Original review by Chris “Buttery Wholesomeness” French.
The views and opinions of Buttery Wholesomeness do not necessarily reflect those of Atomic Moo; However it is important to note that Buttery Wholesomeness does not necessarily acknowledge the opinions others, including those of Atomic Moo…
“So,” Buttery Wholesomeness glowered. “I suppose it’s well past time for me to get started.” With that, he threw his copy of Max Collins’ (Road to Perdition) The Wrong Quarry into a pile of discarded novels. Water dripped from the ceiling of the warren, his dwelling in the tunnels under the neon nightmare that was Las Vegas Boulevard, pooling at the bottom of the moldering pile. Buttery cracked his knuckles and turned to his pieced-together desktop.
I love a hard-edged protagonist. I suppose I’m not alone in this, of course; if anyone is willing to admit that they read a line of comics from the 90’s that wasn’t Archie, you do, too. But I’ve always found the harder protagonists more compelling. I like deep mental scarring, I love drama. Those two things, well-written, feed from each other, and make for some very compelling stories.
In this, The Wrong Quarry doesn’t disappoint. Quarry, an assumed name, of course (who would name their kid Quarry, after all?) did a bit in Vietnam, learning a new trade, as he says. Coming back to the World, he gets hugged up with a gentleman who brokered contract killings. This was the guy who gave Quarry his working name, because, as he said, he was harder than stone, and just as cold. When the Broker double-crossed Quarry, he came back to talk to the Broker about it.
Seems to have been a short visit. Quarry got the better of the discussion.
On the way out, he had a thought, and went back after the Broker’s file cabinet. The one with all of the files on all of the other killers. Way he figured it, he could find people who had been marked for ‘removal’, explain the situation to the poor, doomed mark, and probably make some real scratch on the back-end. Of course, his murderous contemporaries have to go the way of the dodo, but, as the man says, we can’t all be winners.
The best part about all of this? It’s all back story. Every bit of it. You get this story in bite-sized morsels, sprinkled across the rest of the book. Now, at the end of the book, it turns out that this Quarry character is the lead in a series of books, which addressed my most pressing problem with the story; that it was short. Fine, I say. Most crime novels are, you know.
This story is told to you in a very conversational tone. Almost like you and Quarry are sizing each other up over beers at a bar. Quarry’s a retired marine; Vietnam stripes, and he’s served in the shit, and came back. So, he’s not afraid to swear, which is nice, but the narrative voice doesn’t go overboard. The end result is a book with an easy gait, a conversational tone, and a clever, capable storytelling style.
The story is good. A man put in the crosshairs. He runs a dance studio, and may be homosexual, which might be why someone wants him cut out. Except for one thing: the man who gets brought in to remove the mark specializes in torture. That’s a pretty expensive skill set, and is usually only brought in when big money is spent. But who could be interested in torturing the head instructor at a dance studio?
Now, it’s not all peaches and cream. Whatever is? The book falls into the old Fuck Factory trap; everyone who doesn’t have a penis is really in the market for one. Now, this is fine from time to time (hard crime is a kind of escapist fantasy, after all), but if I noticed that there isn’t anyone that the lead character can’t lay pipe into, I begin to wonder why I’m not as awesome as the main character, and then the crushing self-loathing distracts me from the narrative flow. Collins does try to salvage this by having most of the women in town suffer from one type of broken wing or other, but the end result comes off as willpower being exclusively installed in the head of a penis, with the women in the book only showing willpower when it’s been stuffed into them. Yeah, the story is set in the Seventies. But, seriously. You can only push this so far.
All that being said, I really did enjoy the conversational tone, the occasional swear word going far to establish a sense of authenticity without coming across as a prop to do just that. The characters are distinct, even the women don’t blend together. All in all, a good read, if a bit disappointing on the social end. A good book, but you might want to hide it from young women who are still trying to develop their identity. You know, assuming you know any.
The Wrong Quarry is available in all major book stores or you can find your copy online at Titan Books online store!