Savage Ransom by David Lippincott – 1978
This is a fairly obscure novel that I won from a friend about twenty years ago after a typically heated and well contested game of Monopoly*. While all our friends were out drinking on a Saturday night, maybe trying to pick up a couple of girls, we were content with orange juice, a bowl of crisps, and gambling books on board games. Those were the days. Yeah, you’re right: I don’t know why we were single either.
Savage Ransom is a (pretty bloody) thriller about a child killer who goes on a spree of kidnappings, and then delivers mysterious packages to their parents afterwards. At the time I could see it as a low-budget (but passable) movie starring Dennis Hopper or Barry Newman. Looking back, it’s probably quite exploitative in its delivery, but it was the seventies – a lot of fiction was like that.
When I got it, the paperback was beaten up, the spine was torn, and I had never heard of the author, which quickly made me wonder who had really won the bet. But as it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised, and Savage Ransom quickly became one of the best novels I had read at the time. It was certainly much better than the tacky and unintentionally funny caveat slapped across the front cover.
I still have my copy to this day, still in the same state of disrepair as it was then. I can’t speak to its literary worth all these years later, but it was one of the first novels I had read outside my usual bubble of authors – and certainly the most memorable – and that in itself was a great lesson.
* Always go for the green properties first.