Quarry, the former Marine, Vietnam veteran and hitman created by author Max Allan Collins, is now the title character in a series pilot commissioned by Cinemax. Previously played by Tom Sizemore in a low-budget movie called The Last Lullaby, the new version casts the much younger and less road-worn Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) and features direction by John Hillcoat, who made the excellent movies Lawless and The Road.
Collins is an incredibly prolific writer. Quarry has appeared in ten novels that stretch back to 1976. Collins wrote a series of graphic novels that were the basis for The Road to Perdition movie directed by Sam Mendes. He's also the author of the long-running Nathan Heller detective series and novelizations of movies and TV shows like Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, CSI and Criminal Minds. He completed an unfinished Mike Hammer novel called Complex 90 and shared author credit with Mickey Spillane. He's even written about James Bond for us here at Under the Radar.
In his latest novel, The Wrong Quarry, Quarry has adopted a code where he only works for people who learn they're marked for death. He then tracks down and eliminates the hitman before taking care of the person who put out the hit in the first place. When he finds himself zeroing in on the family of a missing cheerleader, Quarry wonders if he's got the wrong victim in his sights.
In our excerpt, Quarry checks in on a client who's waiting for a pizza delivery. The Wrong Quarry is available now.
Just after dusk, I drove to the dance studio and swung into the parking lot. Only the red Corvette was parked there. I left the Pinto next to it, like its ugly cousin, all but ran up the back cement steps, then circled around the building to knock at the front entrance. I hadn’t wanted to park out front and ascend all those steps where someone would be more likely to notice.
My first knocks didn’t rouse him, so I pounded harder on the steel framing of the glass doors, which were painted out black. I was about to try again when one cracked open and the tanned mustached mug of Roger Vale peeked out at me.
“Quarry,” he said, goggling, surprised to see me but also wondering if he should be alarmed.
I brushed by him through the barely opened door and when he had shut and locked it behind me, I said, “What the fuck’s the idea, opening the door like that?”
He was in baggy black sweats and sneakers, not the former lithe vision in tights and Capezios. “Well, didn’t you want in?”
I pointed to the black-painted glass. “You can’t see out that door. I could be anybody.”
“I’m expecting a pizza!”
“I’m expecting somebody to kill your ass. Look, the guy watching you is wrapping things up. That means the hit will go down in no more than three days, very probably much less.”
His eyes widened and his mouth dropped. “Fuck me.”
“You, fuck you, if you aren’t more cautious. Get my money.”
He swallowed. Gestured toward the open door to the room where we’d sat and spoken—the brown-leather couch and the framed Broadway posters visible. “You want to come in and go over things?”
“No. Get my money.”
He wasn’t sure whether to be offended or frightened. Then he shrugged and disappeared in there, was gone maybe half a minute, returning to hand me a thick envelope.
“Hundred, fifties and twenties,” he said. “Like you said.”
I stuffed the envelope in the jacket pocket that didn’t have a nine millimeter in it. “You need to be more careful. I am on top of this, but you need to be, too.”
He nodded and nodded some more.
There was a knock at the door, hard and rattling, and we both jumped like a couple of girls trying out for his class.
“Fuck,” we said softly.
Shortly I was edged along the inside wall next to the doors and, as per my whispered instructions, Vale stood plastered to the wall on the other side (“You know, Roger, it’s possible to shoot through glass, even if it is painted black”).
“Yes,” Vale nearly shouted. “What is it?”
“Pizza Hut,” a young bored male voice said.
I gave Vale the okay and he reached over and flipped the lock. The kid was allowed in, delivered the pie, got paid, tipped, and went on his way, unaware that a nine mil was in my fist behind my back all the while.
Vale stood there in his sweats with a big flat brown greasy box in his hands. How did he eat pizza like that and stay so fucking slim? Life was not fair.
He said, “Sure you don’t want to stay? There’s plenty.”
“I’ve stayed too long. Let me out the back.”
He did, and I was right—I shouldn’t have risked the trip to the dance studio at all. I had wanted to warn Vale and, frankly, get my down payment. But even before I pulled into the Holiday Inn parking lot, I could see the Bonneville was no longer parked in front of Cabin 12.
Fuck me, as my client had said.