After the third Dirty Harry film, “The Enforcer”, star actor Clint Eastwood announced he would no longer contribute to the film franchise. The studio, Warner Brothers, decided that fans of these flicks would still be willing to shell out cash for more of the character's adventures. Under their publishing brand of Men of Action (S-Com, C.A.T.S.), the studio licensed 12 paperbacks starring Dirty Harry himself, Lieutenant Harry Callahan. The house name was Dane Hartman, but in reality the books were authored by Richard S. Meyers (1953- ) and Leslie Alan Horvitz (1948- ). Strategic marketing created striking, illustrated book covers to lure men's action-adventure readers like myself. I happened upon the series second installment, “Death on the Docks”, published in 1981.
A San Francisco labor union called Local 242 of the Brotherhood of Longshoremen has found itself in a political upheaval. The union is led by a vile criminal named Braxton. A candidate to the union's presidency, Tuber, hopes to wrest control from Braxton, but those attempts are quickly flushed in the novel's opening pages. In a violent crescendo, Braxton has hitmen kill Tuber and his family. Problem solved...until Callahan is called in to lead the murder investigation.
In what becomes a familiar pattern, Callahan is handed various clues in haphazard fashion from shallow characters that have a one or two chapter lifespan. The author doesn't attempt to create a mystery or develop a story in which Callahan, and readers, slowly solve the crime. Instead, the chapters just feature Callahan being directed to various locales – bar, dock, store, house - and shooting a criminal. When the action is exported to a small Caribbean island, where Braxton has fled, the climax comes in baby steps that fail to deliver an explosive, plausible or satisfying conclusion.
In short, “Death on the Docks” is like one of those dives located south of the Mason-Dixon Line that swears they have real New York pizza. After a few bites you realize it's just a soggy, messy imitation. No validity. It's just not authentic. On sample size, these novels aren't of the same quality as the film franchise. They won't "make your day"...only ruin it.
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