Showing posts with label Quarry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quarry. Show all posts

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Quarry #16 - Quarry's Blood

Max Allan Collins’ Quarry series about a paid assassin is probably the best series (still) going today. The books blend action, mystery, sex and humor in a perfect combination, so I was excited to read the 2022 installment, Quarry’s Blood.

As the novel opens, it’s 1983 and Quarry (age 31) is at a strip club in Biloxi, Mississippi re-connecting with a stripper he once knew named Luann (stage name: Lolita). If this rings a bell, that’s because Quarry’s Blood begins as a sequel of sorts to 2015’s Quarry’s Choice, although Collins does a good job getting the reader up to speed if you’ve never read the other novel or forgotten the particulars. Mostly, Collins is just bringing back a beloved former character and consider yourself lucky as Luann is a fan-favorite love interest for Quarry.

Anyway, Quarry used to be a normal hitman, but now he’s a hitman who gets paid by intended victims to kill other hitmen before they can kill the targets. If possible, he also investigates the situation to figure out who hired the hitman in the first place — because if you don’t do that, why bother? The upshot is that Quarry returns to Luann because his 1983 investigation indicates that a hitman is targeting his former stripper friend for extinction.

We also join Quarry in 2021 (age 69) looking back on his life and greatest hits over the years. He’s content with his life of retired solitude when a visitor comes-a-knocking. The visitor isn’t carrying a gun, but rather a notebook. She’s an author of true crime novels, and she’s pieced together who Quarry is - or was - and wants to interview him for a book. She’s aware that Quarry has over 40 kills to his name and other things about him that I won’t spoil here.

Quarry is also facing a problem of someone trying to kill him. Does it have something to do with his prolifically murderous past? Or maybe it’s connected with this true-crime journalist poking about? This leads to a lot of revisiting historical hits to learn the one that triggered the violence of the present. There’s a meta-fiction aspect the whole endeavor that will also delight series stalwarts - you’ll know it when you read it. Of course, Collins ties the past and the present together in a tidy and well-construction manner forming one multi-generational tale.

Quarry’s Blood is another excellent installment in the series, but probably not a great entry point for a new reader since there are so many references to other Quarry adventures. This one’s for the fans. There’s an afterward by the author implying that this may truly be the last Quarry novel. I’m calling on Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai to figure out a way to put the screws to Max Allan Collins to ensure there are more installments forthcoming. Whatever it takes… 

Buy a copy of the book HERE

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Quarry #15 - Killing Quarry

Killing Quarry is the 15th published novel in Max Allan Collins’ terrific hitman series. The chronological order of the books is quite a mishmash, but the author has done a great job of making every book stand alone quite nicely. Although this one is a 2019 release, it takes place in 1986, fairly late in the chronology.

Earlier in the series, the Vietnam vet turned paid-assassin came into possession of a list of other hitmen on-contract with his former boss, The Broker. Quarry switched his business model to stalking hitmen and hiring himself out to their intended targets to stop the assassins before the kill is completed. That’s the setup in this one, but some unusual developments send this novel in an unusual direction.

Killing Quarry begins with our anti-hero driving from his home near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to Naperville, Illinois. He’s chosen the name of a hitman named Bruce Simmons from The Broker’s list. The idea is to surveil Simmons until he goes to his next murder gig and spoil the fun before Simmons can do his job. Things take a shocking turn when Simmons drives up to Lake Geneva and begins watching Quarry’s home. Yes, Quarry is his intended target. We are treated to two people in the murder business basically stalking each other for the kill.

Who is paying Simmons to kill Quarry? Has Quarry’s killing hitmen gambit finally caught up with him? Or is the agenda something completely different? The answers are revealed gradually on a roller coaster of twists and turns that also provides fans of the series an interesting look under the hood of Quarry’s world of hitters, brokers, envoys, and mobster clients.

