Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Super Cop Joe Blaze #01 - The Big Payoff

'Super Cop Joe Blaze' was a short-lived, three volume series of novels released in 1974 by Belmont Tower. The overwhelming success of 1971's “Dirty Harry” film influenced publishers to place strong-arm police heroes at the forefront of a literary movement. The first Joe Blaze novel, “The Big Payoff”, is written under a house name of Robert Novak. However, there is compelling evidence that points to Nelson Demille as the real author.

Demille's similar series, 'Ryker', released it's first two volumes the same year. Ryker's debut, “The Sniper”, erroneously places “Blaze” in place of “Ryker” within portions of the text. I'm imagining Demille wrote the second Joe Blaze volume as well, “The Concrete Cage”, before the publisher handed the title to Len Levinson ('The Rat Bastards') to conclude the series with third entry “The Thrill Killers.” Honestly, none of this is terribly important as Joe Blaze is introduced to readers as just another strong cop in New York City with no backstory. It's a rather apathetic method of creating a new series for readers, but it doesn't necessarily detract from a good story.

Sergeant Joe Blaze and his partner Nuthall arrive at the scene of a gruesome call girl murder. In typical procedural formula, Blaze interviews witnesses and reports his findings to Captain Coogan. While working the case, another call girl is found murdered in the same fashion. Fearing a sex killer has targeted New York's oldest profession, Blaze and Nuthall track the suspect to a moving company and begin honing in on his whereabouts and his likely next target.

At just 153-pages, the novel never has much to offer readers other than the standard police procedural as Blaze works the case. However, the three action sequences that break up the narrative are written at a frenzied pace, consuming 8-10 pages of fist-fighting, car chasing and shooting. While Blaze is described as a football player, 6'3” with a commanding presence, the book's strength is Blaze's love for his community and colleagues. In a surprisingly endearing moment, Blaze provides money to the widow of a fellow officer. When Nuthall asks about the payment, Blaze explains that with his salary and donations from fellow officers, he is financially supporting the families of nine officers previously killed in the line of duty. That's an unexpected but welcome addition to a men's action-adventure paperback.

With a one-dimensional storyline and very little depth, “The Big Payoff” is average cop fiction that's enjoyable despite its overly bad reviews. This certainly isn't the quality of  an “87th Precinct” novel, but for a quick, rather elementary read, it certainly should find a place in your paperback rotation. I'll probably seek out the remaining books in the series based on my experience here.

Note – An unofficial series entry was published as an eBook in 2015 as “Super Cop Joe Blitz: The Psycho Killers”. The author is mysteriously listed as Nelson T. Novak.

This book was discussed on the third episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast.

Buy a copy of this book HERE


  1. I have this one but haven’t read it yet. Marty’s review at the Craneshot blog had me figuring it would be as lackluster as the second volume, “The Concrete Cage,” so I’ve been putting it off for years now. I never suspected “Robert Novak” was Nelson DeMille. I’ve read most of the Rykers and Kellers and DeMille’s writing is good in them, even if not much happens action-wise. Plus in DeMille you get a lot of cop-world details, which DeMille garnered during his research with the NYPD before starting the Ryker series – anyone who has read the Keller installment “The Death Squad” will recall the overly-detailed embalming sequence.

    You don’t get any cop-world details in “The Concrete Cage,” plus the writing style doesn’t seem to me like DeMille’s. DeMille’s narrative style is more lively, and I think it’s similar to Len Levinson’s style, which is possibly why editor Peter McCurtin hired Len to write the third Ryker, “The Terrorists,” even crediting Len as DeMille. I need to read this first Joe Blaze volume to see if it’s written similarly to The Concrete Cage. Marty’s review had me suspecting it was, given the general lameness on display. And also there are recurring characters in DeMille’s novels – names were just changed when Ryker became Keller, but otherwise they were the same characters. Joe Blaze is just a generic cop on a generic police force.

    If I had to guess who the writer was, just judging from what I recall of the Concrete Cage – humdrum narrative style, boring protagonist, lack of any thrills – I’d say it might’ve been Paul Hofrichter who wrote the first two Joe Blaze novels. The style on display is much more akin to his work than Nelson DeMille’s. In fact, Hofrichter wrote the fifth volume of Ryker, “The Child Killer,” as Edson T. Hamill, and that’s another I’ve put off reading for years – but again per Marty’s review it has the lackluster writing of the first two Joe Blaze books, with a generic lead character and a total lack of suspense, action, thrills, or anything else you look for when reading a book. And that’s Paul Hofrichter to a T.

    1. Hi Joe! Thanks so much for reading the review and for this helpful and detailed analysis. We really appreciate the feedback. We are going to discuss your comments here on an upcoming episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast. Look for it on Episode 7 on August 19th (along with a plug on Glorious Trash and you!).