, now remarried, sends a message asking for help. He is even more amazed when Mac agrees that he should take time off to render assistance. He should have known that the “gray man” would have a motive behind the largess.

4 The Silencers The Silencers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1962

Sarah had been an agent for Mac, sent into Juarez, Mexico, to pose as an exotic dancer. Now Mac wants her back and sends Matt Helm to bring her home, one way or another. Why he wants her and why she won’t come back willingly, he doesn’t say.

5 Murderers' Row Murderers' Row
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1962

Matt Helm has at times had to be callous but of late, his actions have even his own people worried about him. This worry grows more when the evidence clearly shows him the murderer of a fellow agent. Evading collegues anxious to bring him down, he investigates a rich woman whose use of her yacht on the Chesapeake is far more than just a pleasure cruiser.

6 The Ambushers The Ambushers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1963

It started out as an assassination mission to Costa Verde to remove a renegade general. Matt Helm tracked the man, found the man, sighted on the man, and eliminated the man. Mission over. Then Helm noticed an item in the possession of the renegade and his band of men; a very big and very dangerous nuclear missile.

7 The Shadowers The Shadowers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1964

Dr. Olivia Mariassy is in danger. This renowned scientist is but one of several supposed targeted by the aged Soviet agent Taussig for elimination at a prescribed moment and Helm is assigned to protect her. To hide the bodyguard role, Matt Helm was tasked with meeting, courting, and marrying the prim and prissy woman.

8 The Ravagers The Ravagers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1964

The previous agent had died brutally, answering the hotel room knock only to receive a dose of acid in the face. Was the agent murdered by the woman he was following or by the man who was following the agent? Matt Helm was assigned to the case to take the place of the deceased agent.

9 The Devastators The Devastators
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1965

Off the coast of Scotland, the third agent sent on this latest assignment was found dying of bubonic plague. The previous two agents had also died of virulent, albeit different diseases.
Matt Helm is sent to investigate the activities of a crazed scientist who threatened to destroy the UK with sicknesses nightmares were made of.

10 The Betrayers The Betrayers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1966

On the luscious islands of Hawaii, the agent known as the “Monk” seemed to be up to far more than his boss, Mac, would have desired. Word came that he was looking at a troopship loaded with 3,000 soldiers bound for Vietnam, and the looks were not with fondness.

11 The Menacers The Menacers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1968

Did she really see a UFO? Matt Helm was told that the answer was not really important but keeping her alive to answer it again was important. It made little sense to Helm but neither did the fact that others really wanted her dead, all because she may or may not have seen a flying saucer.

12 The Interlopers The Interlopers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1969

First Matt Helm had to dye his hair blond and train with a dog. Then he had to take the place of a dead assassin with an equally dead dog. Then he had to fight off yet another blond imposter with his fake pooch, all to save the life of the next President of the United States.

13 The Poisoners The Poisoners
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1971

She was a brand-new agent taking vacation in the L.A. area, totally off-duty. So why was she killed almost immediately after arriving in town?
And why was a major crime leader so eager to hand over to Matt Helm the man who readily confessed to the murder. Why had the man confessed when he so obviously didn’t do it?

14 The Intriguers The Intriguers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1972

Matt Helm was almost forced into taking a vacation off the coast of Mexico. He was forced to take a fishing boat to better enjoy himself. At first, he was curious why Mac was so interested in his recreation but the question grew when someone took a few shots at him.

15 The Intimidators The Intimidators
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1974

An old enemy of Matt Helm, the lady from Murderer’s Row, is back again but this time as possibly an aid to the secret agent, if he can keep her from killing him first. The case revolves around the mysterious disappearance in the notorious Bermuda Triangle of several ships, one of whom is carrying a millionaire.

16 The Terminators The Terminators
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1975

When an old friend of Mac with extensive experience in Norway wants to return there on a secret mission, Mac instructs Matt Helm to guard him and a young woman on a cruise along that coast. When this woman is killed immediately after arriving on the ship, Helm knew the mission was not routine.

17 The Retaliators The Retaliators
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1976

When Matt Helm goes to withdraw money from the bank to buy a new pickup, he discovers that his balance was larger than it should have been by $10,000. His other account is also heavier than it should have been. And it isn't just him but fellow agents suddenly having unexpected funds. Why?

