QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE by Max Allan Collins

Book Quote:

“I had a body in the trunk of the car.

I hadn’t planned it that way, but then it wasn’t that kind of job. It wasn’t a job at all, really, rather a speculative venture, and now I’d made more of an investment than just my time and a little money.

Special: Author Interview

Book Review:

Review by Daniel Luft (OCT 27, 2009)

Writers are always telling each other to steal, but cover your tracks. So it’s funny that Max Allan Collins, in his new novel Quarry in the Middle, has decided to blatantly admit his inspiration by way of three epigrams at the beginning of the book. The epigrams are quotes from Dashiell Hammett, Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone, one novelist and two film directors who each told stories about lawless men who played one gang of criminals against another in the hope of getting paid by each. Perhaps Collins thought his rip off was too blatant and it was better to display rather than hide his appropriations. This was unnecessary because Quarry in the Middle stands very well on it’s own and merely nods to the works of these other artists.

All of Collins’s Quarry novels, this is the eighth, concern a midwestern hitman who has cut his mob ties and has decided to go freelance. Most of these books were written in the 1970s and are only available in used editions. Then, a few years ago, Collins decided to bring Quarry back with a final book in the series The Last Quarry. But that hasn’t stopped Collins from writing books that take place earlier in the criminal’s career.

Quarry in the Middle is his third recent novel in the series. It takes place in the mid 1980s with Quarry dressed like Don Johnson, spying on another known hitman and simply following him to his next “job.” This takes him down the Mississippi to a town called Haydee’s Port, Illinois. And the “job” the other man has is to kill the owner of an enormous illegal riverfront casino. Of course the suspected employer of the hitman is the owner of another illegal casino on the other side of the river.

Quarry intervenes in the assassination and gets himself hired by the man who was supposed to be dead. He then infiltrates the other casino and tries to get hired by the other owner as well. Both of these owners are backed by warring wings of the Chicago mob and Quarry nearly manages to get himself killed in each casino. And of course he makes friends with a couple ladies along the way. The book is pure sex and violence in the classic tough-guy mode.

Throughout the book, the first-person narration runs sardonic as Quarry trips his way through the less elite members of Ronald Reagan’s America:

“The joint was encased in the cheapest paneling known to God or man or even you uncle Phil, beautified by black-marker graffiti that made dating and other suggestions. Right now the tables were about half full, and the bar about the same. The clientele appeared to be blue-collar or below, displaying lots of frayed faded jeans, a look courtesy of factory work, not factory fabrication. One corner had been taken over by bikers in well-worn leathers — the bikers were pretty well-worn themselves, in their thirties or forties. Marlon Brando in The Wild One had been a long fucking time ago.”

Quarry’s narration, like the author’s prose, is simple and direct. Collins doesn’t waste any pages, paragraphs or even sentences on digression. Like all of the Quarry novels, this one is only about 200 pages and like the best ones, it has a fast pace with one scene intruding into another. There is no end to the action and violence and no chance for the reader to put the book down for the night. And, as usual with Collins, the plot is air-tight with no coincidences, holes or loose ends.

Once, in an interview years ago, Collins said that he would love to revisit all his old recurring characters that he invented years ago. The problem, he said, was that he didn’t want to conform to modern publishing schedules to do it. Quarry in the Middle is the third Quarry novel to lurk into bookstores in four years — hardly a tight schedule. There is also another book in the works but with no solid publication date as yet planned. Hard Case Crime, the small publisher with big distribution, seems to have helped Collins solve his dilemma.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 11 readers
PUBLISHER: Hard Case Crime (October 27, 2009)
REVIEWER: Daniel Luft
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Max Allan Collins
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October 27, 2009 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Noir, Thriller/Spy/Caper, US Midwest, y Award Winning Author

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