By Max Allan Collins
Book 1 of Quarry: The Series
Hard crime is an oft overlooked genre; its origins firmly entrenched in the serial pulps of the ‘30’s and 40’s. Max Albert Collins’ Quarry delivers the grim underbelly of the hit-man Quarry and his pursuit of whimsical justice. What should have been an easy job into a horrendous nightmare; one that Quarry is all too keen to rectify. Staccato action drives the book forward, and dredges up memories of Sam Spade and the hard-boiled, film noir era. Now in reprint (the original being published under the title The Broker), this hard-hitting novel is ready for a new generation of readers. Like the serials that came long before it, Quarry delivers a pick-up book full of pulse-pounding adventure at every turn of this masterfully scribed read.
Keeping in line with the pulps that came before it, Quarry is a tight package of mini stories. Each chapter can be read individually; but each builds on the foundation of the last, so it is best to read them all in order. The novel is from Quarry’s perspective, and gives the book that pulp staple of revealing the myriad layers of the onion as the flawed lead anti-hero wends his way through intrigue, plots and mystery –usually to administer vigilante justice. Hence, the writing is terse, to the point and brutally honest. In fact the plot is the driving motive behind it all. Skillfully woven, this web of intrigue, of murders and hits, of mystery and mayhem, it keeps you guessing to the very end.
The characterization is what you’d expect from a film noir inspired book. Quarry isn’t even the anti-hero’s real name, only his handle. Everything is told through his interactions in what seems like a very surreal world – one out of time. Period pieces root this novel firmly in the 60’s but it really could have taken place today. Characters met are filtered through the mostly unflinching .cold hearted killer. Thus characters met are distinctive and stand out, but are not fleshed out in any real manner. The only character that growth is seen in, is Quarry. The rest of the characters appear then disappear in a haze of violence or swept under the rug. Overall I would have liked a little more characterization, but conversely, over-characterization is not a pulp staple. For what it is, this novel rabbit punches characters through the filter of Quarry and it’s where it’s greatest strengths lie.
The writing is as hard hitting as hard crime drama comes. Short punctuated sentences lend to the immediacy to situations and the reader is never further than Quarry is. Dialogue between characters is minimal at best, and lends a serial crime drama the drama. Poignant and sharp, Max Albert Collins has nailed down the hard crime as good as Spillane. The writing is masterful in its minimalism. The ability to disclose a story as intrigue laden as it is, gives kudos to Collins writing ability – as poignant now as it was in the ‘70’s. Quarry is truly one of the most timeless classics that you can envision; now or then. Smalltown U.S.A. hasn’t changed much, and everything can be swapped out for something more modern.
Fans of crime fiction, in the vein of Spillane, or for those who enjoy the well written anti-hero, such as The Punisher, would be well advised to flock to the series, if they haven’t already. There are well over 6 titles in the series, and after reading one, you’ll anticipate more Quarry. It’s that good.