18 The Terrorizers The Terrorizers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1977

Found off the coast of British Columbia, the sole survivor of a light plane crash couldn’t answer questions because he couldn’t remember. Anything! Matt Helm believed he was a photographer named Paul Madden out of Seattle. Then the man is kidnapped and Helm is sent to find out why.

19 The Revengers The Revengers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1982

This newest assignment novel is truly an old-home-week episode. Several characters from previous missions return to help or hinder Helm. Also back is a very cruel syndicate figure, now a reformed man who has amazingly won a Senate seat but who still holds a tremendous grudge against Matt Helm.

20 The Annihilators The Annihilators
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1983

Matt Helm's new love interest is grabbed by the offspring of Colonel Jimenez, former president of Costa Verde. Their father had been ousted by the current President Rial. They want Rial removed so their father could return to power. If Matt didn’t kill Rial, they would kill the woman. Helm has different ideas. The ending is terrific.

21 The Infiltrators The Infiltrators
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1984

For eight years she sat behind bars for treason. Her husband, also wanted for this crime, had fled the country. Now her time was up and she was being released. So why was someone interested in killing her? Matt Helm has been assigned to protect her and find out who was after her.

22 The Detonators The Detonators
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1985

The young lady was worried about her father, a retired colleague of Matt Helm so she turned to him for help when he is arrested for drug smuggling. Then people start dying and Helm is ordered by Mac to find out the cause.

23 The Vanishers The Vanishers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1986

When Mac began to relate the facts behind the disappearance of many people, each important in his or her own field, Matt became confused. His organization did not hunt missing people. This was especially when each person’s sudden vanishing went with it proof of it being voluntary. Then Mac lets out he was potentially an upcoming target.

24 The Demolishers The Demolishers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1987

When Matt is told to find an old acquaintance, the assassin Bultman, and eliminate him because the killer was getting involved in Caribbean, Matt disagrees and quits. Three weeks later, rebels backed by Bultman blow up a restaurant in Florida and one of the innocent victims in the explosion is Matthew Helm, jr.

25 The Frighteners The Frighteners
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1989

General Moondragon, if you can believe that name, wants to become the next president of Mexico, using bullets instead of ballets to produce the win. Unfortunately, a cache of armaments that he was buying disappears and he is out for revenge.

26 The Threateners The Threateners
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1992

An aging drug lord takes exception to the works of a South American journalist and even more unhappiness about an upcoming book so a $1,000,000 bounty is placed on the head of the snoop. When the reporter, living in hiding near Helm’s home in Santa Fe is killed along with an old friend of Matt, our hero is directed to exact revenge.

27 The Damagers The Damagers
Written by Donald Hamilton
Copyright: 1993

A band of Arab terrorists, wanting to make a statement in retaliation for Desert Storm, have smuggled an atomic bomb and planted it somewhere along the Atlantic coast. Matt’s job is to sail the motor sailboat that was used to transport the bomb and retrace the path to bring out the terrorists to learn where the danger was lurking.

MOVIES

Number of Movies:4
First Appearance:1966
Last Appearance:1968

       When Albert Broccoli was considering a movie based on Ian Fleming's Bond, his partner, Irving Allen, met with the author and discussed the concept but since Allen did not particularly like the idea, the talk did not go well so the plans were delayed. After Allen and Broccoli ended their partnership soon thereafter, the latter went on to patch things up with Fleming and history was made in the spy movie business. This apparently and understandably did not sit well with Irving who saw a fortune heading elsewhere. With I am sure some chagrine, he decided to get his own spy and went looking. He ended his hunt with Donald Hamilton and the American counter-assassin, Matt Helm.
       The question that arose immediately was how best to compete in the same field as the hugely successful Bond films. The decision was to strike out in another direction; to not go for the macho, do-not-mess-with-me attitude that Sean Connery had given Bond. The sophistication and the womanizing had to stay, though, because that was the major appeal of the character. Allen and his team decided on a playful approach which was odd since there was absolutely nothing playful about Matt Helm. The tone of the movies would border on satire with a don't-get-so-uptight quality. All the players in the movies would be earnest and determined in their tasks but the hero would be nonchalant and almost cavalier. Like Bond, however, he would greatly fancy the company of beautiful women and would enjoy their favors whenever the circumstance arose.
       To play this devil-may-care operative, they looked to the Rat Pack and the ultra-cool Dean Martin. Martin was at the top of his game with Vegas headlining, movies both light-hearted and somber were selling tickets like crazy, and a new television variety show was just starting. He was perfect for what they were looking for as he had tremendous name recognition, which was more than Connery had with the first Bond film, and his style was as they wanted for their version of Helm. According to one source, the fact that Martin was a major star meant he was earning far more to play Helm than Connery was to play Bond, something Connery rectified.

