Thursday, 6 December 2018

Quarry's Choice - Max Allan Collins

I found this thanks to, which has fast become a Facebook favourite of mine. Max Allan Collins I vaguely knew as a prolific writer of contemporary pulp (although I had no idea how vast his range was before looking him up on Wikipedia) and Quarry rang a bell somewhere at the back of mind. I soon realised, on reading the set up chapter for this story, that the bell was the TV series Quarry which I had enjoyed last year but which had nevertheless got cancelled.

Anyway, the book series which Collins began at the time it is set (mid-Seventies) is about a Vietnam vet who returns home to find nothing waiting for him. No job, an antipathetic if not downright hostile citizenry and his wife having an affair with a local petrolhead, who soon suffers a nasty and highly memorable accident. Quarry (not his real name) is, however, exactly what the Broker is looking for - a hitman who can be relied upon to do the wet work efficiently and permanently. The Broker is the go-between. Quarry never knows who the client is or - up front - the reason the nominee needs to die.

Except in this case. The Broker is the client after Quarry saves him from an initial hit. The job takes him down to Biloxi where he signs up with the progressive wing of the Southern Mafia, which controls the casinos, bars and strip joints along the coast.

Turns out there is more wet work in Biloxi than anyone envisaged. Quarry's services are in high demand. He has choices to make - hence the title.

Collins writes with fluid grace. His phraseology is just sufficiently hard-boiled; it never even threatens to spill over into pastiche. His book, written in 2015 (39 years after Quarry's debut) but still set in 1972, is historically convincing with just the right amount of period detail. The twist, when it comes, is a great one. I did guess who it would involve but got nowhere near how.

Excellent. I want more.

And by the way, I love the cover.

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