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The Last Quarry (Hard Case Crime) Paperback – August 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Collins (Road to Perdition) will be delighted to find him resurrecting Quarry, the ruthless hit-man he put to rest years ago, after six Quarry novels and a small handful of short stories. Now living and relaxing in the Minnesota woods, Quarry is lured out of retirement by a Chicago media magnate who wants a seemingly harmless young librarian dead. But when he winds up falling for his target, one Janet Wright, Quarry begins second-guessing his assignment and experiences an uncharacteristic change of heart that almost gets him killed. Stemming from Collins's screenplay for the award-winning short film A Matter of Principal, this novel covers a lot of ground in a small space—a credit to the distinct, wry voice Collins has given Quarry, who doesn't waste anything, least of all words: "Louis cracked open the door and peered out and said, 'What is it?' and I shot him in the eye." Compact enough to be read in a couple of sittings but bristling with suspense and sexuality, this book is a welcome addition to the Hard Crime Case library and, if there's any justice, will spark sales of Collins's back-catalogue titles. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This novel's provenance is as interesting as its plot. It started as a much-anthologized short story, "A Matter of Principle," which is also the basis of a soon-to-be released feature film called Shades of Noir. Now, in expanded form, it's become a novel, the first appearance of Collins' hit-man hero, Quarry, in 30 years. Fans of classic pulp fiction will be spellbound by the no-nonsense Quarry, an antihero who mixes irony, violence, and a lingering touch of humanity in just the right proportions. It begins with a conundrum: Why would a gay Mafia thug be buying Tampax at a remote Minnesota convenience store in the middle of the night? Curiosity drives Quarry to find out, and soon enough he has accepted one last assignment from a Chicago millionaire. When he finds himself falling in love with his intended victim, the initial conundrum becomes a hit man's nightmare. Collins never misses a beat, as Quarry finds himself vulnerable to a potentially lethal strain of emotional ambiguity. All the stand-up pleasures of dime-store pulp with a beguiling level of complexity. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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He met the woman he wanted to marry and they embarked on a lodge business. Then, the past flooded through their door. She was killed, and he was without a life, or even an identity. Later, he killed those responsible for her death, but all that was left was a gaping hole of emptiness.
Gary offered Jack a way out. He offered him a job managing the Sylvan Lodge. Jack could turn a buck, tap into his marketable skills, and keep a low profile. Pal helping pal. It was a good plan, while it lasted.
Jack had always been a free lancer, but he recognized Harry, one of The Outfit Mob boys from Chicago. Suspicion arose when Jack saw Harry stocking up on supplies, and this from a backwoods convenience store. It was off season. Jack's recent boredom was about to end abruptly. Harry and his gay pal, Louis, had an heiress, Jonah Green's daughter, handcuffed to the bedpost. Green was a media magnate who owned satellite super stations, baseball teams, and anything he fancied. The kidnapping had to be for ransom.
Follow along as Jack tries to untangle this fast paced crime spree with its wide spread web of corruption. This is hard hitting, hard language and violent action. Be forewarned, you will be enticed into finishing this novel in one breathless night. Well maybe, if you are a fast reader and skip on the chip munching. Well crafted with an excellent plot.
This is the kind of hardboiled Noir-fest that would have been published by Gold Medal books a few decades back. Heck, it even has a Robert McGinnis cover.
Quarry is a hit man, and when this one opens he's a retired hit man. Against his better judgment, he allows himself to be brought out of retirement for one last job, and things go horribly tragically wrong. Usually Quarry is hired to kill people who arguably deserve it, (crooked businessmen, bent lawyers, etc) but this time his client wants him to kill a woman who seems to be just an average citizen. A nice, even boring young woman. A librarian. But Quarry is a professional. He doesn't ask questions. You hire him and you get a body. Period.
But...maybe it's the accumulated years of killing or maybe it's just Quarry's age (do hit men get mid-life crises?) but for whatever reason, the cool, calculating pro gets too close to his intended target and that's when things get interesting.
I had read Max Allan Collins' original five Quarry novels back when they first came out, but I hadn't gotten around to the new ones currently being published by that modern Gold Medal, Hard Case Crime. (Hard Case ran into some trouble but they're back.) In addition to The Last Quarry, there are also Quarry in the Middle, The First Quarry, and the upcoming Quarry's Ex. You can also pick up the original Quarry books in new editions from Perfect Crime Books with nifty new covers from Collins' frequent collaborator, Terry Beatty.
The thing about Quarry is he's not a shining hero, not a world weary PI or a cop. Killing people is his business and he takes no pleasure in the hits (Well, not the scheduled ones.) but he is very good at what he does and you do not want to get on his bad side. In some ways he reminds me of Robert E. Howard's heroes in that he's seen enough death that killing someone to solve a problem is always an option. He won't do it if he doesn't have to, but it's always there.
Reading Quarry again for the first time in a long while reminded me of why Collins' has such a firm grip on Mike Hammer. Quarry is equally as deadly as Hammer, but his menace is of a much colder variety. Usually. There is one moment in the book where Quarry's anger boils over and it ain't pretty.
Anyway if you want a hard hitting crime novel with some nice twists and very interesting characters, latch on to this one. I have to go to Amazon now and order all the others.
1. More plot holes than an Indiana Jones movie.
2. Implausible coincidences are used to bump the story along.
3. Relies on too many "James Bondish" random chances.
4. Predictable ending that was foreshadowed from about half-way.
5. Lacks depth, creativity and substance.
6. If you've read other Quarry books, you'll notice the same ideas, tropes and descriptions recycled here.
7. Without Spillane and Collins' brand associations this work would sink like a sack of doorknobs.
On the plus side, it's a quick read and has its brief moments.