Friday, May 07, 2021

28. Death Grip! Soldato #2 Man against the Mafia by Al Conroy

Just a lot going on with this title and the cover as well.  The "NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED" really intrigues me.  What is the marketing tactic here?  Was there a legion of Al Conroy fans waiting for his next book?  Was Soldato #2 somehow skipped and then published after later numbers in the series were already out?  I do love the yellow background with lots of space to let that great illustration breathe.  It really captures the anxiety around the mafia that is the fuel that drives these kinds of men's actions book: a black glove immobilising a man, stifling him and nobody to help.

I really don't get the mafia as the other.  Why was it so prevalent in this period and these books?  I can't believe it is anti-Italian racism because these books are written long after Italians are seen as new immigrants.  I wonder if it is the opposite, where cartoonish Italian mafia were a safe target in the post civil rights period.  

I'm not going to say that Death Grip! rose above its genre, but I did actually quite enjoy it. It has a sparseness to the dialogue and quite a good sense of place.  I got caught up in it.  The set-up, which is pretty much cookie cutter, brackets the book but gets out of the way for everything in between. We don't keep getting the constant reminders of what drives Johnny Morini.  He just does it.  After his adoptive father is murdered and his daughter raped to suicide, Morini, ex-mob gunman himself turns on his masters (I guess this happened in the first book).  On the run, he is discovered and hired by a wealthy, dying Italian-American businessman who hates the mafia.  The job this time is to take down a family that handles a chunk of rural and suburban Philly.  

The story really gets fun here. Johnny comes into town, starts doing small hijacking jobs and slowly insinuates himself into the criminal scene and then the gang itself. He does the same to a rival gang and then starts to inflame tensions between the two, playing each against the other until it explodes into a full-on war.  There is a lot of violence, grimly realistic but still over the top with the quantity of shootings and stabbings and gun types. Some of the action writing wasn't great early on, a bit clunky, but I got used to his style and I have to give it to him for clearly describing the scene so you could picture it in your head. There is also a great forest hunt that was really well done.

I have to say I really enjoyed this book.  It was far superior to the Executioner one I read.  I look forward to checking out others in the series.  There were 5 in total, I learned, with Gil Brewer writing two of them.

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