Monday, October 26, 2015

Duel For Cannons (Dane Hartman, 1981)

Do not read this. Here's all you need to know about it:

Chapter 1: 
Texas sheriff Boris Tucker is killed in an amusement park in southern California while visiting it with his family. He was Harry Callahan's only friend. Because, you see:  

Harry’s definition of a friend was someone he didn’t know from his immediate job that he was willing to go and see. Otherwise he kept up a friendly banter with the guys at work and let the girls come to him when they both found time.

Chapter 2:
We are in San Fran now. Tucker's death has been covered up as a suicide but we know better. And so does Harry!

Chapter 3:
Before Harry can dedicate his attention full time on his late friend case, he needs to solve the current serial rapist/murder case he's been working on. Fortunately, the gods of incredible coincidences are good to him because he runs into the perpetrators while having a dinner in some night club. Shoots three and captures one.

Then he immediately takes off to LA where another corpse confirms that he's on the right track. He also gets involved into some ridicilous chase on the studio lot where they shoot a western movie.

Chapter 4: 
It all added up to one thing; the hitman wanted Harry to come after him. Killing a friend, kidnapping a residential girl, leaving behind a stoolie-related clue, it was all part of his warped way to offend Callahan’s sensibilities.

Huh? Dirty Harry's sensibilities? At least his superiors have some sense left:

That sort of personalized logic fell on deaf ears. Neither Bressler nor his superiors could be convinced that Harry had a case.
Instead, Bressler was convinced Harry was working too hard that he was having paranoid delusions. He suggested Harry take a little time off. 

And naturally:

Harry agreed. On his own time and with his own money, the cop reserved a ticket to San Antonio, Texas. 

Upon his arrival in San Antonio Harry's met by some street toughs and dirty cops. Taxi drivers too act very unfriendly so:

Harry had figured that a powerful politico was behind it all along. Now, however, Harry had to amend his reasoning. Anyone powerful enough to mobilize the police, the street gangs, the redcaps, and the cabbies went beyond area politics. Harry admitted to himself that he was dealing with a power beyond that. A power of money. A power of business.


We learn that the villain is a "wetback made good" (wetbacks are Mexican immigrants) Edd Villaveda aka H.A. Striker and that his henchman is some John Wayne obsessed psycho called Sweetboy Williams. We also get to know the good guy: he is Peter C. Nash and he is one of the few remaining good cops in San Antonio. Nash asks Harry to be his enforcer. Harry reluctantly agrees.

Chapter 5:
Not very eventful. Harry breaks up a dirty cops payoff deal. Also a few cracks begin to show in Striker/Willams relationship and the former one decides to terminate latter one's employment. So there's a glimmer of hope that this will take some detour from the horribly formulaic direction it has taken.

Chapter 6:
Harry's second assignment as an enforcer. It goes wrong and he's arrested. But gods of police stupidity (Strughold is so sure of himself that he leaves .44 Magnum lying next to Harry) are kind to him and he manages to escape. River boat chase follows and Harry once again manages to outsmart and outmaneuver his adversaries. Chapter is concluded simply with: It wasn’t easy, but he did it anyway.

Chapter 7:
It opens with Harry being in the late Tucker's now empty house and author doesn't even attempt to explain how he got there unnoticed. All wet with his cloths torn, wounded leg and - last but not least - by being fucking handcuffed!? I guess it wasn't easy but he did it anyway...

Anyways, now our main man is really pissed off:

Harry’s depression was displaced by dark anger; the kind Harry used to fuel his life. It was a quiet, painless rage at all the injustices of civilization rolled together. It was a dark sense of realism. A feeling of reckless capability. Harry knew he had to do something.

The game was over, the playing had stopped, no more fooling around. Dirty Harry was taking over now.

He then calls Striker and they arrange time and place for the next shoot-out. Their conversation concludes by them both agreeing on Harry's mental state:

“You’re crazy,” said Striker. 
“Yes, I am,” Harry agreed.
 
The shoot-out follows in which "it was every bullet for itself" and Harry kills a bunch of bad guys but unfortunately this is still not a final act. We need to keep enduring this nonsense.

Chapter 8:
Harry fucks Peter's wife Carol. Very unexpected and a bit sneaky too since Peter is still alive! And check out his pathetic rationalization:

But Harry would never talk about it. And Harry wasn’t analyzing it. And Harry wasn’t enjoying it. It went beyond anything like that. It was like the rest of his life. He was doing it because he thought it was right and he had to.

Then he manages to hack the Peter's home computer by guessing the password (it is ".44 Magnum") and sets off to another shoot-out.

