Quarry in the Middle (Hard Case Crime (Mass Market Paperback)) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Nov 2009
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|Mass Market Paperback, 1 Nov 2009||
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About the Author
Author of Road to Perdition, the acclaimed graphic novel that inspired the movie, and of the multiple-award-winning Nathan Heller series of historical hardboiled mysteries, Max Allan Collins is one of most prolific and popular authors working in the field today. He is also the literary executor of Mickey Spillane. --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Red Harvest is considered to be a direct influence on Kurosawa's samurai film Yojimbo (though Kurosawa himself cited The Glass Key). Leone later remade Yojimbo into A Fistful of Dollars. (Leone was sued by Kurosawa for neglecting to purchase remake rights; Kurosawa stated he made more money off Leone's film than his own).
Interestingly enough, all three protagonists are "men with no name": Hammett's hero is known only as "the Continental Op," Kurosawa's samurai names himself after a plant he sees nearby, and Leone's character has popularized the phrase to the extent that he personifies it. But enough with the history lesson; a good portion of readers probably know all that stuff, anyway.
Where The Last Quarry showed the end of his career and The First Quarry showed the beginning, Quarry in the Middle understandably fills in some blanks. It's set in the mid-1980s. (I'm guessing late 1986; Collins doesn't say outright, but he gives various historical clues.) No longer working for The Broker, Quarry has begun a new kind of business. Using The Broker's files, he gets hired killers' targets to hire him to kill the killers. How very meta!
Following his latest ... uh, quarry ("a guy named Monahan"), Quarry finds himself in a town with the unlikely name of Haydee's Port, Illinois -- home of the Paddlewheel ("a mini-Las Vegas under one roof") and its official digs, the Wheelhouse Motel -- and a hell of a place to be unless you can think on your feet. Luckily, our hired-killer-with-no-name (at least not one he's telling us) has shown himself to be quite adept at thinking ... on his feet, on his back, etc.
Quarry finds out Monahan is gunning for Richard Cornell, owner of the Paddlewheel, and that he's been hired by Jerry G, son of mob-connected Gigi Giovanni, owner of Cornell's main competition, the less-classy Lucky Devil. A man who knows how to turn every situation to his best advantage, Quarry takes an assignment to knock off the Giovannis.
The Quarry series contains Collins's leanest and tightest writing, and Quarry in the Middle is no exception. Collins blends past and present seamlessly, alternating between telling Quarry's back story and the current one with unmatched skill.
I finished Quarry in the Middle in two sittings, or about an hour and a half. It's a very quick read and one you may want to start right over again from the beginning. Collins's take on Yojimbo is fresh yet familiar, and it's always fun to watch Quarry do his thing. Here's hoping the series continues, filling in even more blank spots in the timeline along the way.
So here goes anyway. I love Max Allen Collins Quarry and can not wait for the Cinemax TV series. Quarry is a stone cold killer. At the time of this writing there are 11 Quarry novels and a short story collection.
The first novel originally called the Broker is now titled Quarry. I recommend you read it first. After that read them in any order. They jump around in the years that they are set in so it doesn't really matter. Collins will bring you up to speed. This is my 7th.
The plot this time revolves around Quarry getting caught in between two warring illegal gambling operations. Hence the title.
Quarry is no longer just a killer, now he kills the killers before they can kill you for a price. I think this makes him a quasi good guy, but that is a fine line.
In this story he kills people, gets beaten up a lot, beats up people and has a lot of sex. If this is the kind of thing you enjoy you will love this book. Nobody does it better then Max Allen Collins. Also Ron Lesner does an excellent cover.
And if by any chance you really did read this review please either click on the "helpful" button or leave a comment saying yes I actually read your review, which will impress the heck out of me. In the meantime I will hold my breath and check in every few years.
Quarry in the Middle is Collins' ninth book in the Quarry series which began with Quarry in 1976, and includes Quarry's List, Quarry's Deal, Quarry's Cut, Quarry's Vote, Quarry's Greatest Hits, The Last Quarry, The First Quarry, Quarry's Ex, and Wrong Quarry. As detailed in the First Quarry, Quarry is a former Vietnam veteran whose real name is never disclosed to the reader. He comes back, finds his fiancé in bed with another guy, finds that guy working under his car and kicks the jack out, survives a murder trial, and is then recruited by a mysterious figure named the Broker to carry out hits and we don't mean hits in baseball.
