Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lone Wolf #8: Los Angeles Holocaust

The Lone Wolf is back in the United States in the eighth edition of his Berkley Medallion paperback series. It appears as though I didn't review the previous title, PERUVIAN NIGHTMARE, but I definitely read it. You can find my reviews of the other books in the Lone Wolf men's paperback series here.

LOS ANGELES HOLOCAUST is very light on plot and ends on something of a cliffhanger, as though it were a mediocre episode of a television series. It begins right where PERUVIAN NIGHTMARE left off with antihero Wulff aboard a hijacked helicopter returning to El Paso from Peru. With him, besides a frightened pilot, is a bag of smack -- millions of dollars worth of heroin. Well, first there's a flash-forward to Wulff in an L.A. hotel, and then a second chapter about a black cop named Evans who is killed during an undercover drug buy in Harlem. It has absolutely nothing to do with anything else in LOS ANGELES HOLOCAUST, but it helped author Mike Barry get to 192 pages. He barely has enough story as it is.

So Chapter Three shows Wulff's return from Peru, and then it's into the story proper. Here's the thing with Wulff: he's fucking crazy. Reportedly written by noted sci-fi author Barry Malzberg as a tongue-in-cheek rip of men's adventure novels, which he hated, the Lone Wolf series maintains continuity throughout its fourteen volumes, focusing on a doomed protagonist who loses a bit more sanity with each novel. It's noted in LOS ANGELES HOLOCAUST that he has killed literally hundreds of people, including a whole shipful in BAY PROWLER, so it's a little disappointing that Malzberg's body count is so low in this one.

Joining Wulff (briefly) on the West Coast is Williams, his former partner on the NYPD who was stabbed in CHICAGO SLAUGHTER. The young rookie's wounds have left him bitter, making him an easy convert to Wulff's cause: blasting the shit out of the Mafia. Williams leaves his nine-months-pregnant wife in New York, buys a U-Haul full of weapons from a Harlem priest, and drives to L.A., stopping only to kill a couple of random carjackers along a Nebraska interstate.

Wulff's ultimate goal is getting back to Chicago to kill a 72-year-old mob boss named Calabrese, who has a contract out on Wulff. The book is not only light on plot, but also on action sequences. Most pages are filled with introspection. If not Wulff in woe thinking about how shitty his life is, it's a hitman wondering how to both collect the bounty on Wulff and steal Wulff's heroin or Williams pondering his marriage, his job, his new partnership, the whole goddamn shitty society. You may have guessed -- this is a pretty bleak story in a pretty bleak series of novels.

The Lone Wolf books are fascinating, of course, thanks to Malzberg's prose, but they aren't as gritty or action-packed as their rivals on drugstore shelves -- which was probably Malzberg's point. LOS ANGELES HOLOCAUST ends with the status quo intact: Calabrese is still pissed, Wulff is still pissed (and still has the smack), Williams is on his way back to New York without ever using any of the damn weaponry in the U-Haul!

Except for the cliffhanger, which puts Williams in jeopardy and Wulff on the phone, talking shit to Calabrese. It looks like the matchup is coming up...except the next book is titled MIAMI MARAUDER. So does Wulff make it to Chicago or not? I guess I'll find out.

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