Sunday, July 13, 2014

Copp For Hire (Don Pendleton, 1987)

She stepped into his office. Beautiful. Hot!... and dead two pages later. Sleazy, dirty cops. Another corpse. His office and victim's apartment ransacked (still only on page 25!). Strip club. Strippers (obviously). Sex. Car chase. More corpses. Dirty politician (it runs all the way to Washington) and his psychopathic henchman (worse than that he's a psycho with a license). Even more corpses and another car chase. Local Chinese mafia, white slavery, pornography, S&M, blackmail...

So it's a formulaic thriller featuring an ex-cop becoming PI with his own moral and justice code. His client is killed before he even starts the investigation, but he somehow feels obliged to her in a good ol' Marlowe-ish manner ("Came to me for help. Didn't give her any - should have. I am upset about that. Very upset."). But similarities with the classical detective figure end at this point because his modus operandi is to basically (and usually violently) just stir shit and see what comes floating on the water. And he does that in some style indeed! He's such a bad-ass that Pendleton doesn't even bother to describe the fight with six (!!) bouncers in any details. He simply "puts them down gently". The fight with three cops is more detailed, and it takes one whole page. It's well worth it since it's extremely brutal with stuff like "bones protruding from the sleeve of his jacket".

Very hard-boiled and a bit noir-ish, which is always a winning combination. Lightning pace (five corpses and a sixth near miss in 12 hours) but still easy to follow. Pretty much non-stop action is nicely complemented with somehow crazy narration. It's told in the first person (as all good PI mysteries should be, btw), but every now and then, it switches from the past to present time, and on a few occasions, our hero even addresses readers directly. I found that a bit annoying at first but got used to it.

I liked it, but unfortunately, it all goes to shit in the last act. Like Pendleton simply got bored with this whole thing and decided to quickly wrap it up instead of adding a twist or two. The deal that Copp makes with the local authorities (being the catalyst, maybe, to shake this thing off center) doesn't make much sense, the agreement with the local mobster is kind of silly, and the final shootout... well, it's not exactly a shootout at all.

But cool stuff anyways. I'll definitely pick up some other Copp stuff.



Joe Copp, PI

"No, I - you see... you are a private detective, aren't you?"
The lettering on the door says that. Well, what it says is Copp For Hire, which is also what my business cards say and what the godawful expensive yellow pages ad says. A small conceit. I was a public cop for eighteen years. Still think of myself that way except that now I have private sponsors.

L.A. and Honolulu

Body count
7, including an innocent old night watchman but excluding (at least) "four brutal killings in the last 12 months"

Belinda Buckaroo aka Bewitching Belinda aka Linda Shelton - Age twenty-five, blond all over and beautiful all over the full five feet and ten inches... Bright, sharp, well-spoken and poised. Working on PhD in behavioural psychology. Also, the madame of the high-class hookers "club".

None. This is pretty amazing considering some fights Copp is involved in and his lack of sleep. In the first 24 hours of the case, he sleeps only two hours and his next (and last) rest is during the five hours flight from LA to Hawaii.

see 'Hero' section

Standard (and dull) thriller pocketbook paperback two-sections type cover. The upper one displays the author's name in huge letters and the title. Below is a beautiful lady and Dirt Harry kind of Magnum. Can't see much relevance to the story.

Cool lines
"Joe. When are you going to give up those goddamned cigarettes? They cause heart disease, emphysema, cancer - they'll even make you impotent.
I said, "I never heard that."
"Heard what?"
"Oh yeah. Anything that needs good blood circulation to function properly. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels. Been having trouble lately getting it up?"
"Getting it down," I said.

"You will be the second to die. Right after him. Understand that? It's not a threat; it's a commitment."[The Coolest!]

I told her, "I'm expensive."
"How expensive?"
"Just like a hooker," I replied. "Hundred dollars an hour plus expenses."
She said, "Jesus," and bit her lip. Then I got the first smile out of her. Not much, but a wry little twist of the lips. "Cheap hooker," she said.
I smiled back, "Well, I don't give as much. What do you want me to do for you?"

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