Author Larry Powell wrote two 'Nick Carter' novels, “Butcher of Belgrade” (#73, 1973) and “The Code” (#77, 1973) as well as one 'Able Team' novel in “Texas Showdown” (#3, 1982). As Lee Parker, he penned the three-book series 'Donovan's Devils' in 1974. The subject at hand is 'The Liquidator', a five-book series written by Powell as R.L. Brent from 1974-1978.
The self-titled debut introduces the reader to hardened detective Jake Brand. Brand has plenty of skin in the game and is Hell-bent on crippling the Mob. In a detailed and much-needed backstory we learn that Brand's father was a beat cop, flat footing the streets until a junkie murdered him for fix money. Jake and his brother Roy grew up on the football field, Jake the strong guy blocker and Roy the lightning quick running back. Roy went on to excel off the field as well, working his way into law and cracking down hard on the mob. Too hard. Roy was gut shot and left for dead. Jake left college and joined the academy, eyes on the prize to be as tough as his old man and to fight the mob at every turn. Vengeance puddling with the blood.
What really keeps this book from being the typical early 70s imitator (ending with the letter R) is that it's a bit more epic in presentation. For example, pages 79-87 covers an astounding five year span. Detractors could argue this isn't a propelling story segment, and it could have been fleshed out a bit more. I'm not ruining it for you, but this story probably could have been mapped out to two books...but Award ('Nick Carter') probably needed some quick circulation to offset the mammoth Carter shelf monopoly.
The spine of the story is Brand's quest for vengeance, toppling his neighborhood mob satellite before moving up to the bigger broadcast. There's some police procedural stuff, written like a young Evan Hunter (honestly), but it's short-lived. Informants are planted in seedy bars and strip joints, populating the story with some diverse characters. An important element is the lovable Captain Ellis, Brand's defacto father. The heart of the story, beyond the grit and gravel of revenge, is the relationship between Brand and his fiance Diane. This element enhances the story, slowing the pace to allow some emotion to settle in. If nothing else, it creates a little more connection for the reader and makes a very determined Brand seem human. I think that aspect was much-needed.
Overall, 'The Liquidator' gets a thumbs up. It delivers what we would expect from the 70s vigilante yarns. There's some serious shakeups, surprises and a ton of action. Powell shows off his talents as a storyteller, painting wide brush-strokes for this backdrop of mob vengeance but giving us just enough depth to make it engaging and emotional. I need the rest of this series.