I usually read a John D. novel every month or so. There are eight or nine I never get tired of simply because they're so well done.
Last night I picked up The Executioners (Cape Fear) for bedtime reading and read to page 102 before turning out the light. Yes, there's cutesy-poo dialogue but mostly in first half of the first act. But except for that this is a virtually perfect suspense novel. MacDonald wisely hews to the Hitchcock rule--suspense comes from knowing that the bomb is under the chair. MacDonald plants the bomb in the first chapter and they slowly lets the wick burn lower and lower. Several lesser incidents anticipating the final explosion.
Cady isn't Robert Mitchum's Cady but he could be his cousin. The scene where the family buries the dog Cady kills is as fresh and moving as it was the first time I read it. The wife is a tough woman, not the Polly Bergen version. And protagonist Sam, while not a typical MacDonald tough guy, is not the cipher he seems to be in the movie. JDM gives him real depth here.
As for being slow...I suppose it is. And for good reason. In those days one of the marks of a serious writer was the ability to make part of the narrative a portrait of the milieu where the story is taking place. Last week I mentioned how well Lawrence Block did this in A Diet of Treacle. MacDonald does it well here, too. We get to know the sociology of the time and place almost as well as we get to know the people. I'm sure this is a matter of age--I like this kind of writing.
The Executioners would be written very differently today. It would be angrier, bloodier, more brutal in terms of Cady's psychology (Mitchum got it exactly). But for me The Executioners bears re-reading because it's one of the best stories told by one of the best storytellers of my time on the planet.