Friday, November 21, 2008

Showdown On Castro Street

I'm finding that the Dirty Harry novels written by Ric Meyers for Warner Books during the 1980s are a lot better than the non-Meyers books. All were published under the Dane Hartman pseudonym, but Meyers seems to be the only author whose identity is known.

CITY OF BLOOD, #6 in the series, is not a Meyers book, which is most obvious in its portrayal of its lead character. Meyers appears to be the only Dirty Harry novelist who actually saw the Dirty Harry movies, which by this point had numbered four (THE DEAD POOL was still to come). It's difficult to picture CITY OF BLOOD's dialogue coming out of Clint Eastwood's mouth, and this Harry Callahan is a much more sensitive soul than the guy who pressed his foot down on Scorpio's leg wound.

The plot is properly sick, however. A sex killer is roaming San Francisco, and Dirty Harry is assigned to the case. This guy, who calls himself Teddy until the surprise ending, is particularly gruesome, as he prefers to chop off his victim's heads with a cleaver. His most memorable attack occurs inside a sex club, where he murders a woman he's been dating and the sleaze who picks her up for an anonymous tryst.

Harry's boss's strategy to catch the killer is to put Callahan on the trail of a different serial killer called the Mission Street Knifer, who stabs to death homeless people. The logic is that tracking one psycho will lead to another, which doesn't seem to make any sense, but what the hell do I know, since Dirty Harry ends up killing both murderers in the book's 192 pages. Harry also gets a partner named Drake Owens, a former Hollywood actor who uses his training in undercover work. Callahan becomes fond of Owens and his wife, which, again, doesn't sound like the Dirty Harry I know from the films. At least, not the way the relationships are built within this book.

I give CITY OF BLOOD some credit for its gruesome murders and bizarre action sequences, but the meandering plots feel like padding, and the Drake Owens character is an obvious Mary Sue that adds little. I hope Ric Meyers wrote #7 in the series.


James Reasoner said...

The other "Dane Hartman" is suspected of being an author named Leslie Alan Horvitz, but I don't think that's ever been confirmed. Under his own name, Horvitz has written mostly non-fiction but has also written a few medical thrillers/horror novels.

Graham said...

Over on the Glorious Trash blog, Joe Kenney the creator reviewed this one and speculated that the author of this novel may have been a guy named Stephen Smoke, who was apparently the lead author on the 'Ninja Master Series' until he turned in a novel that even the publishers balked at (The second book.) which bought Ric Meyers into the Warner Books fold.