       The movies more than made back the cost of production but they were never the blockbusters that the likes of Goldfinger and Thunderball were. Nevertheless they were successful enough to go to 4 films before the returns became not enough to keep it going.
       How the movies affected the book sales is something that would be interesting to find out. Fans of the books had to have raised their collective eyebrows at the antics of the celluloid Helm because there was nothing in the pages of the paperbacks that would ever suggest the actions that Martin delivered. Conversely, people who liked the easy-go-lucky sexy scamp would surely have creased their brow more than a little when reading the usually very gritty prose that Hamilton produced.

1 The Silencers The Silencers
Director: Phil Karlson
Writer: Oscar Saul
Actors: Dean Martin as Matt Helm, Stella Stevens as Gail Hendricks, Daliah Lavi as Tina, James Gregory as MacDonald
Released: 1966

Matt Helm is lured from his decade-long retirement by a beautiful operative from his past in order to fight Big O and their new plot called Operation Fallout, involving an atomic bomb destroying a good part of New Mexico.

2 Murderers' Row Murderers' Row
Director: Henry Levin
Writer: Herbert Baker
Actors: Ann-Margret as Suzie, Dean Martin as Matt Helm, Karl Malden as Julian Wall, James Gregory as MacDonald, Beverly Adams as Lovey Kravezit
Released: 1966

Seeking to find Dr. Solaris, the creator of a deadly weapon known as the Helium Laser Beam and kidnapped for unknown reasons, Matt Helm must fake his own death to throw his enemy off his scent.

3 The Ambushers The Ambushers
Director: Henry Levin
Writer: Herbert Baker
Actors: Dean Martin as Matt Helm, Senta Berger as Francesca Madeiros, Janice Rule as Sheila Sommers, James Gregory as MacDonald
Released: 1967

The flying saucer created by the government and pilotable only by females is hijacked by a powerful tractor beam created by Jose Ortega who has uses for the craft. Helm must' use a cover of a fashion photographer to get the craft back.

4 The Wrecking Crew The Wrecking Crew
Director: Phil Karlson
Writer: William P. McGivern
Actors: Dean Martin as Matt Helm, Elke Sommer as Linka Karensky, Sharon Tate as Freya Carlson, James Gregory as MacDonald
Released: 1968

Count Contini has stolen enough gold to cause a financial collapse unless Matt Helm can stop him. The British send the beautiful Freya Carlson to assist but she has more troubles than Helm can handle.

TELEVISION

Number of Episodes:14
First Appearance:1975
Last Appearance:1975
Network:ABC (US)

REGULAR CAST
Anthony FranciosaMatt Helm [ 1 ]

       Veteran film and tv producer Irving Allen, having acquired the rights for the Matt Helm character and having made four movies with Dean Martin as the lead character, decided to put those rights back to use half a decade after the last movie was released. Planning to do it for the US television market, he opted to not have the character remain a spy, possibly because detective shows seemed what the networks wanted. He had the experienced operative turn in his cloak and dagger for the jet set world of the rich and famous on the West Coast.
       To play the tall, lanky, handsome Helm, he chose Anthony Franciosa, a man who was nowhere as tall as the novel character but was easily as good looking. Where Helm might have come off as menacing, Franciosa came across as charismatic but just a dangerous when pushed. Initially the character was given a girl friend who also doubled as his assistant but that lasted for just a couple of episodes before Helm/Franciosa was totally on his own.
       The show was standard detective fare at a time when there were many other detective shows vying for attention. It did not last an entire season.

