Tuesday, June 18, 2013

THE END OF THE NIGHT by John D. MacDonald

“Paul Wister knew that life is an almost excessively random affair. Health and love and safety are not earned. They are not rewards for behavior. They are part of the luck that you have or you don’t have. When you have it, in your blind human innocence you think you have earned it. And when it is gone, you feel you have offended your gods.”


John D. MacDonald’s The End of the Night reads like chilling nonfiction. The book is that authentically written and seemingly non-plotted.

MacDonald’s story starts with the electric chair execution of four serial murderers.

Told from the perspective of several characters, The End of the Night follows the so-called Wolf Pack Murderers’ rampage across several states.

The group is three men and a woman. They kill randomly. 

One central character, often the narrator, is Kirby Stassen an “all-American” college student who falls in with three other cold-blooded killers.

Stassen describes the murders in detail. He tells us carefully how The Wolf Pack humiliates and kills its victims.

Along the way, the group kidnaps Helen Wister. She is already in the process of being kidnapped by a psychotic former boyfriend.

Helen’s presence only heightens the sexual tensions and deadly interplay among two of the male psychopathic killers.

As I read MacDonald’s book, I couldn’t help but think of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Random House published In Cold Blood in January, 1966. Prior to that, The New Yorker had excerpted it.

MacDonald’s book was earlier, first published in 1960.

It is not that the two books are in any way connected. It is just that they both show master writers dealing with disturbing material in a similar way. To me, John D.’s book is every bit as good as Capote’s “nonfiction” In Cold Blood.

One overall theme of The End of the Night is that life is random. We live and die more according to chance than according to any master plan. 

The End of the Night’s powerful conclusion drives home the point.

I had not read this book before. I found it to be an excellent, chilling, and (because of the explicit subject) hard-to-read book.

Random House recently republished this book as an e-book.

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