In Quarry in the Middle, Quarry no longer works for the Broker, who is no longer among the living. Rather, Quarry has obtained the Broker's lists of contacts and he follows the hired assassins, staking them out and figuring out who their prey is. Once he is confident in that information, he offers a deal to the targets, he will, for a price, take out their hitmen and find whoever is the responsible party. I guess everyone needs a career doing something.
Quarry in the Middle is firmly set in small-town (Haydee's Port) Midwest in the mid-1980's. Collins reinforces that setting in time and place by his descriptions of the cars used at the time, the music playing on the radio, the posters on the walls in the decrepit bars, and the hair and outfits worn by the folks peopling this small waste of a town. The women, for instance, often have frizzed hair and pink tube tops.
Quarry follows a man he knows is a mob hitman to a small town with one wreck of a hotel, a run-down main street filled with bars and dives, and a run-down casino by the river. Both the casino and one of the bars on main street are run by guys who are rival and who both have heavy Chicago connections. Quarry is not a secretive a he would like to be as both of the mobbed-up rivals in this town clue into the fact he is not the vetinary drug salesman he pretends to be.
Quarry checks into the same motel as the hitman he is following which leads to some amusing scenes as Quarry comes out of the motel pool after doing laps and sees the hitman sitting next to where Quarry left his rolled-up towel with a nine-millimeter wrapped in it.
This Quarry book is non-stop action as Quarry rolls into one fight after another and into one bed after another. In this book, Quarry is definitely single and definitely on the make.
Collins never lets the reader forget however that all the action is taking place in this small town waste of a town in the 1980's Midwest and that most of the people in this town have nothing but a bleak future ahead of them. His descriptions of the casinos and clubs and the denizens in them are just right on. Collins also takes the reader step by step through a high-stakes poker game.
All in all, although this book may be nothing more than another chapter in the Quarry series, it is a fun, worthwhile read, firmly in the hard case crime tradition. Expect to finish the book the same day you start it.
If you've seen even two of them, it's probably not hard to find the common thread, a thread that can likely be traced back to Red Harvest, or a similar work, by Dashiell Hammett, directly or indirectly.
The cover blurb for Quarry in the Middle tells us we're in similar territory, "The enigmatic hitman Quarry -- star of seven celebrated novels and an award-winning feature film (The Last Lullaby) -- is back in this violent, steamy tale of warring crime families. When two rival casino owners covet the same territory, guess who puts himself in the crossfire..."
Author Max Allan Collins signals that he knows what he's doing when he writes, "... I parked on the far side of the lot, near where the glimmering black strip of the Mississippi River reflected the lights of the ancient steel toll bridge joining River's Bluff, Iowa, and Haydee's Port, Illinois.
"Everybody I'd talked to so far, which wasn't many admittedly, seemed to shorten it to Haydee's. And from the glimpse I'd got of the little town, they might have been saying Hades, and meaning it."
This corresponds nicely to "Red Harvest", where Hammett wrote, "I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn't think anything of what he had done to the city's name. Later I heard men who could manage their r's give it the same pronunciation. I still didn't see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves' word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better."
None of this is to suggest that "Quarry in the Middle" is a ripoff. In fact, Collins's novel is much further from any of those other works than they are from each other. Just that it's worth noting that we're in familiar territory here. For some of us, particularly comfortable territory. The fact that Collins is ready to twist this around in new and unexpected ways is part of the fun of the ride.
And it is a fun ride, meeting a jazz singing casino owner, the stripper with a kid and perhaps a "heart of gold", a thuggish mobster with a penchant for poker... Perhaps all clichés themselves, but, like the story, given more than enough of a twist to give them dimension and character of their own beyond that, while still giving that initial comfortable feeling.
The pace is quick, with a sure touch at entertaining the reader. It's not my favorite Quarry novel, but it'll sit comfortably on my shelf with the others. It's a fun ride.