Our best wishes go out to Ed Gorman for a quick recovery as he continues to convalesce at home. In the March issue of Mystery Scene magazine, Ed wrote an article on “My 10 Favorite John D. MacDonald Standalone Novels.” And here’s the list:
1. Dead Low Tide
2. Soft Touch
3. Deadly Welcome
4. Murder in the Wind
5. The Executioners
6. Slam the Big Door
7. The End of the Night
8. A Key to the Suite
9. A Flash of Green
10. The Drowner

This week we’re up to Number Five. The Executioners (1957)–better known as Cape Fear–is John D. MacDonald’s best known novel partly because of the two movies from 1962 and 1991 that were based on it. An attorney testifies against a rapist. The rapist is convicted and sent to prison. While in prison, the rapist plots revenge. When he gets out, the rapist stalks the attorney’s family. JDM really ratchets up the suspense in this novel. The attorney has to choose between his ideals and saving his children from a monster.

18 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #220: THE EXECUTIONERS (aka, CAPE FEAR) By John D. MacDonald

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    I agree this is probably the least “forgotten” of these 10 books but I think people coming to it for the first time after seeing one or both of the movies will find it different than they’d expect.

  2. Todd Mason

    The second film is trying to make an opera out of the first one. And both are not a patch on the novel…very dumbed down. George, if I fault you for anything above, it’s for not noting that it’s not just the attorney who has an argument with himself about becoming one of The Executioners. ..

  3. Todd Mason

    from the librarian-heavy Fiction-L today:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: “Stack, Kimberly”

    I have just realized that one of the book groups I work with has a meeting only three weeks after the previous one, so I need to compile possible choices for a really short or really quick read. All fiction genres considered for this adult group of women and men. A novella would be ok, but please do not suggest at this time graphic novels, short stories, poetry, or plays. Does anyone have a title or titles that have really worked for you or seems like it should work? Does anyone know of a resource which includes length as a search factor?

    from: Todd Mason

    THE FINAL SOLUTION by Michael Chabon
    PSYCHO by Robert Bloch
    THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson (with both the Bloch and the Jackson above, if you’ve seen the good earlier movies, much less the later terrible movies, you don’t have the whole story)
    CONJURE WIFE by Fritz Leiber (also filmed, though the second film in this case is pretty close to the novel and not bad…but the short novel’s brilliant)
    THE EXECUTIONERS by John D. MacDonald (the same situation, only vastly moreso…both the earlier and particularly the later films CAPE FEAR dumbed this novel down beyond recognition)
    ZOMBIE by Joyce Carol Oates

    Todd Mason

  4. Prashant C. Trikannad

    I think in a previous comment I’d mentioned that I hadn’t read any of the books in Mr. Gorman’s list. I was wrong. I read this book as CAPE FEAR and wrote about it last year. I remember liking it very much and it sparked my interest in the other JDM novels.

    1. george Post author

      Prashant, CAPE FEAR is the title that became linked with the two films based on the JDM novel. THE EXECUTIONERS is a powerful novel.

    1. george Post author

      Sergio, I’m planning to review all of Ed Gorman’s 10 BEST JOHN D. MACDONALD STANDALONES–and present my own list at the end. Glad you’re enjoy this!

  5. Ed Lynskey

    I also liked the first movie over the second. I liked the characters reappearing in the second movie who were in the first.


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