As the alluring cover art indicates, a sexy hitgirl works her way into the plot. It’s interesting to note that Killing Quarry is a sequel of sorts to the 1976 entry in the series, The Dealer, re-released by Hard Case Crime in 2015 as Quarry’s Deal. Collins does a nice job of summarizing the events of the prequel, so new and forgetful readers are never lost. That said, if you’re working your way through the entire series, you might as well read Quarry’s Deal before Killing Quarry.

However you choose to tackle the series, be sure to make time for Killing Quarry as the paperback is a total winner. There’s excellent action, great humor, hot sex, and a compelling mystery at the core. Picking the best Quarry novel is a heavy lift, but Killing Quarry is among my favorite in the series. Highly recommended.

Purchase a copy of this book HERE

Monday, January 20, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 27

Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 27 showcases a feature on the work of Jerry Ahern, including a review of “Survivalist #1: Total War.” We also evaluate the latest installment in Max Allan Collins’ Quarry series entitled “Killing Quarry.” Check out the episode wherever fine podcasts or stream below. Directly download the episode HERE. Listen to "Episode 27: Jerry Ahern" on Spreaker.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 13

We close out the month of September with a feature on Max Allan Collins and his series of books starring the hitman Quarry. Tom reviews "Quarry's Choice" from 2015 and Eric tackles the 23rd installment of 'The Butcher' series, "Appointment in Iran". Tom and Eric look back at the best of September and offer a sneak peek at October's lineup of reviews. Stream the show below or on any popular streaming service. Direct Downloads LINK Listen to "Episode 13: Quarry" on Spreaker.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Quarry #08 - The First Quarry

Esteemed author Max Allan Collins is a heavy contributor to the gritty, hard-boiled line of mystery fiction. His well-respected creations include Nate Heller, Nolan, Mallory and the subject at hand, Quarry. The Thrilling Detective blog cites Quarry as the first hired killer series, predating Loren Estleman’s Peter Macklin and Lawrence Block’s Keller. Collins released the debut, The Broker (aka Quarry), in 1976. After four more novels, and a ton of fan mail requests, the author began releasing series installments again in 2006.  Contrary to The Broker as sequentially the first Quarry novel by publication date, it isn’t the chronological beginning. Quarry’s fictional accounts begin in this origin novel, The First Quarry (2008), and seemingly ends with The Last Quarry (2006). But aside from those bookends, the series can be read in any order.

Collins introduces our killer on a frosty December night in 1970. Quarry is a 5’-10”, 155-pound average build and a former U.S. Marine sniper. His experiencing killing Vietcong for low money has now extended domestically with a new business model and booming sales potential. In a brief recap, the reader learns that Quarry returned home after ‘Nam only to find his bride under a mechanic in the sack. In the blunt revenge tactic, Quarry catches the mechanic under a car…and ruthlessly kicks the jack out. The murder is widely publicized, but Quarry somehow gets off. This book’s opening pages has Quarry camped in a new suburban neighborhood in Iowa City performing surveillance. The homework is an effort to kill a college professor named K.J. Byron, ultimately Quarry’s first job offer in this new career opportunity.

An assassination service headed by the name The Broker offers Quarry the assignment to kill Byron after learning about his cold-blooded mechanic murder in the media. The Broker receives kill-jobs from needy clients which are then commissioned to hit men. In what would become a staple of the series, The Broker simply calls our narrator “Quarry” with no indication if it’s meant as a first or last name. Regardless, this unnamed trait is the formula for the genre, evident in Dashiell Hammet’s Continental Op and Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective. To size up Quarry’s expertise, the first assignment is killing this professor. The client’s daughter, Annette, has been collaborating with Byron on a book in exchange for working her young pupil hips and lips. While this is enough to maintain any fatherly vendetta, the larger piece is a manuscript outlining mafia action Annette has witnessed in the family business. Killing Byron and destroying the manuscript is imperative…but proves to be an arduous task for Quarry.

