Quarry is the first book in the Quarry series by Max Allan Collins. I got hooked on this series by reading The First Quarry. Read my full review of that book here:
The First Quarry is the 8th book in this series, but it is a prequel. After reading that book, reading this book felt like a sequel in every way. Quarry takes place quite a few years after The First Quarry and our main character is more seasoned. This book is told in the first person by Quarry. An important character, The Broker shows up in this story as well.
The story starts with Quarry having to do a hit on a man dressed as a priest in an airport. He is told to take the package the man is carrying, making the hit less then easy. Quarry doesn’t know what is in the package, but after the task is done, he finds out it is a large quantity of heroin. This not being what Quarry signed up for, he is a little upset being assigned the job by The Broker. He is soon sent by The Broker to finish up a job, his partner Boyd is already working on.
With his trust with The Broker on the rocks and his relationship with his partner, Boyd strained. Quarry is looking for a change. When what looks to be a simple hit turns into the death of his partner Boyd, things really heat up.
In the Hard Case Edition of this book, there is a nice afterword from Collins. He talks how he started writing this book in college. It is a pretty great book from a very young author. This being published in 1976 and The First Quarry being published much later, in 2008, you can see some progression in Collins’ writing style. I particularly enjoyed the humor in the newer book. Not that Quarry doesn’t have humor in it, it just isn’t as well timed and polished as the newer work. In this Afterword, Collins talks about his mentor Donald E. Westlake and how he used the Parker character of Westlake’s books written as Richard Stark as inspiration.
I can definitely see the similarities between Parker and Quarry, but a different classic noir book came to mind while reading this. With Quarry feeling like he must find and avenge his partner, even though he doesn’t like his partner, reminded me of the plot line of The Maltese Falcon. Though Quarry and Sam Spade are very different in many ways, they also have some similar attributes. Both are tough as nails and loyal to a fault. So if a hitman that feels like a mix of Sam Spade and Parker with some amazing pulp writing from the 1970’s sounds like a great idea, you are right and this is the book for you. With the new television series starting soon, I look forward to reading more books before the pilot airs.