I have a lot of memories of the late 1960s and 1970s, and most of those memories are tied to books I read in those years. I discovered Tarzan of the Apes, Doc Savage, the Shadow, and others. Those books became the building blocks of my own writing career. I learned a lot about plot and characterization.
Back then I was a sucker for the tough guy hero. In many ways, I still am. Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe and Robert B Parker’s Spenser were my hard boiled heroes. But I read Mack Bolan and the Destroyer as well as many other series in the plethora that Pinnacle Books put out in those years.
I discovered Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) and his anti-hero thief Parker and loved those books. It wasn’t long before I discovered a writer named Max Allan Collins. Al, as he is known to his friends, created two of my favorite hardboiled anti-heroes: a professional thief named Nolan, and a professional hit man named Quarry.
In the early books (publication wise, and that will be explained as we go along), Quarry is a truly hard guy, someone who was amoral on the surface, but a guy who had his own rules. He also has a wicked sense of humor, which definitely appealed to the younger me.
For a time, Quarry went away and Al went on to write a great many other books. Or many other great books. Those statements are interchangeable. A couple more Quarry books came out a few years later, but it wasn’t until Hard Case Crime came into being that Al’s hit man anti-hero down renewed life—at the expense of other, unsavory people. Now getting a new Quarry is almost a yearly event, and I’m happy about it.
And this “renewed” series, Quarry’s life is open for revelation. So far we have seen Quarry’s last hit, his first professional hit, met his ex-wife whose betrayal started our anti-hero down this path, and adventures in between.
The latest book is more of the same that longtime readers have seen, but it’s got an interesting twist as well. There are a lot of shenanigans and double-crosses and the Dixie mafia to deal with. Quarry is up to his eyebrows in sudden death, a sex kitten, and southern fried lethal intentions.
Quarry’s trademark humor is in play as well as his deadly skill set. But the thing I enjoy the most these days is the way the Al makes those days come alive. Throughout the narrative, music is mentioned and becomes a soundtrack to the story. During different scenes, those songs played through my head. I was at once in my chair reading, and transported back to the 1970s, not only in Quarry’s story, but also bumping up against my own memories.
Quarry’s Choice is a compact book that rolls right along, filled with danger and surprises. I enjoyed seeing Quarry in his element in watching the relationship develop with the Broker. I hope Al eventually digs more deeply into the Broker and, eventually, the Broker’s wife. There are still a lot of good stories to tell, and I’m looking forward to them.
Now, if only there could be a new Nolan novel…