Showing posts with label Nelson DeMille. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nelson DeMille. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Super Cop Joe Blaze #02 - The Concrete Cage

“The Concrete Cage” is the second in a three-volume series entitled 'Super Cop Joe Blaze'. Belmont Tower, motivated by the success of tough guy cop films like “Dirty Harry”, wanted a vigorous, tough as nails hero for their consumers. Nothing is really explained in the series debut, “The Big Payoff”, other than Joe Blaze is a New York City Detective Sergeant who works closely with his partner Ed Nuthall and Lieutenant Danny Coogan. It's really a neanderthal sort  of police procedural, written under house name Robert Novak, who may or may not be Nelson Demille.

In this second installment, a group of ex-convicts and low-level criminals conspire to kidnap ten women randomly. The book's opening pages has the group operating in a high traffic area of the city. Using the disguise of an ambulance, the cons usher the women into the ambulance at gunpoint. After one captive defiantly refuses, she's fatally shot in the chest. The murder of the innocent woman loops Blaze into the investigation.

In standard procedural plotting, Blaze tracks down a prostitute who may have a brother tied into the gang. Using this lead, Blaze and his two colleagues find an informant connected to the kidnapping. The group plans to use the captives as a new selection of coerced hookers - women who will be utilized to fulfill the needs of a violent, more sadistic clientele. Blaze, perplexed by the crime, arrests the informant but the news is leaked to the criminals. They want the informant released back to their fold or the women will be killed individually and left throughout the city.

This novel is certainly not for the squeamish. When Blaze's negotiation with the crooks stalls, the gang begins chopping up the victims. The narrative eventually moves into a rather grim decision for Blaze and the department – give the informant back to the crooks knowing he will be violently killed, or continue to track the crime ring in hopes of disposing of it with violent force.

While not as enjoyable as the series debut, “The Concrete Cage” was an entertaining, short read. The author uses a lot of tough cop characteristics to propel the narrative – car chases, seedy apartment gun fights and brawls. Lots of brawls. I found the book's finale a little lackluster, but I'll probably stick it out and read the last novel. It is written by the talented Len Levinson ('The Rat Bastards', 'The Sergeant').

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ryker #02 - The Hammer of God

Like its predecessor (“The Sniper”), this second book in the 'Ryker' series is about a murderous psycho on the loose, and the efforts of police detective Joe Ryker to bring him down. The lunatic this time is a hulking fanatic clad in a monk’s robe, who considers himself God’s executioner. He stalks and kills anyone he believes to be a witch, pounding a stake through each victim’s heart for good measure.

As before, no matter how interesting the serial killer is, Ryker himself is even more fascinating. He’s the perfect human metaphor for the jungle he inhabits, the sleazy, dangerous, brutal New York City of the early 1970s. At his best, he’s gruff and sarcastic. At his worst, he’s a hot-tempered, hard-drinking bully who thinks nothing of smacking around anyone who gets in his way. Yet somehow he’s the Archie Bunker of pulp fiction, hilarious and likable no matter how outrageous his conduct is.

There isn’t really a whole lot of plot to this novel, maybe only sixty pages’ worth. But that’s okay! The other three-quarters of the book consist of random vignettes, a bit of color commentary and lots of dialogue. It’s all so entertaining that you won’t mind, trust me. I was so delighted with all the ribald, coarse and cranky dialogue that I was always a little disappointed to be pulled away from it for new plot developments.

The police have nothing to go on but a physical description, and since the killer never leaves his ratty studio apartment (except when he’s out killing someone), they can’t find him. So Ryker investigates the secretive occult underworld of the city, and schemes to draw out the psycho. It gets a little involved, but basically Ryker manipulates his partner into going deep undercover, joining the creepiest coven in the city, one which will soon hold a black mass extravaganza with religious desecration, drugs, an orgy and all kinds of weird stuff. It’s a little unclear whether these people are Wiccans, Satanists, or what, but who cares? The point is that Ryker knows the killer won’t be able to resist appearing at the black mass to wreak vengeance, and the cops can then swoop in and nab him. But things don’t go according to plan…

One prominent pulp reviewer complained that “The Hammer of God” is short on action and thrills. Well, I don’t know, maybe it is (not that I minded). But we do get a big harrowing climax that’s soaked in blood and gore, with enough shock and suspense to make it far more riveting than your average Mack Bolan shoot-‘em-up sequence. In any case, the action is really just the icing on the cake. What really makes this book outstanding are the skillful characterization, dialogue and pacing. And it flows so smoothly that it’s an effortless read. When you think you’ve read twenty pages, you’ll be surprised to see that it was fifty instead.

All of these are hallmarks of great writing. The author here is Nelson De Mille, who knocked out a handful of these pulpy paperbacks when he was young and getting himself established. Today, he’s a big successful mainstream author and I’m happy for him, but it sure would’ve been nice if he’d kept struggling long enough to bat out a few dozen of these 'Ryker' books!