Monday, March 26, 2018

The D.C. Man #02 - Search and Destroy

'The D.C. Man' was a four-book action series released in 1974 and 1975 by a former Roman Catholic priest named Peter Rohrbach under the name James P. Cody. The series tracks the adventures of a Washington lobbyist and political troubleshooter named Brian Peterson who uses guns, political connections and brains to solve sensitive problems for Capital Hill big shots. One doesn’t need to read 'The D.C. Man' books in any order as they stand well on their own, and relevant facts from the hero’s backstory are well explained in the first few chapters.

In this second installment, Peterson is hired by the attractive daughter of a US Senator to investigate the validity of her father’s recent suicide. At first, Peterson is skeptical that the Senator’s gun-in-the-mouth routine was anything other than self-inflicted, but the reader can see where this is heading once we learn that the Senator has been quietly investigating the scourge of 1970s men’s adventure fiction: The Mafia.

The setup and setting for 'The D.C. Man' books provided the author great flexibility for story ideas - credibly toggling between espionage, crime, and political intrigue. This one is more of a straightforward private eye novel. Peterson follows leads diligently moving from person-to-person conducting interviews. Periodically, unidentified goons try to hurt or stop him, and those scenes of violence are always well-written and exciting. A sexual interest arises with a comely female character, and the resulting coupling is slightly more graphic than most crime novels from that era (but less explicit than, say, a 'Longarm' western). In other words, there’s not much to distinguish this story from a solid, workmanlike P.I. novel starring Mike Shayne, Johnny Liddell, or Peter Chambers.

One thing that sets 'The D.C. Man' apart from its contemporaries is the setting and era. The smoke of distrust and corruption of post-Watergate Washington, DC is thick in this story. Peterson spends a lot of physical and mental energy to figure out if the Senator killed himself because he feared the exposure of his own corruption or whether his corruption lead to his murder. The idea that the late Senator deserves a fair shake isn’t even an option for Peterson until a character confronts him about his anti-politician bias several chapters into the book. The symbiotic relationship between elected officials, their staffs, lobbyists, and the press is the fuel that feeds The D.C. Man books. This is a sexy, violent thriller for American political junkies.

By the time Peterson solves the novel’s central mystery concerning the reasons for the Senator’s death, the body count begins climbing exponentially. The brutality of each subsequent death appears to increase as our hero veers deeper into Mack Bolan territory - a lobbyist’s war against the mafia, if you will. The many action scenes are legitimately exciting and filled with gunplay and gripping suspense.

Overall, this second book in 'The D.C. Man' series was another winner in a series that deserves more accolades than it ever received as a new release in the 1970s.