I gave myself a copy of QUARRY by Max Allan Collins for Christmas last week. Originally published back in 1976, Hard Case Crime (have I mentioned that this company is my favorite publisher?), is in the process of reprinting all of the original Quarry novels with stunning new cover art by the legendary Robert McGinnis. This is the first in the series and it's a good one.
Quarry is, like Lawrence Block's character Keller, a professional killer. Plain and simple. He does it for the money but unlike Keller, he doesn't collect stamps. Collins does a great job of making us root for a protagonist with a tremendous amount of blood on his hands, past, present and future.
QUARRY starts with a bang with a hit in the men's room of an airport. The target's a drug runner, something which Quarry doesn't agree with and he threatens his agent, The Broker, to quit the business if he ever gets involved in another drug related assignment. The Broker sends Quarry to a small Midwestern town where the target is an unassuming milquetoast of a solitary man. Quarry and his stakeout partner, Boyd, watch the intended victim and Quarry does the job in his usual efficient manner.
But this being a hard boiled crime novel, something goes wrong. Boyd is killed, Quarry is attacked and the money for the job is stolen. Quarry breaks the rules and stays in the town and plays amateur detective in an attempt to find out who actually hired him for the job and who has his money. He uncovers (ahem) a comely former Playboy bunny and a well-to-do family with plenty of skeletons in the closet. The showdown takes place, appropriately enough, in a quarry and in the rain, which prefigures the climax of Collins's graphic novel, THE ROAD TO PERDITION (the rain part, not the quarry setting).
With a dare-you-to-stop-reading narrative pace, Collins had me turning the pages as fast as I could. I've read his other Quarry books and they're all good and well worth reading. It's nice to finally be able to see how this whole thing got started. Down and dirty, gritty and tough, QUARRY is a big thumbs up winner. Recommended.