Friday, March 30, 2012

21. The Sharpshooter #7: Head Crusher by Bruno Rossi

The order of books on my on-deck shelf seems to have arranged itself such that I have spent a lot of the month of March wallowing around in the filth and scum of 1970s New York.  Again, this is a book I picked up on my fruitful trip to the Maritimes.  Who could resist such a cover, especially with the lurid green background?

The Sharpshooter series is the story of Johnny Rock, previously John Rocetti, who parents were murdered by the mafia and who is now on a life mission to wipe them all out.   In Head Crusher, he makes his way to Times Square where he finds a mafia-run brothel and through a bit of dumb luck (there is an attack on the boss of the brothel and Johnny shoots everyone he sees, accidently saving the boss's life) worms his way into a lieutenant position of a local high-ranking member of the family.  It turns out an internecine mafia war is brewing, as the capo from Queens wants territory from the uber-boss of Manhattan.  Johnny Rock, through his cold-blooded killing skill ends up playing a big role in helping the big boss win.  He doesn't care as long as he is killing mafia goons.  But when the war is over, he returns to his main goal and starts taking down the mafioso who have adopted him.

This book is not realistic at all.  However, unlike the last Butcher book I read, it's not preposterous.  The world portrayed seems pretty real, especially all the seedy stuff in Times Square and the mafia's hangouts and homes.  What's unrealistic is how quickly they accept him into the fold and how many of them he kills.  Nevertheless, the book is written with enough grit and intensity that you don't really care.  I actually really started to get into it by the second half.  It feels like a book written quickly by a competent writer, without a lot of regard to the overall structure.  There is one scene that was particularly good, when Johnny gets invited to dinner with the big boss and has a conversation with his educated, dissatisfied granddaughter.  She instantly recognizes him as someone not like the other men that hang around her family and they have a kind of connection.  Then at dinner, Johnny hardens, reminding himself of his mission and that his own murdered sister was very much like the granddaughter and he slaughters the entire family!  His only reprieve towards the granddaughter is that he can't bring himself to shoot her a second time, so she dies with only a single bullet through the chest.  Cold.

There are 15 books in the Sharpshooter series and they are fairly well-respected by fans of these numbered series of men's action and adventure.  I know they were cranked out by several authors with minimal oversight or editing, so I am not too picky about continuity and typos.  But what I don't understand is how in this book #7, Johnny can identify both the guy who carried out the hit on his family and the big boss who ordered it and off them in this volume.  Did he not get to them in the previous six books?  Or does each book have a new mafia leader who is responsible for his family's murder, making the whole thing into a kind of surreal, fantastic cycle of imaginary revenge?

Here is a good overview of the entire series, with some good background material.


Book Glutton said...

While I was recently on vacation in the Dominican Republic, I kept thinking about a post you wrote a few years ago about a used bookstore in Ecuador. I was hoping to find something similar and discover some old paperbacks but we never found anything. (Couldn't even find a newspaper.) Now I keep reading about this trip to the Maritimes and want to go there next time we go on vacation. I can't believe you still have books from that trip. The place sounds almost as good as Lewes.

OlmanFeelyus said...

That's too bad you couldn't find the english used bookstore in Quito. It's right in the bar district and easy to find on the web (called Conferedate Books).

The Maritimes is pretty rich pickings, though I don't know how long it will last. We're lucky in Canada for used books because we do a lot of reading relatively and we get a lot more british titles, due to distribution practices and until recently many families with ties back to the UK. The Maritimes is particularly British still. Plus, places that aren't doing so well financially often have decent used bookstores.

Also, it's just friggin' beautiful, inexpensive and the people are nice. I strongly recommend it as a vacation spot for a summer trip. Oh yeah, great seafood!

OlmanFeelyus said...

Ugh. Reading comprehension fail on my part. I skimmed over the fact that you weren't actually in Ecuador! I think most South American countries have an english bookstore floating around just because there is so much tourist trade. The DR could be an exception, having primarily American tourists. Too bad you didn't stumble upon some dusty treasure trove.