Raven holds a special place in my memory, as it was the first time I ever came across a Morgan book outside of the 1970s editions (Tobins etc). It was 1991 and I was on holiday with my girlfriend in Norfolk. There was a book sale in a village hall just outside Cromer, and as I was still hunting down the missing Morgans (those that I knew of) we popped in. I was disappointed to find that it wasn't the usual tabletops of dusty second-hand paperbacks but instead, just a mass sale of brand new remaindered stock. Then suddenly my eyes were drawn to the author's name, printed in the bottom right of a book that looked much like all the rest. Surely it can't have been THE Stanley Morgan? The cover notes seemed very serious and a long way from the comedies I was used to seeing. It had a 'first published' date of 1989, and the publisher was a US company called Lynx. There was no sign of any 'Also by this author:' lists, so my instincts were that this couldn't possibly be the same guy. Still - the improbably handsome man on the cover, holding the hand of a blond girl in a little black dress still seemed like a clue. It was only £1.90 so I bought it anyway, and it didn't take many pages before it was obvious from the writing style that this was quintessential Stanley Morgan. The final confirmation comes on Page 150 when John Raven recounts a story about being on safari in the African bush, and happens to mention that the Courier was an English guy! He's talking about Russ Tobin!
The blood of two great races beats in his heart. His mind holds an untapped power. His body is a lethal weapon.
On a quest for truth marked by murder, shrouded in mystery comes Raven...
For Linda. with love. Nais tuke, thank you
With special thanks to Ken Rains, a very gifted Romany psychic, for his help and encouragement during the writing of this book.
Given the circumstances of how I came to first read it, my initial impressions were of confusion. No jokes, no amusing situations, no silly names, but instead an incredibly intense thriller, where nothing but horrendous things happen! I think it was about 15 years before I dared to re-read it!
In retrospect, it's a decent page-turner with a solid story and more than a few twists. Stan later told me the story of how Raven was remaindered when the publisher went bust and disappeared before it even garnered any reviews. Plus the tales of his US Agent seem to be reflected in a passage on Page 70 where Kat tells Raven about her author father.."he was copying Spillane, Fleming, Robbins..he had a very bad agent who kept telling him, every time a new best-seller hit the stands - gimme one like this NOW!". I doubt Stan's agent even read Raven, or this section would have been cut!
There are elements in Raven that Stan covered in his other serious novels for the US market. Avenging the death of a parent (Dark Side Of Destiny and Too Rich To Live), the power of the unconscious mind (Trance) and Hollywood/Mafia corruption (Dark Side Of Destiny and Laura Fitzgerald). Raven is a gifted psychic and whether you believe in that sort of thing or not, it doesn't detract from your enjoyment of the book. Ironically for Stan it's the love interest here, between the two central characters that seems more implausible. They meet in some pretty gruesome circumstances, and then in the course of Raven rescuing/protecting her, things go from bad to worse and she sees and experiences things that you'd find hard to believe crystallise in her falling in love! But that's only a tiny quibble really, you could easily argue that Raven is just so damn intense that she couldn't help herself (and was simply ignoring the body count from the past week!). In a lot of ways it shares that theme with Laura Fitzgerald, two strangers meet and experience an intense attraction, which they have to largely suppress as they deal with the traumatic events of the main plot.
Not one for the faint-hearted but a definite 8/10