Released in 2017, Quarry’s Climax is the 14th novel in the Max Allan Collins series starring the nameless Vietnam veteran hitman code-named Quarry. The chronology of the series is a bit of a morass, but if such things are important to you, this one takes place in 1975 - five years into Quarry’s domestic murder-for-hire career when he was still taking assignments from The Broker.
The paperback begins with Quarry and his sometimes work partner Boyd at the apex of a posh assignment in Las Vegas. This gig serves to reintroduce the reader to the business model within which Quarry works. Oddly, the Las Vegas vignette doesn’t really tie into the plot of the novel at all. Consider it a bonus short story.
The heart of the paperback is a different assignment taking place in Memphis. As most Quarry novels are set in the Midwest (Iowa, usually), the change in scenery is significant and is a bit of a dog whistle to hardcore Quarry fans. You see, Showtime launched a Quarry TV series in 2016 and reset the series in Memphis (sinfully, if you ask me), so my guess is that Collins set the action of Quarry’s Climax in Memphis as a nod to the alternative continuity of the TV show. Some people liked the show. I thought it was awful. It wasn’t renewed for a second season, so that’s that.
Back to the novel. Quarry and Boyd find themselves in Memphis assigned to thwart the killing of a Larry Flint-like a pornographer named Max Climer who owns a strip club and filthy magazine called “Climax.” For personal and economic reasons, The Broker needs Quarry to neutralize an assassination team hired to kill the embattled porn king. However, killing hit men is only a temporary solution to the problem at hand, and Quarry also needs to identify and neutralize the client who is paying good money to see Climer dead.
What we have here is a pretty straightforward mystery novel with Quarry playing the role of detective. Who would want to kill a stalwart defender of the First Amendment testing the bounds of pornographic liberty? Religious kooks? Radical feminists? A business associate? A jilted lover? It’s Quarry’s job to find breaks in the action to receive oral favors from a hard-working stripper earning some extra cash for college - among other great sex scenes. There’s also a pretty cool cameo by the under-appreciated band, Big Star, that I sure appreciated.
As usual, Collins first-person writing is excellent, and Quarry’s Climax fits in nicely within the prolific author’s body of work. I’m thrilled to see that new Quarry books keep coming. This is a series that never seems to get old. Highly recommended.