'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.
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