Chapter 9:
Final shootout:

Although he tried not to, he couldn’t help realizing that this was the biggest fight he had gotten involved with since World War II.
...
They had everything. As Harry threw open his door and dropped below the top of the sunken level, he saw AR-15 Sporters designed from the Colt M16, Ruger Mini-14, .223 carbines with twenty-round box magazines, thirteen-round, 9mm automatics, army forty-fives, and shotguns of all types.

Harry teams up (!!?!??) with Williams and they kill Striker:

Striker’s head blew apart like a flower blossoming. The force of two .44 bullets burrowing into his skull at once all but decapitated him. Literal gouts of blood erupted from his neck like a scarlet fountain. Both men had to move back to avoid bathing in it.

Chapter 10:
By now everyone's dead except Williams. He stages one-on-one stand off with Harry in Alamo (ahem):

It was an absurd situation. Two men who hardly knew each other. Two men who had fought side by side. Two men who wanted more than anything else, to kill each other. Two men negotiating how they’d do it. If it wasn’t so deadly, it would be laughable.

And you do know who will come alive out of it, right?

The fucking finally end!

I could go on about why I think it's bad, but the main reason is that it is simply fucking boring.

2/5

Facts:

Hero:
Inspector Harry Callahan - No, they didn’t call him Dirty Harry for nothing.

Location:
Fullerton, southern California, San Francisco, LA, San Antonio, Alamo

Body count: 24
 
Not counting a poor sucker on whose head Harry throws a beer keg (with a noise that was reminiscent of the sound the gong made at the beginning of a J. Arthur Rank film).

Four cops go on Williams's account (Williams in action was astonishing) and there's probably another half dozen more killed by him in the last shoot-out (since he was doing the same thing as Harry). Also not counting an unspecified number of victims of the explosion in that shoot-out.

Object of desire: 
Revenge, clearing his good (ahem) name, cleaning up the San Antonio police department

Dames:/

Blackouts
Not sure if it counts but there's pretty (unintentionally?) comic scene in which Harry tries to set himself free of the handcuffs. You see, the problem is that his dear Magnum's barrel is too long to simply shot the chain off so instead he unsuccessfully tries a bunch of different techniques and one that involves a door, some bolt and doors ends up like this:

His skull slapped the bright floor tile, sending a starblaze across his eyes. He stared at the multicolored firework display of his mind while cringing on the floor. When his vision cleared, he was lying with his legs almost in the lotus position. He sat up without moving his legs. His vision clouded again and a little knife stabbed his brain a couple of times, but then the pain and the purple haze went away.
  
Title: 
see Striker's demise in the chapter 9

Edition: 
First NEL Paperback Edition June 1982 

Cover
Clint with his favorite toy

Cool lines:  
Shannon didn't need much convincing. For a homicide detective, his demeanor was as bland as his face was handsome.

It was a beautiful weapon, which Harry knew how to use.Once some people knew how to ride a bike, they could ride any make or model. So it was with Harry and his handgun.[The Coolest!]

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Sometime Wife (Carter Brown, 1965)

This one opens with a pretty silly bit of wisdom:

The next best thing to having a rich, good-looking dame for a client is having a rich client.

It then proceeds straight away to the most narcissistic main protagonist introduction I can remember of. Along with a witty response of which Oscar Wilde himself would be proud of:

"My name's Boyd," I told her. Then I gave her a look at my left profile, which is sheer perfection in itself, to bring a little glamour into her drab life. "Mr. Vanossa is expecting me."
"He's waiting in the library." She gave me a cold beady-eyed look. "And with a name like Boyd, you should be able to look people straight in the eye without twitching your head like that the whole time!"

So tone is set and we know better than to expect some ultra hard-boiled stuff from here on. Our sleuth in this one is Danny Boyd and he is hired by some extravagant (sort of) upper middle-class (kind of) asshole to find his missing wife. And his motive for bringing her back is pretty cool: since she has access to the household money, he wants to bring her home in time to pay the bills at the end of the month.

Which is cool, I like plots driven by simple vehicles. Of course no simple missing person case stays just that for a long period of time in any crime book. They sooner or later all turn into murders and in this one it is pretty soon - body count meter starts rolling in the second chapter. From then on the whole thing loses a bit of intensity. You see, Danny's MO is a bit strange: he keeps changing his clients and every new one points him to a fresh suspect. So he basically wonders around and instead conducting some proper interviews he keeps explaining what he knows to anyone who's willing to listen to him.

