Thursday, April 07, 2011
Forgotten Books-The Broker by Max Allan Collins
MAX COLLINS – The Broker. Berkley, paperback original, 1976. Paperback reprint: Foul Play Press, 1985, as Quarry.
Now that Max Collins' Quarry novels have been reissued by Perfect Crime in truly impressive trade paperbacks, I thought I'd look at again at a review of mine from the mid-Eighties when Foul Play Press reissued the first four from the original Berkley editions.
Collins has always made hired hit-man Quarry believable to me for two reasons. One because he makes the convincing case that the only people he kills are scum, often mobbed-up scum, anyway. And second because of Quarry's sardonic voice. Humor has a way of making things real and Collins is a master of it.
In The Broker, the first in the series, we meet Quarry shooting a man in an airport men’s room. Quarry’s assignment is to bring what the man is holding (heroin) back to his employer, an icy sort called the Broker. Quarry complies.
After complaining that he does not like to deal in drug killings, he reluctantly takes another Broker assignment, this one working with a homosexual killer named Boyd. In the rest of the novel, Collins shows us an abundantly unpleasant world peopled with all sorts of characters, from cuckolded husbands to porno-crazed geezers who look like Gabby Hayes.
The Broker and the other three novels in the first series — The Broker’s Wife (1976), The Dealer (1976), and The Slasher (1977) — depict the waning hippie/flower-power days with a great deal of historical accuracy. The Quarry books are therefore an important part of the crime fiction of the Seventies — a quirky, idiosyncratic look at the Midwest during the Gerald Ford regime.
The Quarry novels belong the shelves of every hardboiled fan. Max Collins is one of the finest artists of the form and these are vivid and compelling books that can be read again and again.