Deathwatch (novel)

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Deathwatch (Novel).jpg
Cover showing the mojave desert, Ben's JeepCJ, and Madec's Rifle.
Author Robb White
Illustrator John Mantha
Cover artist John Mantha
Country United States
Language English
Genre Thriller/Action Adventurous
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
Pages 220

Deathwatch is an American 1972 novel written by Robb White. The book was awarded the 1973 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America.[citation needed]

Its plot features a skilled and successful hunter and lawyer, Madec, who receives a rare permit to shoot bighorn sheep in California's Mojave desert for seven days. He hires a timid college student named Ben as a guide. After Madec shoots an old prospector, he realizes that Ben will not help cover up the shooting, and he attempts to silence Ben forever.


The story begins with successful Los Angeles business man and hunter named Madec, who hires Ben, a timid college student to help him find bighorn sheep in the nearby Mojave Desert after receiving a rare permit to hunt them. Ben has experience working in the desert as he is studying to be a geologist, but he is also low on money, so he accepts. Things take a deadly turn when Madec accidentally shoots an old prospector. Madec doesn't want to report the shooting, but Ben insists that they must report it. Although Madec tries to convince Ben, Ben remains stubborn. Madec threatens Ben with his rifle, and orders Ben to take off his equipment, his clothing, and his boots. Ben complies, rather than be shot with a rifle. Madec leaves Ben in the desert to die of exposure; he plans to report that Ben went insane, shot the prospector, and wandered off into the desert by himself. Madec is certain Ben cannot survive, as they are in a hot desert 45 miles from the nearest highway, but just to make sure he watches Ben from a distance using the scope on his .358 Norma Magnum. Ben tries to climb a butte to signal for help, but is shot in the arm by Madec causing him to fall and injure his back. Now time is running out as he begins to hallucinate, suffering from dehydration, hunger, sunburn, gunshots, and heat. However, Ben finds enough water to survive, and also finds a wrist-brace slingshot and some buckshot that had belonged to the prospector. He practices shooting buckshot from the slingshot. Madec, worried that Ben might survive, climbs the butte to find him. Ben hides by burying himself in the sand, breathing through the tubes of his slingshot. While Madec is on the other side of the butte, Ben unearths himself and creates a distraction by setting Madec's tent on fire. Once Madec comes running within slingshot range, Ben shoots Madec repeatedly with buckshot, injuring Madec enough that he can't fire the rifle. Ben overpowers Madec, ties him up, and escapes the desert in his Jeep CJ. Ben travels back to the town with the prospector's body and Madec. Madec offers Ben $10,000 to just forget everything, but Ben rejects the offer. They get back and Madec surreptitiously throws the slingshot into a trash bin. People in the town do not believe Ben's incredible story, especially as he has no physical evidence to back it up; they find Madec's story, that Ben shot the prospector and tried to frame Madec for it, more believable. Ben is now in danger of being convicted of murder and kidnapping charges. Ben is saved when the town's doctor not only offers forensic evidence that Madec's story must be a lie, but also shows the slingshot, which he found in the trash. Ben has survived the ordeal and avoided wrongful conviction.[1][unreliable source?]

Other adaptations[edit]

The book was also the basis for the 1974 TV movie Savages starring Andy Griffith as Madec and Sam Bottoms as Ben.


  1. ^ "Deathwatch by Robb White Detailed Book Review". Retrieved 2010-07-28.