Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shoot To Kill

The first two Ryker novels I read were penned by current big-shot author Nelson DeMille, who reportedly wrote them under a pen name, though my original paperbacks bear his name. The Super Cop Joe Blaze paperback I read was probably written by DeMille as "Robert Novak." What I know for sure is that the Rykers started out as Blaze books, since the proofreaders missed a few "Blaze" references in them. Ryker #5, THE CHILD KILLER, released by Leisure in 1975, is credited to Edson T. Hamill, which almost has to be a pseudonym. Whether Hamill is DeMille or not, I'm not sure. THE CHILD KILLER has the same blunt, simplistic writing style as the other Ryker books. Its fervently conservative attitude and graphic sadism has me wondering if it was too much even for the white blue-collar males it was aimed at. Hamill's detailed description of the villain's rape and murder of a young boy pushed my limits, for sure.

Yep, "a sex pervert was killing children," and "Ryker's job was to get him any way he could." The entire plot is on the cover. There's very little mystery, as the reader discovers the killer's identity very early, and Ryker learns it not long after that. Not only is tough cop Ryker so right-wing that he makes Dirty Harry look like a Berkeley professor, but he's also quite stupid. After he arrests the murderer just over halfway through the book, he doesn't read him his rights and he beats the crap out of him in full view of witnesses. When his imbecilic actions get the killer set free, Ryker has the nerve to be outraged by a system that allegedly coddles criminals and spits on the victims.

Much of the book is two long chase sequences, which aren't particularly novel or exciting. Hamill punched this book out in a few days, for sure. Like the other Ryker books, it's lacking plot, nuance, characterization and action. THE CHILD KILLER's zealous hatred for homosexuals is shocking, even for 1975, making it a real curio.

THE CHILD KILLER is my last Ryker novel, and I don't plan on tracking any more down (though I do have another Super Cop Joe Blaze around here).


Anonymous said...

The Ryker series is a bibliographer's nightmare. According to a note to the reader in the front of the late 80's reissues, DeMille wrote 6 books in the early 70's. The first 2 (The Sniper and The Hammer of God) were published by Norton and starred Ryker. The remaining 4 (The Smack Man, The Cannibal, Night of the Phoenix and Death Squad) were published by Manor Books and featured Detective Joe Keller. After Ryker's first two, the Ryker series continued: #3 The Terrorists, #4 The Agent of Death, #5 The Child Killer, #6 The Sadist. DeMille's name appears on #3 and #4, but DeMille has claimed he didn't write those and that he was paid to simply have his name kept on them. (#5 and #6 are credited to Edson T Hamill.) But here's where it gets confusing: Ryker #4, The Agent of Death, is almost a word-for-word rewrite of Night of the Phoenix, one of DeMille's Joe Keller books! It appears after in this case at least, he simply changed the names and sold the same book twice. So it wouldn't surprise me if Joe Blaze was yet another version of one of the books. A few final confusions: when the books were reissued in the early 90's by Pocket Books in the US and Grafton in the UK, they were rewritten yet again. Not only were the Keller ones changed to Ryker, but their locations were changed as well. The original books all took place around Columbus Circle and in midtown Manhattan, which at that time was seedy. By the early 90's it was tony, so they were rewritten to be in the East Village. DeMille's name appeared on the original books; it wasn't till the reissues that he became Jack Cannon so as not to confuse the fans of his popular stuff. I've read The Sniper, The Hammer of God (about a religious nut hacking up women he thinks are witches) and The Smack Man (about someone poisoning the heroin supply to kill junkies), and they've each gotten progressively worse. I have the other 3 (as well as Rykers #4 and 5) but don't know if I can make it through them. - Bill Picard

Marty McKee said...

Hi, Bill,

Thanks for the 411 on these. I'm finding it difficult to find much information on this paperback genre, and, like trashy movies, I think there is some interesting history involved in their creation and distribution.

I'm surprised there was any interest in reissuing this books as recently as ten years ago, though this must only have been to exploit Nelson DeMille's name (I happen to like many of his more recent novels, even if they are overly macho). The Ryker/Blaze novels are quite bad, though I guess I read them so you don't have to!

Anonymous said...

this was my first Ryker book and while it was quite bone headed (such as the "exciting" chase scene up and down 700 flights of stairs, it was also one of the most disturbing non De Sade books i've ever read. i didn't expect a horrifically graphic child sodomy scene in a 70's cop book


Johny Malone said...

"The Slasher" by Edson T Hamill, a Ryker series' book?

Johny Malone said...

"Ryker" appears in the cover.