THE DARK SIDE OF DESTINY
Stanley Morgan's blockbuster novel about the corruption of innocence and the thirst for revenge...
This book is dedicated to Artie and Richard Pine and to Ms. Maureen Bacon with appreciation for their Faith, Help and Encouragement
Dark Side Of Destiny is probably the most curious book in the Morgan canon, for several reasons. Firstly, the title itself is a strange choice. It doesn't seem to have a particularly strong or direct relevance to the story (although you can see what it's getting at). Secondly the blurb on the back gives away the main plot point of Bobby Vincent witnessing his father's murder. This doesn't happen until about Page 40, so the first few chapters seem to pointlessly drag as the story gets set up for the murder. There is also a strange introduction chapter that acts as the back story to a minor future plot point. In fact that's the strangest thing about the whole book. There are multiple chapyers that, as interesting and well written as they are, don't seem to serve a great deal of purpose towards the main plot. If they'd been cut, you wouldn't have noticed. The short stay with the Gillespies, the affair Bobby has in London, the Canadian bank job etc. It feels like a novel that was written with the sole purpose of being a sprawling blockbuster TV series, rather than a tight 400 page thriller. If you accept that premise then it's a cracking expansive yarn that covers several decades. Even the story seems to peter out, to the point where you're left on a cliff-hanger as to what actually happens to the protagonist Bobby Vincent. Again - that rather makes me think the intention was to leave it open-ended for a sequel. The myline on the back compares it to Jeffrey Archer's 1979 best-seller Kane & Abel - which is more evidence of the Publisher gently nudging Stan towards a particular contemporary style in an attempt to crack the US market.
As with most of Stan's serious novels, the theme is revenge, and for the Morgan aficionado there are easter eggs to be found! On Page 181 Bobby visits a bar in Greenwich Village called "Herc's Bar" (and we all know that "Herc" is what Russ Tobin affectionately calls his old chap!). On page 238 Anne & Bobby (both Scorpios like Stan himself) get married on the 10th November - which is Stan's birthday! On Page 255 they charter a special Jet for the rich folk, take out the seats and dress the Air Hostesses in exotic uniforms. Sounds a lot like the Fly Boys to me! And finally on page 390 we meet the hunky care-free surfer dude just hanging out on the Californian coast. He is described very much in the vein of a blond Russ Tobin, so when Anne takes him home and asks what he'd like to drink, it's no surprise at all that he requests...a vodka tonic!
It's a page-turner for sure but it doesn't feel as natural as most of Stan's books. The fact that Bobby starts out as a character you sympathise with and totally root for, by the end of the book that's all changed, and the only character left with any modicum of credit is Anne. And she's not exactly innocent! It doesn't really feel right to finish one of Stan's books and realise that everyone in it is a pretty awful person
6/10 (but it would have made a great mini-series..)