Max Allan Collins keeps playing Can You Top This with his Quarry books and damned if he doesn't keep on winning.
Quarry's Choice is remarkable for at least three reasons.
First, it is by far the longest and most ambitious novel in the series.
Second, it takes him to an unfamiliar land, the underbelly of the Deep South.
Three, it combines more violence and more tenderness than one has seen before in Quarry. And that, I know, is saying something.
The set-up goes this way. The Broker hires Quarry to put the hit on a man named Jack Killian. Seems that Killian is trying to take over the Strip in the town in all its underworld aspects, everything from hookers, drugs and kinky hotels. In the process he is spreading his resources to areas of the state run by others. This is making the Broker's friend Woodrow Colton unhappy. Colton owns a good share of the Biloxi Strip (part and parcel of the "Dixie Mafia") which he shares with Killian. Will Killian come after him? It is best for all concerned, both the Broker and Colton ("Woody") agree if Killian is killed. The Strip was quiet--the law was paid off and no one was hassled.Biloxi is a tourist attraction and Killian's violence will not only scare tourists away but also begin to attract attention from the FBI.
The Broker wants Quarry to infiltrate Killian's gang as a bodyguard. He thinks this will be the only way Quarry will have chance to kill him. Unlike the good ole boy Woody, Killian comes from a wealthy family of social standing and is a brilliant, cunning sociopath.
I mentioned that this is the most ambitious Quarry novel. I also mentioned that he takes us to the Deep South. Collins give us a detailed look at life in the Dixie Mafia and its environs. His descriptions of the various strip clubs, hotels, gambling casinos and mob hangouts give the word seediness new meaning. Presumably there are good and decent people in Biloxi but they don't appear anywhere in this novel.
The violence here is stunning and memorable. The lady with her ball peen hammer (she loves to crush skulls) is out of a horror movie. Collins knows that less is more so he gives us short but believable images of sudden and grisly death.
As for the tenderness...There are in each Quarry novel moments when Collins tries to reassure his readers (and Quarry) that the hit man kills not for pleasure but for money. The same with women. Quarry does his share of fuck fucking but there are always moments when Quarry begins to respond to the woman as a person and not just a hand job machine. Here we have little Lolita, a barely-legal prostitute that Woody "gives" Quarry. She appears through a good deal of the book and is one of the sweetest, saddest most appealing characters Collins has ever created.
Quarry's Choice is Quarry's masterpiece, a savage, twist-rich, sexy, wry and relentless tale of bad guys and even much worse bad guys.
I'm about halfway through this one now and liking as much as you do.
Love this series nearly as much as Block's Keller series, and can't wait to get my hands on this newest installment.
QUARRY is one of my favorite series.
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