Sunday, February 06, 2011

Death Race

I'm not sure why, but the men who penned the twelve Dirty Harry novels for Warner Books took a delight in taking its leading man out of San Francisco, the city he patrolled as an Inspector for the SFPD with a .44 Magnum in his shoulder holster.

It wasn't a fish-out-of-water thing, because Harry Callahan was never much of a social being anyway and had little trouble fitting in. The one exception that I've read may be FAMILY SKELETONS, which sent Harry to Boston to visit relatives he never had time for before. Getting Callahan involved with a serial killer who may be targeting his niece was a nice way of giving a case a personal spin.

Which is not the case in Dirty Harry #7, MASSACRE AT RUSSIAN RIVER, published by Warner Books in July 1982. It's purely business as Harry is sent to a small town to help bust a ring of mountain men trafficking in marijuana. His distrust of authority is bad enough, but when he learns he's to work with a local narcotics officer named Turk who is vainglorious, incompetent, and maybe even crazy, Callahan starts to worry. Author Leslie Horvitz, using Warner's Dane Hartman pseudonym, creates some evocative action scenes--a mountaintop massacre staged in the mud and the rain and the wind of a major thunderstorm and a nighttime stalk through an old house with three murderous rednecks after Harry's ass are two of them.

At 220 pages, MASSACRE AT RUSSIAN RIVER seems padded--a sequence in which Harry trails someone back to San Francisco and ends up wanted by the DEA is extraneous and is, in fact, ignored at the end--but Horvitz has a good handle on the character, and it's easy to picture Clint Eastwood saying and doing the things Harry does in the book.

2 comments:

Jack Badelaire said...

One of these days I need to get my hands on a Dirty Harry novel, just for the sake of curiosity. Sounds like a solid B- effort to me.

Zwolf said...

Most of the Dirty Harry books were written by Ric Meyers, who also did the Ninja Masters books. He did a great job with 'em, I think. At the time Warner Brothers thought there weren't going to be any more Dirty Harry movies and wanted to make some more money off the popular character, so out came the book series... but then Clint decided to do Sudden Impact and the book series got canned. I wish they'd kept up with them, because they're a welcome addition to the Dirty Harry canon (or cannon, I guess, in this case :) ).