Thursday, September 28, 2023

DOUBLE SHOT: Vigilante #6 by V.J. (Robert Lory) Santiago & Shannon #3 Jake (J.C. Conaway) Quinn

I haven't been reading enough for this blog lately, being swamped with work, life and filmmaking. Also, I'm about to start writing reviews of vintage horror paperbacks for a publisher's website, so most of my reading has been heading that direction. So, those are my excuses, folks. Anyway, the idea behind this little exercise was to kick that problem in the butt. So, I turned to my slim-little friends, the paperbacks in the Men's Adventure field to cure me of what ails me. I intended to read three or four, but I got two. Whatta ya goin' do? 

Up first was Vigilante #6: Washington, D.C.: This Gun for Justice, talk about a full title. I've been reading these books out of order, which is pretty stupid since they have a strong sense of continuity and take place in a relatively short time period, which makes me sort of an idiot when you stop and think about it. But there's enough refences to keep me up to speed, besides I know the basic formula of a Death Wish-clone. 

The Vigilante series is a Robert Lory joint. He's really one of my go-to paperback writers of the 70s, between this series, the Dracula Returns books and his work on John Eagle, Expeditor (and no John's not in shipping) because he is really very reliable and tells quick moving, well balance action stories...usually...

Joe Madden is the titular Vigilante. He's a business guy and Korean war vet *dun-dun-da* is pushed too far with the brutal murder of his wife. After that he takes to killing criminals with his Mauser HSc and his .38 Colt. One of the hooks is that Joe has to travel for work, so it's like one big road-trip around the country murdering villains. This entry finds him in Washington D.C. and up against the most 70s bad guy: The evil cult leader. 

I love evil cult stories, which is why I picked this volume to tackle. The problem is that Lory seems bored with this series (this proved to be the last entry) and the book suffers. He was clearly had more interest in the evil cult leader than Madden at this point and sends healthy chunks of the book with the bad guy's evil plan involving Mafia goons, drugs and brainwashing. Madden plays second-fiddle but is pretty fun when he's around, beating up people, shooting people, saying cool one-liners, but he's simply just not in the book enough to safe it. So, I guess the series kinda goes out with a whimper, but I'm still happy about tackling the early books because Lory is a great action-writer. If nothing else, it made me want to dip back into his Dracula books for Halloween...

With the slight disappoint in Vigilante heavy on my mind, I went ahead and went with a sure-fired hit: Shannon #3, a novel in a three-book series put out by Leisure books, the mark of quality. Kidding. I have a fondness for these weird little experiments that didn't go far, more so than the Men's Adventure books that were popular. They are always so off-kilter or off-model. Or just bad, depending on your opinion. 

The Shannon books are by a guy who's not really the "Jake Quinn" on the cover, but a dude named J.C. Conaway who wrote a bunch in the 70s under various names including some under his own. He's not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy his laid-back take on the whole blood and guts book business. Patrick Shannon is a spy/private eye working for an organization named Morituri who lives in a swank apartment with his buddy/valet Joe-Dad and tools around in a Porsche when he's not banging ladies and drinking large quantities of booze. Everyone and then he solves a crime, oh and he writes fictionalized books based on his adventures. Whatta life. 

Shannon has a problem with brain-washed spies in the U.N. in this one and that this crazy dude named Garth who has some ESP and hypnotism powers that he amplifies with radio receivers implanted in his victim's skull. Shannon's on the case! And that's what these books are, private eye cases gusseted up for the jet-set spy world. Shannon drinks, investigates, drinks, questions people, eats, drinks, talks to the coroner, drinks, goes to a play, drives around, drinks, sexes, etc. etc. These really have more of a "hang-out" feel rather than an action-packed thrill ride. but Joe-Dad and Shannon are fun to hang out with. That being said, it does end with a nice car chase and a wonderfully gory death. 

These remind me a lot of Martin Meyer's Hardy series, which I love, and a lot of people seem not too. They have the same slightly goofy hi-tech private eye meets couch potato feel. I understand that these aren't for everyone, but you can do worse.