Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review Revisited: Max Allan Collins, Quarry [a.k.a. The Broker] (1976)

Max Allan Collins has posted his thoughts on my recent review of his novel Quarry here (about midway down the page). Collins is mistaken in saying that The Hunter is the only Parker novel where Parker kills a civilianThe Jugger is another that comes to mind. Parker thinks nothing of killing a civilian if it is necessary to ensure his own safety. Beyond this quibble, however, Collins' response, which emphasizes the differences between the Quarry novels and the Parker novels, makes an interesting counter to my review, which emphasized their similarities.


  1. I appreciate the civility of your response to my response. I read the first batch of Parker novels many years ago, when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and followed them until Don stopped writing them (for a time). Though I was enormously influenced by them at an impressionable age, I have never re-read them. My memory is that Parker mostly killed other bad guys. THE HUNTER is an exception, because Don didn't know he was writing the first in a series (as you probably know, Parker was captured in the original version, much as Nolan was killed at the end of my homage novel BAIT MONEY...both of us brought our guys back to life at the request of editors). THE JUGGER, interestingly, was a Parker novel that Don considered a failure, specifically because Parker does act in an investigative, private eye-ish capacity, which Don felt didn't work for the character. A long time ago I was astonished when Don described the Parker novels as "romances" -- to him they were not gritty crime novels, but more the logical extension of Raffles and the Saint. He means "romance" not in the love sense, of course, though all of my Quarry novels (sex scenes and all -- by the way, I've never read a Penthouse letter in my life) are love stories in a way, because in every one of the books a woman (usually a good woman) temporarily reawakens the dulled humanity in Quarry. Parker rarely killing civilians is part of the "romance" approach, and this Quarry has in common with him. Quarry (and probably Parker) has killed plenty of civilians in his day, but only THE BROKER/QUARRY is built around one such killling. What makes a crook book of the Parker and Quarry variety work is that these criminal protagonists are the best men in a bad world. Hence, you create the capacity for the protagonist to kill a civilian, but rarely demonstrate that capacity.

  2. Thanks so much for your comments. More than anything, this blog is my ongoing attempt to understand how the pieces of the noir-hardboiled literary world fit together, so I am always fascinated to learn what authors have read (and when they read it) and what they consider their influences (and what they haven't even read). It was one of the highlights of my 2010 when the early Quarry novels were reissued. Any chance for the Nolan novels? I quite enjoyed Hard Case Crime's Bait Money/Blood Money reissue (which was back before I was presumptuous enough to be broadcasting my opinions about this stuff), and I'm sure that, if need be, I will eventually send my pound of flesh to some rare book dealer somewhere to procure the others . . . but, of course, I would rather give (less of) my money to you and some as-yet-to-be-named publishing house.

  3. Thanks, David, for these kind words.

    I have done deals with several publishers of late to bring back my older stuff. Perfect Crime, obviously, has Quarry...and wants Nolan. Ness has just been done by another publisher. We are close to having a deal for the entire Heller saga to be back in print in time to support the first new Heller in ten years, BYE BYE, BABY. But I am also contemplating bringing out some e-books (and print on demand versions) of both the Nolan novels and the Mallorys, myself. In addition, there would be short story collections, by both my wife Barb and me, plus our collaborative novels, REGENERATION and BOMBSHELL. My son Nate and I are in the planning stages to do this. Nolan's a tiny bit problematic because Hard Case controls the first two. Anyway, thanks for asking, and don't spend your money on vintage stuff, unless you're into that.

    I would be glad to do one of your mini-interviews, particularly on influences, since that seems a special interest of yours (and it is of mine).

    Incidentally, my son Nate works as a translator of Japanese to English. He was a dual major at the University of Iowa in computer science and Japanese. He studied for a year in Japan after graduation. His first book (as translator) is out from Viz right now -- SUMMER, FIREWORKS AND MY CORPSE.

  4. Wow, I'm really excited about Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse. I read zero Japanese, so I spend much of my time trolling around Amazon in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to ferret out noir-ish Japanese novels in translation. This one had completely escaped my notice. If the world needs anything, it needs more people translating Japanese novels into English (I may be in a minority in this point of view).

    I'd love to do a mini-interview on influences . . . and I'd love to do one on Mickey Spillane. Spillane is responsible for getting me into all this. When I was somewhere around the eighth grade, I saw Spillane on The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, and all I knew after watching that show was that I was going to find a copy of Vengeance Is Mine if it killed me.

  5. David, contact me at macphilms@hotmail.com.