Showing posts with label Dirty Harry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dirty Harry. Show all posts

Friday, May 21, 2021

Dirty Harry #05 - Family Skeletons

Warner Books released the 12 episodes of the action-adventure series for men Dirty Harry between 1981 and 1983. These novels can be read in any sequence and are based on the character of the three movies Dirty Harry, Magnum Force and The Enforcer. The works are written under the house name of Dane Hartman by the authors Leslie Alan Horvitz and Ric Meyers. Mostly the series is panned by readers, but I still feel compelled to read an installment every few years. Maybe I'm attracted by the artwork. 

In Family Skeletons, the fifth novel in the Dirty Harry series, San Francisco detective Harry Callahan decides to take a holiday in Boston. While this trip allows Harry to escape the fight against the West Coast villains, it will not come without an aura of mystery. Linda, Harry's cousin, asked him to travel to Boston to investigate a religious cult called The Unitarian Church. This cult recruited Linda's daughter, Shanna.   

Through the book's violent narrative, a Boston serial killer plagues the college campus of the church, eventually killing a number of students that have ties to Shanna and other Unitarian members. Harry befriends a Boston homicide detective assigned to the case and they work together to find the killer. As Harry's suspect list narrows, he finds quarrels with the Callahan family – Linda's husband disagrees with Harry's involvement and wants him out of the city. Is he the killer or just a violent stumbling block? 

There is actually a lot to like about family skeletons in comparison to previous installments that left me feeling dissatisfied. Whether this is Horvitz or Meyers, the writing is an upgrade from the standard drivel associated with the series. There is an abundance of action and violence while Harry fights a number of villains through the most violent areas of Boston. Before the twisted ending of the book, there is a shootout and a chase that puts Harry's. 44 against a few shotguns in a grocery store. Suspending unbelief, I soaked everything up and had a great time.   

Family Skeletons isn't a literary masterpiece. It's not even as good as a low-shelf, later Mack Bolan installment. But it is entertaining and jammed with action and mystery. I was surprised by the quality and gained a new respect for this series. I'm destined to read more. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Dirty Harry #02 - Death on the Docks

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.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dirty Harry #01 - Duel for Cannons

I’d put off reading this for nearly a year because I had a premonition that it wouldn’t be very good. I was right.

A vacationing Texas lawman gets gunned down in California, and “Dirty Harry” Callahan of the San Francisco Police Department thinks it was an assassination. It was indeed, and as Harry investigates further, a big conspiracy emerges involving an evil Texas businessman who’s got the whole San Antonio police department on his payroll, including its crooked chief. Those who don’t go along get killed by the businessman’s favorite assassin. Harry goes after them all, and you can guess how things end up.

The story has potential, and Dirty Harry is a terrific character, but somehow this book never got in gear for me. I didn’t care for the style of author Ric Meyers (using the name Dane Hartman), who writes as if he’s reading a screenplay and adapting it shot-by-shot into a novel. The result is that action sequences go on way too long, with lengthy descriptions of the physical landscape and details of each participant’s every motion. It’s always way more information than you need. For example, the book opens with the assassin killing that vacationing lawman. That simple sequence takes fourteen pages to describe.

Most of the story takes place in San Antonio, where Harry tries to rescue its last remaining honest lawman, who’s been kidnapped by the villains. This leads to a series of drawn-out gun battles in which nothing gets resolved. It also leads to Harry sleeping with the lawman’s worried wife (huh?), which I guess gives him something to do between gunfights. 

Weirdly, Harry then teams up with the assassin to invade the businessman’s mansion and kill him. After that battle, there’s a brief layover until the book’s final shoot-out, in which Harry and the assassin try to kill each other. This occurs at the Alamo, apparently after the tourists have gone home but before anyone locks up for the night, as Harry walks right through the front door for his gunfight appointment.

What follows is a lot of shooting until the ammo runs low, and then we come to the one scene in the book that I loved. It’s a reversal of the famous scene in the original movie, in which Harry levels his Magnum at a cringing low-life and gives that little speech ending with “You have to ask yourself a question: do I feel lucky?” This time it’s Harry who’s looking up at that lethal barrel, and it’s a terrific scene. Unfortunately we have to slog through 98.5% of an uninspired book to get there, but at least there’s that.