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Judge a book by its title! starring… Assassins Have Starry Eyes by Donald Hamilton

May 8, 2022
That’s a lot of words on the cover.

Assassins Have Starry Eyes is kind of a stupid title for a book. That’s okay. Assassins Have Starry Eyes by Donald Hamilton is kind of a stupid book.

I like reading stupid books from the 1950s. The paper smells old. I don’t sniff the paper like some people do, but I usually hold the books close enough to my face so that I can catch the faint aroma of the pages. If a book like Assassins Have Starry Eyes were republished today, I probably wouldn’t buy it just because the paper wouldn’t smell old enough.

I think I just like holding and reading old paperback books. A few months ago, I realized that I had lost all interest in current fiction, but once I started reading old books with yellow, crumbling paper, my interest in fiction was rekindled.

Anyway, the title Assassins Have Starry Eyes caught my attention. I’m not sure if this is a good title or if the title is so stupid that it’s good.

The book’s former title Assignment-Murder is also kind of stupid and very misleading. Assignment-Murder sounds like the protagonist received the orders to kill somebody. It sounds like a James Bond knockoff title. In Assassins Have Starry Eyes, a couple of losers get the assignment to murder the protagonist, and they fail. You can’t have a book titled Assignment-Murder unless the murder is successful.

The book cover kind of gives the mystery away. From looking at it, the reader can infer that the blond chick on the cover is the assassin. She turns out to be the ringleader (kind of), but she doesn’t really threaten the protagonist like this in the novel. Plus, you can’t tell from the picture whether or not she has starry eyes.

The protagonist in Assassins Have Starry Eyes is an engineer developing atomic/nuclear weapons in the late 1950s, and people are trying to kill him. He’s not your typical scientist/engineer, though. He’s nice looking, and he knows how to talk to women. He’s more socially aware than most mad scientists or engineers because he knows not to talk about science/engineering to women. He talks normal stuff to women and makes fun of the other scientists/engineers behind their backs.

The scientist/engineer protagonist also likes to do masculine stuff life hunting and camping and getting laid in his spare time. He’s actually successful at all three while being an engineer; that’s how you know this book is fiction.

The title is also kind of a lie. There were several assassins in Assassins Have Starry Eyes, and only one of the assassins would have maybe fit the description. The first two would-be assassins were dudes and weren’t described as having starry eyes. I don’t even think their eyes were described. One assassin had closed eyes because he got killed before the narrator even saw him. The other assassin got beat up, so he might have had a black eye or his eyes might have seen stars after he got beaten up. Either way, the fortunate male assassin who survived didn’t have starry eyes.

More accurate titles might have been:

The Hot Blonde Assassin Had Starry Eyes.

Hot Blonde Assassins Have Starry Eyes.

That Hot Blonde Holding a Gun Isn’t Really An Assassin, But She Has Starry Eyes Even Though They Were Never Described That Way In The Novel.

Assassins Have Starry Eyes wasn’t a bad book. I enjoyed it, but it was kind of stupid. The banter between the protagonist and his wife was funny. I can forgive a lot of flaws in a book if it’s funny. Having an egghead scientist beat the crap out of would-be assassins was a little far fetched, but it didn’t ruin the book for me. Yeah, the cover spoils the ending a little, even if the scene doesn’t exactly happen as it’s shown.

Donald Hamilton also wrote a bunch of Matt Helm books, which I guess were popular in the 1960s. I’m not going to go out and look for a bunch of Matt Helm books at the used book stores now, but if I see them, I might buy one or two, especially if they have stupid titles.

Hey, everybody! It’s an acrostic!
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