Thursday, December 06, 2007


On some level, you have to admire a book titled HEADCRUSHER. There is certainly little doubt as to what kind of reading you'll be getting. And HEADCRUSHER, published by Leisure in 1974, lives up to its name, even though there's no head-crushing in it. Head-shooting, oh yes, but no heads are crushed.

The Sharpshooter is John Rocetti, whose father and mother were gunned down by mobsters when Mr. Rocetti refused to allow the Mafia to use his small family business as a front. At the Rocettis' funeral, the mob struck again, killing John's brother and sister and sending him to the hospital. During his lengthy healing process, John swore to avenge his family by killing as many Mafia bastards as he could before they eventually got to him.

Now known as Johnny Rock, the Sharpshooter is drinking in a Manhattan bar when he overhears a couple of mooks talking about how they were involved in the Rocetti killing years ago. I know, lucky, right? Rock blows them away, but not before learning the number-one guy in the hit was Mackie Malanga, owner of a massage parlor and porno theater on Times Square. Rock ends up undercover as Mackie's main henchman during a massive gang war, in which the Sharpshooter manages to kill dozens of "Mafia bastards" (as he puts it) while learning which don put out the contract on the Rocettis.

Tightly written and grimy as hell, HEADCRUSHER hits the spot if you're looking for violent urban thrills with an anti-hero that isn't difficult to root for, even though he's not always careful about keeping civilians out of harm's way. If an innocent bystander is killed while Rock is mowing down a bunch of mobsters, so be it.

Apparently, several staff writers were "Bruno Rossi", including Peter McCurtin, Russell Smith, Leonard Levinson, John Stevenson and Paul Hofrichter. I don't know if any of them wrote HEADCRUSHER, but I was impressed by the author's lean pulp style.

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