1 Matt Helm
Episode 0-01, first aired 05/07/1975
Director: Buzz Kulik
Writer: Sam Rolfe
Guest Stars: Ann Turkel as Maggie Gantry, Catherine Bach as Alice, Frank Campanella as Taylor, Hari Rhodes as Seki, John Vernon as Harry Paine

Pilot - Someone is out to kill or maim a beautiful actress and Matt Helm is hired to protect her. He learns that she has crossed a gang of gun-runners.

2 Dead Men Talk
Episode 1-01, first aired 09/20/1975
Director: Richard Benedict
Writer: Michael Fisher
Guest Stars: Richard Egan as Dan Sydon, Katherine Justice as Paula Sydon, Richard Mulligan as Jack Harte, Helen Funai as Lin, Lance Fuller as Andrews

A missing air freight company bigwig is missing and Matt Helm is hired to find him. He learns that the man had recently decided to end his connect with drug smugglers.

3 Now I Lay Me Down to Die
Episode 1-02, first aired 09/27/1975
Director: Earl Bellamy
Writers: Gerry Day, Bethel Leslie
Guest Stars: Shelley Fabares as Chris/Tina Fredericks, Ian McShane as Paul Fredericks, Morgan Jones as Tom Corman, Lester Fletcher as Dreake

A wealthy socialite hires Matt Helm to see who might have murdered her father. What she nor Helm knows is that she suffers from a split personality, the other side liking to kill men.

4 Scavengers Paradise
Episode 1-03, first aired 10/11/1975
Director: Alex March
Writers: Gerry Day, Bethel Leslie
Guest Stars: Farley Granger as James McKittrick, Pamela Bellwood as Patricia, Frances Reid as Millie, Jason Evers as Alan Grant, Everett Creach as Tate

A woman who was adopted as a child wants to find her birth parents but when the lawyer she hired to help is murdered, she turns to Matt Helm

5 The Game Of The Century
Episode 1-04, first aired 10/18/1975
Director: Reza Badiyi
Writers: Steve Fisher, Edward de Blasio
Guest Stars: Biff McGuire as Professor Shannon, Fred Beir as Billy Jones, Logan Ramsey as Eric Frank, Pat Crowley as Lila Faro, Ray Danton as Frank Saxon

The game of the century in the title is a poker game and the stakes are work millions. The sponsor of a math genius who is taking part in the game is killed and Matt Helm is asked to find who did it.

6 Murder On Ice
Episode 1-05, first aired 10/25/1975
Director: Alex March
Writer: Don Balluck
Guest Stars: Alex Cord as Gallagher, Jack Cassidy as Buckman, Karen Carlson as Janet Larson, Richard Kelton as Jed Larson

Asked to find the thief of a shipment of diamonds, Matt Helm is unaware his client is part of a smuggling ring and will kill the thief and the detective in the end.

7 Squeeze Play
Episode 1-06, first aired 11/01/1975
Director: Robert Scheerer
Writers: Mann Rubin (story), James Schmerer (teleplay)
Guest Stars: Marlyn Mason as Karen Ashley, Paul Stewart as Joe Delphia, Curt Lowens as Alain Ledoux, Charles Cioffi as Pike, John McLiam as Charlie Wendell, Robert Lipton as Vic

Clowns can be deadly, especially when it is a hit man in disguise. When the killer takes out the wrong person, the real target asks Matt Helm to help.

8 Deadly Breed
Episode 1-07, first aired 11/08/1975
Director: Bruce Bilson
Writer: Don Balluck
Guest Stars: Beth Brickell as Jessica Wells, Garry Walberg as Doc Sloan, Lee De Broux as Lash, L. Q. Jones as Tucker, Richard LePore as Pierce

The driver of a horse van is killed and the valuable thoroughbred it was hauling stolen. The beautiful horse owner hires Matt Helm to find the animal.

9 Death Rods
Episode 1-08, first aired 11/15/1975
Director: Reza Badiyi
Writer: Carey Wilber
Guest Stars: Bert Convy as Peters, Cesare Danova as Knebel, Joseph Campanella as Corbett, Juliet Mills as Caroline Jeffries, Judson Pratt as Guard, Steve Sandor as Gilroy

The young woman Matt Helm found shot on a beach goes missing and he is determined to find her. The trail leads to a plot to steal radioactive material.

