Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Wolf Leaves The Pack

The Lone Wolf inhabited paperback book shelves beginning in 1973, when author Barry Malzberg penned the first of fourteen quickie adventures for Berkley Medallion. Later entries were set in San Francisco and Las Vegas, but the Lone Wolf's origin takes place in New York City.

Malzberg, writing as Mike Barry, dispenses with all backstory during a 3 ½-page prologue. Burt Wulff was a Vietnam vet and a New York narcotics cop whose hard nose and no-graft policy forced the politicians on the police force to bust him back to squad car duty. His first night riding with black rookie David Williams, Wulff receives an anonymous tip directing him to a dead girl in a brownstone, a victim of a fatal overdose. The girl is Wulff's fiancĂ©, Marie Calvante. Convinced she was murdered by conspirators within both the department and the mob, Wulff walks away from his job and dedicates his existence to destroying the drug trade, one body at a time, if he has to.

In NIGHT RAIDER, Wulff begins at the bottom, ambushing a pair of low-life pushers and torturing them into revealing their connections. After murdering them, Wulff climbs the ladder until he reaches the top, killing more mobsters and destroying their homes and goods along the way. No question about it—Wulff is obsessed. The Lone Wolf's only ally is Williams, whom he barely knows, but still reveals a willingness to help Wulff operate outside the law.

Barry maintains a sense of continuity throughout the Lone Wolf series, which he wrote for only two years. NIGHT RAIDER closes with a clue to Wulff's next destination: San Francisco. I recently added almost all the Lone Wolf novels to my collection, including the finale, #14, and I look forward to following Wulff on his journey.

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