Monday, May 07, 2012

Chicago Slaughter

Mike Barry is still trying to figure out if his leading man is named Martin or Burt in his sixth Lone Wolf novel for Berkley Medallion. Both names are used in this explosive 1974 adventure.

What's fascinating about the Lone Wolf books is that they slowly detail a man's slide into insanity. While each book is self-contained, it also works as one chapter of a continuing story, in that plot threads continue from one book to the next. Also, Wulff, the Lone Wolf himself, shows distinct signs of emotional distress that become stronger with each book. By the time of CHICAGO SLAUGHTER, Wulff no longer even cares if he lives or not.

Mike Barry is actually Barry N. Malzberg, a well-known author of science fiction. The story goes that Malzberg hated the men's adventure genre and set about to make fun of it and make money from it at the same time.

Wulff, who has been dragging around a valise containing confiscated heroin seemingly forever, finally makes it back to his hometown of New York City, where he learns his former partner, young, black David Williams, is hospitalized after being stabbed on the street while undercover. Wulff decides to fly to Chicago to turn in the drugs to a hotshot D.A. there, but he's immediately nabbed at the airport and taken to see a local mobster named Versallo.

Of course, Wulff bloodily escapes captivity, but is captured by two corrupt cops who don't know his identity, but want to beat his head in just for the hell of it. He's rescued by Randall, Versallo's security chief, and eventually ends up in the home of Chicago's big don, Calabrese.

The Lone Wolf is something of a passive hero this time around, as he is passed around from one captor to another. Though he usually manages to free himself, he doesn't seem to give much of a damn whether he does or not. He also kills a couple of lawmen unnecessarily, which is over the line for most men's adventure protagonists. I suspect Wulff's ability to tell right from wrong will become more blurred as the series continues.


Jerry House said...

I have long maintained that Malzberg's portrayal of The Lone Wolf is one of the most brilliant in the genre. The slow build-up over the series more than pays off in the shattering finale. I'd give just one bit of advice to anyone reading the series from the beginning: Malzberg knows exactly what he's doing.

Jack Badelaire said...

Very interesting. Time to add yet another series to the long list of books I need to get my grubby mitts on some day.