Monday, August 02, 2010

Forthcoming Books: Quarry's Ex

There are few thing more difficult in writing mysteries than keeping a series interesting to both reader and writer. Max Allan Collins' first wave of Quarry novels, published way back in the distant Seventies, were some of the best hardboiled fiction I've ever read. They were what made me a fan of his work initially.

Even more remarkable is the quality of the new Quarry novels Collins has written the past few years for Hard Case Crime. These new books are even richer and darker than the original ones. And in the case of the latest one, Quarry's Ex, even funnier. (This book will be published in October.)

In this one Quarry is hired to put the hurt on another hit man, one he knows from his long ago days with The Broker. He first runs into his target's cohort--and another graduate of Broker University--a demented drunk Quarry dispatches with gut-wrenching brutality. But Collins is too shrewd to do lingering gore; the scene is a few sentences long, almost a side-arm pitch, and all the more brutal and memorable for it.

Twist upon twist leads Quarry to pretend to be a public relations man on a direct-to-video movie. He convinces the director he's going to be killed and needs protection. The mystery behind the identity of the person who REALLY hired the man is worked out skillfully. But the real fun is in Collins' blackly comic take on the people involved in making the movie. There's enough sleaze and cheese to keep the website Gawker in business for five years.

Quarry often refers to his ex-wife in the novels. Here he meets her again and honorably enough--even though she's a hard selfish woman--Collins gives her real depth so that her self-perceptions ring true if not admirable.

A compelling and wry take on the movie business and life in general seen through the eyes of a man who prides himself on only taking out bad buys. I wish I had Quarry's phone number. I'd send him my list.