Robert B Parker’s Backjack – Robert Knox

8082018This is Knox’s third novel continuing the tales of the old west’s Marshalls Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. Now I haven’t read any westerns since I’ve been in school many moons ago, but I do love the Spenser and Jessie Stone novels. So, I figured I would try this book simply because it quite literally fell into my lap while I was looking for something else in the library. So, I considered it providence and checked it out.

The writing is very straight-forward, loose, and easy to digest. The scenes are written with clear imagery and I do get the ‘feel’ of the old west. The story lays itself out in a good pace. Boston Bill is in town connected with the construction of a new casino in the quick-growing town of Appaloosa. He’s accompanied by a couple of hired hands to serve as bodyguards… seems Bill has left some trouble behind in Denver, but persons connected with that pursue him to Appaloosa.

It does not end well for the pursuer. This brings men of the Denver constabulary for Boston Bill. Light of foot and swift of steed, Bill and associates flee with our marshals in pursuit. Both trouble and violence ensues. Then the capture and subsequent trial of Boston Bill.

But wait! There’s more. Bill wrangles free of justice’s tentative grip only to be chased again, and caught again. But what we find in the chapter just before the final chapter, crashing in from dead left field… the solution to the ‘trouble’ in Denver.

There have been other Parker novels where the ending came right up out of nowhere, but few so abruptly, and this ending may not have come from the heart of nowhere, it was probably near nowhere’s spleen. But it has not deterred me, but rather encouraged me to order the first in the Cole / Hitch novel Appaloosa from amazon… just to see how Parker writes these men.

In closing, a quote from Boston Bill himself…

“Before,” he said, “I met this beautiful woman, I never knew any one brighter, smarter, or kinder … but then there was always … I don’t know, something unusual. There were glimpses of someone other than her, within her, someone other than the bright, smart, and kind woman I got to know and love. I never was certain why I moved away from her but I knew there was something …”

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Quarry – Max Allan Collins (1976)

quarryI’ve just finished ready Max Allan Collin’s first Quarry novel. I decided to buy the Hard Case Crime edition of this work published in 2015. Originally this story was published in 1975 as The Broker, but I am working on a goal of reading all of the Hard Case Crime published works so, this is the edition for my library.

Physically dark, aesthetically dark, metaphorically dark the climax comes after midnight, a rainy midnight in a poorly lit rendezvous, a quarry outside of town away from any prying eyes. The ‘quarry’ stone theme runs through the book, but so does this idea of swimming, a cleansing I think… the author keeps coming around to swimming and I think ‘there’s something in the water here’. Peg bathes every time after sex… Mr Collins makes a point of pointing that out.

The story opens up with Quarry in the middle of ‘job’. At the conclusion of this job, Quarry returns to the motel in which he’s staying and we meet him there while he’s swimming in the pool. A broad approaches the pool and coaxes Quarry to return with her to her room to continue their conjugal activities they had evidently been engaged in before

Quarry snuck out to accomplish his job. After completing this new job, he returns to the pool despite the protestations of the broad.

This story ends in a dramatic climax resulting in several fatalities as it were. But more importantly we find Quarry now terminated from his employment with Broker. And since Broker is his only point of contact with the people contracting his services, and the ‘mystery’ being solved in this story stems directly from this work… how is it that Quarry’s story will continue? I know there is a sequel, but how does it start? This novel ends with Quarry, freed of the encumbrances of his ‘work’ swimming after his phone call with Peg. So, what is he going to do with his life next? Is he just going to retire? He seems a bit young for that, and the score from his last jobs isn’t that much money… a nice modest nest egg but certainty not ‘rest of your life’ money…

There’s a passage in the book that really sums things up nicely. Quarry is confronting the person who hired his services…

“… Let me remind you, you smug-ass bastard… you murdered Albert Leroy.”

“No,” I said. “I killed him. You murdered him.”

And I left her to think about it. I hoped she’d think about it a long time. But I doubted it.

But what else can we learn from this work… Well, there’s a passage that sums that up nicely too:

It didn’t make sense, it didn’t make fucking sense. Invisible people nobody wants to kill. Sometimes – like in my case – you get invisible because you want no one to know you. But other guys are born that way. Other guys doctors yank from the womb and can’t find an ass to slap.