But since the man is a private detective, I still had a feeling that he knew what he was doing. Wasn't so sure once I came to this:
 
"Why are you taking me back there?"
"Because that's where it happened," I said. "Because whoever murdered Randolph wanted him dead, and you and Charlie didn't."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she snarled.
"I'm not too sure myself," I admitted. "That's why we're going back to the beach house to find out."

Whoever murdered Randolph wanted him dead!? I don't know how Bill Pronzini missed this one when he was putting together his two Gun in Cheek masterpieces.

Anyways, they do reach the beach house where the whole cast is assembled so the stage is ready for the final revelation. Don't like much that Agatha Christie type shit at all and just when I started to yawn it happened! The best part of the book by far! The whole whodunit revelation drama thing goes spectacularly wrong. Danny is so incompetent that he fails to notice that not just one, but two of the bad guys are carrying guns. So they disarm him and then even start to plot some shit to make our hero a fall guy. Not sure how intentionally funny this is supposed to be but I loved it. This is what I call an original twist! And don't worry - Danny will shoot his way out (although it's not explained how did he manage to obtain a gun) and save the day.

It's an easy read and with only 120 pages this is a perfect book to take on a plane. Lots of charming craziness in it and I would almost call it cute but there are few nasty (not needed at all) fags remarks and our hero is a kind of obnoxious every now and then. I mean, for fuck's sake - you don't get girl drunk in order to fuck her!

3.5/5

Facts:

Hero
Danny Boyd, PI
 
"Oh no! This is hysterical, it really is! Don't tell me you're some kind of professional snooper, Boyd?"
"Private detective," I grunted. 

And he has this weird thing about his profile. Seems he tries this "trick" to impress every woman he runs into and (hardly surprising) it never actually works:

"My name's Boyd - Danny Boyd." I gave her the profile, right then left, and kind of slow so she'd have plenty of time to appreciate it.
"You have a stiff neck?" The caution in her voice warmed into sickening sympathy. "It's the humidity."

Location:
New York City + several trips to Northport on Long Island.

Body count:  3

Dames:
Mrs Karen Vanossa: She had a kind of tempestuous beauty, with smouldering dark eyes colored to match her hair, a straight nose, and a firm but strongly sensual mouth.

Nina North: She was in her early twenties, I figured; a blue-eyed blonde with the kind of hungover lower lip which said she knew what she wanted, while the upper lip had a slightly hesitant look like it agreed about that okay but was still surprised.

Mrs. Randolph: She also had that indefinable something that a good maitre d' can spot at fifty paces, that combination of breeding, social position, and - best of all - money.

And I should probably also mention Danny's red-headed, green-eyed secretary Fran Jordan. They have some sort of Velda/Hammer relationship with lots of sexual innuendo around them but it's all pretty silly and she doesn't contribute much to the story. 

Blackouts
Not sure. There's a cool scene when the blonde volcano (=Nina) storms into Danny's apartment screaming "Snake-in-the-Village!" at him:

"I'll kill you!" she announced passionately. "I'll beat your brains out and feed them to the ducks on Central Park Lane!" [Fatale]

She cracks him across the nose with her purse and then he trips over the rug (because rather than paying attention to volcano he instead chooses to admire its sexy body) and nosedives across the floor:

I had a vague impression of a million little white balls flying over my head, then her knee stuck me in the shoulder. The rest was a combined blur of sound and sight, something like Cape Kennedy in miniature.

So I'm not sure if this counts as a proper unconscious moment but you'll agree that it's definitely worth mentioning. Snakes in the Village, ducks in Central Park!
 
Title: 
Don't really get it.

Edition:  
New English Library, Four Square Books, 1966. Couldn't find a scan of this edition's cover online and I'm too lazy to make one so I've taken the Signet edition cover which is practically identical.

Cover
It's got to be Nina since neither of the other two is blonde. And besides that they both have small breasts (Karen's are high-peaked and Mrs. Randolph's are pointed with desire!). 

Illustration is not credited but it's pretty obvious its author is McGinnis. If nothing else, check out her unproportionally long left leg.


Cool lines:  
Maybe it wasn't his fault, I though generously; maybe he came from a long line of kissing cousins who just kept right on marrying each other and Charlie was the end product.

"Didn't I tell you Karen is a nympho?"
"Not in so many words," I muttered. "It doesn't faze you any?"
"I find it somewhat of a relief," he said casually. "I hate any form of physical exercise."

"You've found Frederic!" Jane's face was suddenly animated again. "That's wonderful! Where's he?"
"Down at the beach," I told her. "To be strictly accurate, he's down in the beach."[The Coolest!]