Monday, June 09, 2008

One Lone Soldato

1972's SOLDATO! is the origin of Johnny Morini, who starred in five Lancer paperbacks during the mid-1970s. Morini was created by Philadelphia native Marvin H. Albert, who used the name Al Conroy on his Soldato books and many others (sometimes Albert Conroy). It should also be said that the Conroy moniker was used on all five Soldato novels, even though a couple of them appear to have been ghosted by author Gil Brewer. Albert wrote a lot of stuff in different genres and media, including screenplays, and you can learn more about him here.

SOLDATO! is a darn good action story about Morini, an ex-Mob enforcer who became sickened by his evil world and testified against his don, Renzo Cappellani. Don Renzo was eventually acquitted and swore revenge against the traitorous Morini, who went into the witness protection program, courtesy of a U.S. attorney named Riley.

In Morini's new life, he's the proprietor of a general store in a tiny Arizona town and newly married to Mary. Despite Riley's assurance of safety forever, a shady private eye in Cappellani's employ manages to track Morini down after two years of searching, leading to a lengthy action setpiece in the mountainous desert against two Mafia gunsels. After dispatching his pursuers, Johnny brings Mary back to New York City, where he sets about killing Don Renzo on his home turf.

Inspired, obviously, by the Executioner and perhaps the Butcher (also an ex-mobster gone straight), SOLDATO! is a crackling actioner with good plotting and an interesting protagonist. I also liked MURDER MISSION, #4 in the series, and BLOOD RUN, #5, somewhat, although that finale (which may have been penned by Gil Brewer) fell too far off the beaten path.

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