Look! A new cover by the legendary master, Robert McGinnis! That was what first drew my eye to this novel, but then I saw Max Allan Collins’s name and got a double whammy. Then I saw that the book was indeed about Quarry, the rough-and-tumble hitman with nerves of steel and a blue collar worker’s mentality — he never takes on a job he doesn’t see through to the end. I was sold.
I first started reading the Quarry novels (there were five previous books featuring the character) back in the 1970s when I discovered MAC’s other works featuring Mallory (which I really should find and re-read at some point) and Nolan (a semi-retired heister who joined forces with Jon, a comic book artist geek). Mallory was fun and Nolan was entertaining, but Quarry was just… HARD. Like the mine where rock slabs are cut from the earth. Quarry was definitely different, and not for the squeamish.
The years haven’t softened him. In this novel, which MAC has confirmed in interviews as the “last” Quarry in the chronological order (though not the last book about the character he’ll necessarily ever write), Quarry is still recovering from losing his wife and unborn son to violence that he thought he’d walked away from by turning down an offer he couldn’t refuse. He meets up with an old Army buddy from his Vietnam days and ends up managing a resort for him.
While in town during the off-season, being slowly bored out of his mind, Quarry meets a face he remembers from his Mafia days. Following the man to a rental home, Quarry discovers the man and his partner are holding a kidnap victim: a young, lush beauty. Sizing up the situation, seeing a chance to eradicate any chance the man might have recognized him as well as make a few bucks himself, Quarry buys out the kidnappers’ interest with a bullet through the eye and a long walk across the thin ice of a frozen lake. Then he ransoms the young woman back to her father, Joshua Green, a man with some semi-ties to the Chicago Mafia.
A few months later, Joshua Green tracks Quarry down and offers him a quarter million dollars to kill a small-town librarian. Intrigued, but wary of the “one-last-job” syndrome that generally befalls all the movie heroes, Quarry agrees to the contract and goes to spy on the librarian. The plot takes a real twist when Quarry falls for his intended victim and finds he really doesn’t want to kill her. The problem is, he doesn’t want anyone else to kill her either, so he can’t just ride off into the sunset.
Max Allan Collins’s writing is as tight and quickly paced as I’ve ever seen it. This is truly one of those Gold Medal books on which I misspent all my youth. (Of course, now that I’m a professional writer, maybe it was more of an education.) I absolutely loved the book and the fact that I could read it from cover to cover in about the same time it would take me to watch a movie. For less than the cost of a movie. Now this is entertainment.
Currently, Max Allan Collins is writing the books about the Las Vegas based CSI team. I really recommend those books as well, and the “Disaster” novels he does that mixes history, a disaster, and a famous writer (such as The War of the Worlds Murder — which I’ll review here at a later date).
Grab The Last Quarry for a weekend read, when you have an hour or so that you can devote totally to a purely fun investment of your time.