In true hard-boiled fashion, this first-person narrative has the protagonist displaying the sturdy antihero archetype. He’s completely void of morality, often breaking conventional ethics and driven by self-interest. While bravado fueled novels like Don Pendleton’s War Against the Mafia defines rigid boundaries and a sense of right and wrong, Collins leaves Quarry dissolute; youth gone wild in all its moral erosion. Quarry sleeps with the client’s daughter and the professor’s wife, endangering an already fragile working relationship. He sucker-shoots, lies, cheats and steals to overcome his lack of physical superiority (noted in one scene where he can’t fight two African-American mobsters). As the elementary assignment becomes further entangled in scorned love and rival gangs, Collins is quick to remind us the web isn’t a complex weave. His quick summaries of busy, violent chapters are stylishly funny - “The good news was the girl wasn’t dead. The bad news was everything else.” Quarry is wicked and never out of morbid one-liners for the reader. He’s likable, but deadly, repulsive, but delightful and the “good” bad guy we all want to win.

For the lack of a better term…Quarry simply kills.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Quarry #14 - Quarry's Climax

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.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Quarry #12 - Quarry's Choice

Quarry’s Choice by Max Allan Collins is a 2015 installment in the hit man series, yet it takes place in 1972. The popular paperbacks have always been unstuck in time, and the reading order doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that you do, in fact, read these books because Quarry is among the best genre series characters ever written.

This one takes place after Vietnam vet Quarry has been accepting assassination assignments from the Broker for about a year. During a standard business meeting in Iowa, a couple of hired killers try to murder the Broker but are foiled by Quarry’s quick action. It’s an exciting opening scene that sets the pace for the remainder of this propulsive installment.

Soon thereafter, the Broker engages Quarry to kill the man behind the assassination attempt - a junior varsity racketeer named Killian in Biloxi’s Dixie Mafia. Killian is in the process of trying to consolidate power, and he views the Broker as a loose end requiring elimination. The ever-resourceful Broker has an inside track to get Quarry a job - in an undercover capacity - as one of Killian’s bodyguards to bide time until Quarry is properly positioned to eliminate this well-protected threat.

In Biloxi, Quarry is assigned a stripper/prostitute, who uses the name Lolita, to be his escort as he learns his way around town. As a writer, Collins is notoriously good at writing fantastically graphic sex scenes, so Lolita’s version of southern hospitality is a welcome addition to this otherwise violent and tense paperback. Beyond the sex scenes, the relationship that develops between Quarry and the whore is one of the most satisfying aspects of the novel and underscores the basic goodness and humanity of our antihero hitman.

Biding his time for an opportunity to take out Killian, Quarry is given assignments from his target to thin the herd of criminal competition in Mississippi, and Quarry must make some tough choices concerning conflicts of interest and the ethics serving two masters. The strip clubs and illegal gambling operations servicing the nearby Air Force base in Biloxi serve as a fascinating cultural study of regional crime.

As you may have figured, Quarry’s Choice is another fantastic and perfectly written novel in this flawless series. It’s short enough that it never drags, and Collins’ writing crackles with good humor and compelling bloodshed. The twists and turns as the book approaches its climax is genuinely surprising. The paperback’s conclusion is gratifying and leaves the reader wanting another helping of Quarry action. Highly recommended.

Buy this book HERE

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Quarry #13 - Quarry in the Black

Fans of men’s action-adventure place Max Allan Collins’ Quarry series in the top-tier of the genre along with Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm and Richard Stark’s Parker. The former Vietnam War sniper turned hitman debuted in 1976 and has been a source of great entertainment ever since. The best news is that the author remains alive and well, and he periodically cranks out another 200-page Quarry novel - coupled with outstanding Hard Case Crime cover art - to the delight of genre fans.

Quarry in the Black is the 2017 entry in the series, but the series has always been unstuck in time. This particular story takes place in 1972 when Quarry was still accepting assassination jobs from his original boss, The Broker. The arrangement always made a lot of sense: The Broker deals with the client, and Quarry deals with the victim - sometimes with a passive partner who handles the surveillance, leaving Quarry to manage the kill. Quarry’s favorite partner, the gay-before-it-was-fashionable Boyd, is assigned to work with Quarry on this hit. 

