My Bouchercon 2014 panels: Max Allan Collins just wants to have fun
The three books—Quarry in the Middle, Quarry's Ex, and The Wrong Quarry, each published by Hard Case Crime—begin with the hitman/entrepreneur protagonist, Quarry, embarking on a job. (Collins sets the books in the Reagan era and has just enough fun with the period's social, political, and, most of all, musical trappings to remind readers of the setting without getting in the story's way.)
This format lets Collins exploit any number of crime and adventure conventions. Quarry is a disillusioned Vietnam vet, though without the psychological baggage. He's a tough-guy ass-kicker with a bit of the wise-cracking self-awareness of the Saint. He's a mildly self-effacing babe magnet, with an amiable susceptibility to women, a Shell Scott with more sex and fewer extravagant anatomical similes. And, when compelled to figure out who's really who, and who wants what and why, he makes a more than credible detective.
plunder squad. (One of Collins' other series pays amusing tribute to crime and espionage classics in such titles as A Shroud for Aquarius and The Baby Blue Rip-Off.)
I don't know how the Quarry series has changed over the years, whether the earlier novels are more straightforward hitman tales than these later ones. Nor do I know whether those early books partake as freely of the crime-fiction smorgasbord. But Quarry in the Middle, Quarry's Ex, and The Wrong Quarry take a '50s-style tough guy, give him a '60-style back story, and set the results in the 1970s. Pastiche? Maybe, but by God, Collins pulls it off, and has lots of fun doing it.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014