Friday, March 11, 2011

Vendetta

THE KILLING MACHINE is the first of sixteen explosive novels about the violent exploits of the Sharpshooter. Before he was the Sharpshooter, Johnny Rock was Johnny Rocetti, who ran a clothing-design firm with his family. In this 1973 Leisure Books story, we learn Rock's origin: how his family was killed by the Mafia when they refused to throw in with the Mob. Bad enough Rock's father and mother were bombed to death, but when his brother, nephew, and sister are shot down by gangsters while leaving their parents' funeral, that's when Johnny snaps.

Forgoing his former life as Rocetti, Rock now lives only to kill. He meets Iris Toscano, who would return in a later book. A Mafia widow, she also despises the Syndicate and volunteers to spy for Johnny, learning from other Mob wives the whens and wheres of illegal transactions, information she passes along to the Sharpshooter so he can be there to kill.

The author is Peter McCurtin, who wrote tons of trashy novels under several different names and even worked as an editor for Belmont Towers for awhile. Several men penned Sharpshooter novels using the Bruno Rossi name, but McCurtin could be considered the creator of the series. Rock is actually called the Enforcer a few times in this book, so perhaps that was to be the character's original nickname?

THE KILLING MACHINE is not as crazy as some Sharpshooters to come. In future installments, Rock would become downright psychotic, living only to kill mobsters. Later novels also boasted amazingly lurid titles, like HEAD CRUSHER, MUZZLE BLAST, and SAVAGE SLAUGHTER, and juicy cover art to match. THE KILLING MACHINE is worth reading, if only to see how it all began for the Sharpshooter, but it isn't among the series' best.

2 comments:

Temple of Schlock said...

That's actor Robert Hoffmann on the cover, in artwork that was commissioned in 1970 by Jerry Gross for I KILL FOR KICKS (a Cinemation re-release of Carlo Lizzani's WAKE UP AND DIE, a.k.a. SVEGLIATI E UCCIDI). Gross recycled the art a couple of years later for the Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg flick THE MAFIA WANTS BLOOD.

Jack Badelaire said...

Some day I want to get my hands on a couple of Sharpshooter novels. I've heard it gets as ridiculous as the later titles in the Specialist series. Hint: the Specialist suffers a head injury about midway through the series run that makes him EVEN more psychotic. In one book, he kills a guy by picking up a motorcycle and crushing him with it like a bug. And we're not talking dirt bike; I mean, like a Harley. It's insane. That's what I want to see from the Sharpshooter!