This one is a little different. Quarry is offered $25,000 to kill a charismatic black civil rights leader, Reverend Raymond Wesley Lloyd, who is campaigning for George McGovern to beat Richard Nixon in the 1972 U.S. Presidential Election. Quarry rightly recoils from the gig because Reverend Lloyd seems like an unobjectionable fellow - peaceful, anti-war, and espousing a strong anti-drug platform. Despite his chosen profession, Quarry has a decent moral compass and has no desire to become the next James Earl Ray. After The Broker gives Quarry some reason to believe that this Reverend isn’t the next Martin Luther King, he reluctantly takes the gig.

Collins does a fantastic job of capturing the zeitgeist of the post-burglary, pre-resignation, Nixon-Watergate era. He cites the era’s music blasting at Quarry’s every turn making me wish someone would create a classic-rock Quarry in the Black Spotify playlist to be used as a soundtrack while reading this paperback. Moreover, real-life public figures from the era have cameos in the novel, adding to the authentic feel of this retro effort. Collins even gives a nod to current events as Quarry is forced to tangle with a violent white-power group based in the all-Caucasian enclave of Ferguson, Missouri.

The central mystery of this - and most - Quarry stories is the identity and true agenda of the client paying for the hit. The Broker always keep’s the client’s identity from Quarry as a buffer of deniability if a job should go sideways. Inevitably, the full story eventually is revealed, and it usually explains the complications and bumps in the road that Quarry is forced to endure. Like the other novels, Quarry gets laid a few times in deliciously explicit detail, and the first-person narration is predictably hilarious.

There’s really nothing bad to say about Quarry in the Black. It’s another perfect entry in a legendary series. Hopefully, Collins stays energized and continues to come up with new Quarry stories for years to come. Highly recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Quarry #10 - Quarry's Ex

Quarry's Ex is an excellent entry in the Quarry series by Max Allan Collins. The series is about an anti-hero murder-for-hire hit man. As with all the novels in the series, the first-person narration is conversational, humorous, and compelling.

There are two kinds of Quarry novels: The first type is where Quarry is hired to kill someone, the second is where Quarry is hired to stop another hitman from killing someone. Both types are equally great. In Quarry's Ex, our hero follows a hitman to the on-location filming of a movie to determine who is about to be killed and prevent the murder from happening. Along the way, he gets entangled with a woman from his past, several Hollywood bozos, and a mobster B-movie financier. There’s plenty of sex and violence along with an actual mystery to be solved.

The books were written in both the 1970s and the 2000s with a large publication gap in the middle of the series. The publication order is not the series order. The series begins and ends respectively, with The First Quarry and The Last Quarry. Beyond that, reading order doesn’t really matter. There is no discernible difference in quality between the 1970s installments and the 2000s. All of them take place in the post-Vietnam 1970s and early 1980’s.

I’ve never read a bad Quarry novel, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Highly recommended for hard-boiled genre fans.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Quarry #11 - The Wrong Quarry

There are two types of Quarry novels: The first is when hitman Quarry is hired to kill someone and the second are the ones where Quarry tries to kill another hitman to protect a client. The Wrong Quarry, the series' 11th entry, is one of the second variety and perhaps the best of that bunch. It was published as a Hard Case Crime novel in 2014, and is written by Max Allan Collins. Aside from the first novel, readers can enjoy the series in any order. 

Quarry finds himself in Missouri stalking a hitman who, in turn, is stalking a gay dance instructor who is suspected of causing the disappearance of a teenage girl. All the humor and sex from other Quarry novels is present in this one, but there is also a compelling mystery involving the identity of the person wanting to kill the dance teacher and the whereabouts of the missing girl.

The characters in this one are vivid and realistic. The female leads are sexy as hell. The plot twists are unexpected and realistic. The scenes of violence are brutal and bloody. This is one of the best of the series and not to be missed.

Buy a copy of this book HERE