According to Bradley Mengel's resourceful “Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction”, author John Quinn is a pseudonym for Dennis Rodriguez. Rodriguez worked with Ed Wood Jr. at Pendulum Press and served as editor for XXX mags. Other than the novel “Pachuco”, I can't locate any other titles that Rodriguez wrote. Further, it's odd that his debut of the six-book series 'The Terminator' doesn't feature anything that would connect him to his “day job” work as porn editor. No explicit hanky-panky in “Mercenary Kill”. Fans of the genre may require that stuff...but I've never needed it.
Protagonist Rod Gavin was a Marine in Vietnam and now works assignments as an assassin for the CIA. His contract with Langley, under supervisor Chet Barnes, requires eight hits before he can either retire or opt into another military branch. After departing his rural home in High Card, Colorado, he receives some intel regading his eighth and last assignment – kill Jorge de Leon, a supposed rogue trooper under command of Colonel Rojas in Costa Bella. What the reader knows that Gavin doesn't is that de Leon hasn't gone rogue, instead he's an inside man sent by the US President to spy on Costa Bella's government and their treatment of the civilian uprising. So, why is the CIA interested in killing a US operative? Because Barnes and Rojas are connected on a backdoor deal that funnels drugs and money into the US. Unfortunately, de Leon is an unwanted accessory and needs to be removed.
Gavin, none the wiser, enters this country and kills de Leon...but has doubts on what exactly is happening and if he's been crossed up by Barnes. Soon, Gavin not only has Colonel Rojas and his militants on his back trail, he must also contend with escaping the country without the aid of the US. This pushes him into propelling firefights with Costa Bella's army and the armed rebellion. Teaming with Duffy, Gavin eventually makes it to the US only to discover a contract on his head from Mob enforcers working for Barnes.
I have to wonder how many casual readers picked these titles up thinking they were 'The Executioner'? Published by Pinnacle in 1982, the font and layout is identical with artwork created by Bolan mainstay Gil Cohen. In terms of quality, I'm shocked that Rodriguez didn't write more novels. “Mercenary Kill” offers a plethora of gunfights and espionage while cruising at a high-octane pace. At the typical 180-pages, there is a lot of events to unpack for the reader. The skeleton is this character, Rod Gavin. I really like him and love the fact that throughout this book his eyes are on the prize – finish the kill, end the career, retire to peaceful tranquility in the Colorado mountains. In a way, Gavin is a human character that we can all relate to. I really enjoyed this book and will be actively searching for more of the series out in the wild.
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