10 Double Jeopardy
Episode 1-09, first aired 11/22/1975
Director: Lawrence Dobkin
Writer: Stanley Roberts
Guest Stars: Pippa Scott as Phyllis Hartley, Sherry Jackson as Elena, Clifford David as Ed Glenn

A witness to a murder lies on the stand, freeing a guilty killer. Matt Helm is angered and determined to bring both to justice.

11 Think Murder
Episode 1-10, first aired 12/06/1975
Director: John Newland
Writer: Larry Alexander
Guest Stars: Carl Betz as Purcell, Carmen Argenziano as Molinas, Diana Ewing as Amy Farrah, Whit Bissell as Rollins

A young research scientist is killed in what appears to be a skiing accident but Matt Helm is convinced it was murder and is set on finding the truth.

12 Murder On The Run
Episode 1-11, first aired 12/13/1975
Director: Seymour Robbie
Writer: James Schmerer
Guest Stars: Gretchen Corbett as Nancy Taylor, John P. Ryan as Carl Ainsley, Joshua Bryant as Bub Stuart, Steven Keats as Kelly

Matt Helm is hired by a rancher to find the woman he loves who has gone missing. What neither knew was she was hiding out after being involved in a bank heist.

13 Panic
Episode 1-12, first aired 12/27/1975
Director: Don Weis
Writer: Martin Roth
Guest Stars: Lynda Carter as Bobbi Dee, Eric Braeden as Forbes, John Lupton as Dave Burke, Dane Clark as Joey Bender

While looking into the death of an old friend, Matt Helm comes up against a band of record pirates who are willing to kill again

14 Die Once, Die Twice
Episode 1-13, first aired 01/03/1975
Director: John Newland
Writers: Ken Pettus, James Schmerer
Guest Stars: Susan Dey as Ellen Tanner, Howard Duff as Dan Malloy

Matt Helm's friend, attorney Claire Kronski, needs a private eye but Matt Helm is busy so she takes it upon herself to do most of the legwork, finding trouble along the way.

MY COMMENTS

       One of the best series to choose from, Matt Helm is a must read for anyone wanting a good espionage series. For more than 30 years, Donald Hamilton gave us a Matt Helm that remained fantastically the same.
       The claim by the publisher that Matt Helm is 'America's James Bond' is a valid one. Certainly the two characters are different and unique but the differences do not hide the fact that both are agents for their country, both trained to kill with a variety of methods, and both empowered to do so whenever it is necessary.
       The enjoyment I get from Matt Helm comes from the fact that this is a normal man. He is very, very good at his job but he is not taller than most, faster than most, or stronger than most. He is not a genius or a superhero or the world's gift to women. He is a man who was trained to kill enemies of his country and is willing to go wherever he is sent to do it. He makes mistakes, pays for them, learns from them, and then gets the job done.
       And along the way he goes to interesting places, meets really nasty people, loves really beautiful women, and entertains the daylights out of his fans. Fans like myself.

GRADE

My Grade: A+

Your Average Grade:   A+

YOUR OPINIONS
Sir Gerald A+ 5/9/2012 12:20:36 PM

Sorry, I tried these in the '60s and wanted to like them but they just didn't pass muster.


Rock Savage A+ 11/5/2012 1:21:36 PM

I always liked Matt Helm a bit more than 007!!


Savage10 - 4/22/2013 11:08:51 AM

I have to say that as far as books go I prefer MR Helm to MR Bond. I am saying this not only because I root for the home team but because Helm seems more real. His equipment is off the shelf and he is much better in an old pickup than an Aston Martin.


Hayford Peirce A+ 11/13/2014 4:51:50 PM

Along with the novels of Charles McCarry, the very best ever written. And Helm, along with Tommy Hambledon, is my favorite character.


Alan47 A+ 1/7/2015 1:36:06 PM

I never read Matt Helm because I thought they were spoof spy books, like the Dean Martin films.It was only reading the comments here I decided to try them. Nothing like the films, they are great. And available in e-books.


DHolloway A+ 2016-08-17

Helm is great. Some of the best spy fiction written, especially if pulp is your thing. I found the 1960s story's to be some of the best. The whole series has recently been republished by Titan and available in paperback or e-book. They even did a nice job on the retro cover art, scantily clad dame and all.


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