Cemetery Dance, Issue 76
Review by R. B. Payne
Quarry (and Quarry's List)
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime Books
Make no bones about it.
Quarry is a full-time paid killer, hard as rocks. The year is 1972, Vietnam has not unwound yet, and this Marine sniper is blood-stained when he returns stateside to a cheating wife. A simple accident eliminates her lover but suspicion renders Quarry unemployable. That is, until he meets The Broker - a nameless man that contracts out his professional services.
But Quarry is not without ethics. He kills for pay and figures he profits when one shady asshole wants to off another. No problem. He doesn’t see himself as a criminal although he knows murder is a crime. But no drugs. No whores. No petty larceny. He’s an executioner-for-hire and that’s fucking all there is to it. No questions asked.
And that’s where Quarry’s troubles begin.
Suckered into retrieving heroin from a drug runner, Quarry finds himself entangled in a planned kill involving a Playboy bunny, instant Sanka coffee, a pink Ford Mustang, a nobody named Albert, and maybe a double-cross or two. Normally, Quarry knows zip about his target but now he discovers that not all hits are clean and maybe his conscience isn’t as dead as he thought.
Quarry is a long running series (currently at 13 volumes) of author Max Allan Collins who is also known for The Road to Perdition. His Quarry tales are not for the faint-of-heart. In the tradition of Mickey Spillane and Cornell Woolrich, Quarry tells it like it is and lets the bodies fall where they must. And fall they do.
Hard Case Crime has evocatively captured the spirit of the Quarry novels by commissioning cream of the crop illustrators for the book covers. The Quarry books evoke paperbacks spinning on a wire rack in the corner drug store back in the day. You know the type. Sultry half-naked dames promising vulnerability, sex, violence, and death.
Although there’s a television adaptation of Quarry planned for autumn 2016 on Cinemax, read the books first. There’s no making up for Quarry’s interior grit, snappy noir dialogue, and the pragmatic delivery of a 9mm bullet whenever one is needed. Quarry is hard-boiled pulp fiction that transcends the genre and was groundbreaking in its time – a hitman anti-hero. This story still resonates and, once you read the opening chapter, you won’t be able to put the book down.
In the final analysis, Quarry may be tough, mean, and lethal. But deep inside him, there’s a sense of fair play for the innocent.
Sometimes you have to kill for it.
(c) 2018 by R. B. Payne, All Rights Reserved