HARDBOILED NOW: HIDDEN GEMS PART 3
In last week’s column, hard-edged series characters Sand and Burns Bannion joined Rafferty and Jim Hardman on our growing list of hardboiled private eyes and tough guys little known outside of The Eye—the inner circle of acolytes committed to keeping the secrets of the hardboiled genre. This week, we’ll check out three more series entries, all of which should send you scrambling to your used book resources ready to crack your piggy bank open.
Before we start, however, I’m making an executive decision to expand the reach of this series of columns beyond officially licensed private eyes to add in hard-hitting tough guys (and maybe even a few gals) be they spies, Parker style criminals, vigilantes, troubleshooters, military grunts or whatever else strikes my fancy. While most of my buddies within the hardboiled inner circle know all about these characters, my goal is to expose these action-filled and deserving series to a wider audience.
I’m also going to be adding in more Internet sources and reference works—places where you can lose half a day simply browsing through the entries and still have much more to explore.
This week, I’m going to start with a great guide to retro-espionage series, SPY GUYS AND GALS, which contains listings and information on almost 6,000 spy novels from 1,000 different series, as well as movies, television episodes, and a ton of other pertinent information.
THE TRASH COLLECTOR is another dangerous website. Here you’ll find way too many desirable vintage men’s action/adventure paperbacks for sale. Spend too much time browsing and the irresistible offerings will steal cash out of your wallet like a thief in the night.
And for those who want to hold a physical book in your hands (there is also an e-book version) there’s Brad Mengel’s, SERIAL VIGILANTES OF PAPERBACK FICTION. Subtitled, An Encyclopedia From Able Team To Z-Comm, it is a wonderful experience to browse through the pages. This extensive reference is not perfect. The complete lack of related cover art is almost criminal and, beginning as it does in 1969 with Don Pendleton's The Executioner, there are some truly great series and characters missing from the listings. However, this is the first overview ever of the serial vigilante genre and it really is a terrific effort and required reading. The book examines the connections between serial vigilantes and the pulp heroes who preceded them and how the serial vigilante has influenced a variety of tough guys, private eyes, spies and cops in different media. A complete bibliography for each series is featured.
In 1978, the private eye novel Kyd For Hire made a splash on the mystery scene with the author Timothy Harris being touted as the next Chandler—which is never a good sign. None-the-less, while not exactly in Philip Marlowe’s league, Thomas Kyd does hit the sweet spot for most hardboiled fans. Kyd is a damaged Vietnam vet whose goal is to make it through to the end of each day as he bounces his PI license off the mean streets of LA. The three Kyd novels are well worth tracking down, especially if you can find the British paperback editions of the first two novels published by Pan. Placed side by side, the two covers complete a titillating and provocative painting—entitled Bodyguard 2—by Paul Roberts. I have a copy of this print rolled up and stashed somewhere on my shelves—a prized possession.
THE THOMAS KYD SERIES
Kyd For Hire (1978)
Goodnight and Goodbye (1979)
Unfaithful Servant (2004)
FOR MORE ON THOMAS KYD CLICK HERE
FOR MORE ON AUTHOR TIMOTHY HARRIS CLICK HERE
TO SEE MORE WORK BY ARTIST PAUL ROBERTS CLICK HERE
Before he began his bestselling Doc Ford novels, Randy Wayne White cut his writing chops on several different men’s adventure paperback original series under various pseudonyms. For a number of years, White attempted to distance himself from these early works, but eventually embraced them when offered a lucrative deal to republish all of them under his own name.
As Carl Ramm, he wrote eleven books in the Hawker series, featuring an ex-SWAT sniper turned vigilante in the Mack Bolan mode. After disobeying questionable commands and shooting a suspect during a hostage situation when the suspect opened fire on a group of rich teenagers, Hawker is made a scapegoat by weak-kneed political Monday morning quarterbacks. Angry and frustrated, Hawker tosses in his badge without any real idea of what to do next. However, he’s just the man a multi-millionaire needs to bring rough justice down on the criminals destroying society.
What raises Hawker above similar vigilante series is Hawker is not a mindless tool of destruction slaying away regardless of collateral damage. He's not afraid to kill when necessary, but he has some clear restrains—ethics that make him both powerful friends and powerful enemies.
While I liked the Hawker series, it’s White’s other early series, MacMorgan—written as Randy Stryker—I think is truly exceptional. A former CIA agent, with a major body scar from being bitten by a shark, Dusky MacMorgan is a kick-ass action hero, but the books also get deeper into character than almost all other men’s action/adventure series. This helps the reader come to know and like MacMorgan, as much more hot blooded action hero than cold killing machine.
Working off the books for a secret government agency, MacMorgan takes assignments where his job as a working charter boat captain is an advantage. An ex-Navy SEAL with three tours in Vietnam behind him, MacMorgan left the service for the Florida Keys and his own charter fishing boat. However, when his wife and twin boys are killed in a car bomb explosion meant for MacMorgan, there is hell to pay for the killers.
White uses his experiences as a real life charter boat captain, and his extensive knowledge of the Caribbean, to skillfully give the reader a vicarious experience of not only adventure, but culture, music, food, fishing lore, and a sense of place almost always completely absent from these types of series. The seven books in the MacMorgan series have been described as part Travis McGee and part early Matt Helm without being a cheap imitation of either. I agree…
THE DUSKY MACMORGAN SERIES
Key West Connection (1981)
The Deep Six (1981)
Cuban Death-lift (1981)
The Deadlier Sex (1981)
Assassin's Shadow (1981)
Everglades Assault (1982)
Grand Cayman Slam (1982)
THE HAWKER SERIES
Florida Firefight (1984)
L.A. Wars (1984)
Chicago Assault (1984)
Deadly in New York (1984)
Houston Attack (1985)
Vegas Vengeance (1985)
Detroit Combat (1985)
Terror in D.C. (1986)
Atlanta Extreme (1986)
Denver Strike (1986)
Operation Norfolk (1986)
FOR MORE ON DUSKY MACMORGAN CLICK HERE
Next week be ready to fall-in with some of the toughest bastards to ever take the war to the enemy…