Book Review : Max Allan Collins - Quarry's Climax (2017)
Quarry is one of these characters I've known for several years before actually reading. Although I haven't watched the series, it's not until friends recommended it to me and that Quarry in the Black mysteriously landed in my mailbox that I gave him the time of day. And the guy is quite likable, I must say. The Vietnam vet turned hired killer and part-time philosopher always has to navigate difficult and morally complex situations that keep reminding him who he really is. He's back for his yearly assignment in the unequivocally named Quarry's Climax, a novel exploring the wonderful world of seventies porn.
So, for this assignment, the Broker sends Quarry to Memphis, Tennessee to protect renowned pornographer Max Climer from recent death threats and investigate on who are the serious enemies and who are the pearl clutchers. Over there, Quarry is rapidly taken aback by the weidness of trying to work in an environment full of pretty, lascivious and almost naked women who may or may not be using their charms to make him do their bidding. And the problem might just be that. Climer's empire of strip tease, porn magazines and smut videos is big and promising enough for people on the inside to jockey for its future.
So, the major theme of Quarry's Climax is the institutionalizing of the sexual revolution. This is, once again, a brilliant or ferociously original idea by Max Allan Collins. Only it doesn't quite pan out like it did in Quarry in the Black because, well... it has its own ideas on what's progressive and what's not. For example, Quarry talks a lot about his sexual prowess in this one. Brags to the reader about banging woman X and woman Y. Brags about banging women who won't bang other characters. The whole seduction angle is super interesting because it contrasts with what we're used from the character, but Quarry's sexual smugness comes right off the 1950s. It would be a great source of conflict if... well, people called him out on it, but they don't.
And that's the danger of revisionism: using a setting from the past to discuss contemporary issues. It gets too easy to pick out who's the righteous and who's the villainous party based on values that didn't exist then. That's why I love James Ellroy's novels. The man take (too much?) pleasure at not being revisionist at all. He presents the past with all its defaults and leaves it up the reader to make up his mind about it. This is not the case in Quarry's Climax. Religious groups and feminists are depicted as the enemy, Max Climer and his cronies are depicted as perverted opportunists, the only people portrayed in a semi-positive light at the women who want to fuck, which are all conveniently attracted to Quarry in some way or another. And these women have no depth whatsoever beyond their professional and sexual ambitions. They're just strippers who would like to bang the main character.
I'm going hard after the themes of Quarry's Climax because I genuinely like the character and reading him being so fucking smug about his own penis bugged me. But Quarry's Climax is kind of enjoyable anyway? The ideas are messed up, but the execution is stellar again. It proves that Max Allan Collins could make just about anything tolerable. He would probably make episodes of Friends worth watching. It's an impressive feat for the fourteenth novel in a series to feel this fresh and intriguing. It's a mixed bag, really but I suppose female readers had even more problems dealing with this than I did. Quarry's Climax left me lukewarm at best. Great series. A character worth reading, but this one's an ambitious project that doesn't quite pan out. Can't bat 1,000 when you publish one a year, I guess.