Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This Man Must Be Killed On Sight

When we last left The Lone Wolf, he was in San Francisco, blowing up a freighter, stealing a half-million bucks worth of heroin, and killing every bad guy he could see. Since then, he's gone to Boston to kill a bunch of mobsters there, stopped off in New York to see his old patrolman partner, and headed to Vegas to, well, blow up a casino. Oh, and he's also undergone a name change from Burt Wulff to Martin Wulff.

In Mike Barry/Barry Malzberg's DESERT STALKER, the fourth in Berkeley Medallion's "bloody saga of The Lone Wolf," Wulff is tipped off about a corrupt New York City police detective who absconded to Las Vegas with a suitcase full of drugs heisted from the NYPD's evidence room. Strangely, this plot point goes nowhere, as the chief villain, a mobster named Vinelli who manages the Paradise Hotel and Casino for the Mafia, kills the cop in his first scene. Most of the novel finds Wulff barging into Vinelli's office, shooting him in the leg, and holding him hostage, while mob goons from around the country collaborate on the best method of dealing with the Lone Wolf.

The cover, cool though it is, is heavily misleading, as Wulff does most of his killing indoors, and there are certainly no women around to get in his way. Barry's writing is denser than I prefer these tough men's adventures to be; I find myself skipping through paragraphs of needless description or introspection to get to the dialogue and action. Maybe that's my failure for not recognizing Barry's attempt to add depth to his characters.

I'm not really complaining about DESERT STALKER. It's a competent novel and a brisk enough read. Unlike many of these series, the Lone Wolf does maintain some continuity from book to book, as a character from the earlier BAY PROWLER makes a cameo here, and I've read that the final book, #14, makes a stab at wrapping up the Lone Wolf's story. So, it's not one of my favorites, but good enough.

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