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February 24, 1985|DON CAMPBELL

No, J. Kenneth Van Dover's Murder in the Millions (Ungar: $12.95) is not a historic rundown of prominent mass murderers but, instead, a scholarly look at three modern writers who have gold-mined the crime and suspense story in the same way Dr. Spock exploited diaper rash. The mass appeal of Erle Stanley Gardner, Mickey Spillane and Ian Fleming is mind boggling. Between 1895 and 1975 only 55 novels of crime and suspense sold as many as two million copies apiece, and these three worthies accounted for a full 45 of them. A shame that Van Dover spent so much time tediously rehashing his subject's old plots and so little on their working habits, techniques and market strategies--grist for the mill of the would-be writer in this genre.

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