Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Hitman #01 - Chicago Deathwinds

Norman Winski's 'The Hitman' was a three book series released in 1984 through the Pinnacle publishing house. It's not to be confused with the 1970s series of the same name by Kirby Carr. The series debuted with “Chicago Deathwinds” and introduces us to Dirk Spencer, described as “a hard, mean, cool and sophisticated” vigilante that doesn't embody the traditional definition of hitman - someone paid to kill someone. In this series, Spencer isn't paid anything. He already has more money than Tony Stark and kills the bad guys as a hobby.

For validity, Winski tells us that Spencer is the son of a wealthy entrepreneur and a West Point graduate. He served in Vietnam as a fighting officer and single-handily took out an entire North Vietnamese patrol. Since service, he's personified the rich playboy – yacht, plane, helicopter, penthouse, Lamborghini and the sexual prowess of a bucking stallion. It's only when he learns that his African-American friend has been murdered that he assumes the moniker of “The Hitman”.

In an ode to pulp fiction, Spencer plays the vengeful nighttime warrior while maintaining his daytime activities as spoiled rich kid. He can't let anyone into the inner circle, including the women he loves and his own father. Winski does a great job building in that inner turmoil, brimming over in an emotional argument between Spencer and a best friend. It's this part of the story-line that's honestly the most engaging. The rest is totally bonkers.

Winski writes Spencer as a pulp hero. He's the “Doc Savage” of vigilantes with the absolute best ability to fight, fly, drive and screw. In 184 pages we learn that Spencer is at peak performance and skill-level for everything. He flies his helicopter and planes with Blue Angels talent, races like Mario Andretti and handles guns and missiles like Ironman. He's always able to overcome impossible odds while maintaining a spoiled kid's mentality. In one humorous scene he can't get the bad guy (a racist ultra right-wing nominee for President) so he takes out all of his frustration by ravaging two high-dollar hookers for three hours. So, what's the problem?

Winski could have slimmed this to 140 pages but pads the story with a dull narrative. It takes a strenuous amount of effort to fully digest 7-10 pages of gun descriptions or setting up the time, location, scenery and what Spencer is clothed in. There's a sloth-like pace in the West Virginia portion of the story and I had to take constant breaks...for days. It's permeated with bad dialogue, a cookie-cutter villain and a ridiculous hero that can't be this perfect. There's much better books out there. “The Hitman” is not the shit man.

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