Hawk by Richard Hardwick

Title: Hawk

Author: Richard Hardwick

Format: Paperback edition, Belmont Productions

Published: 1966

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Most people don’t remember that Burt Reynolds once had a television career.  If they do, they harken back to BL Stryker from the late 1990s.  But before Smokey drove Buford Justice crazy and before insane rednecks admired Ned Beatty’s pretty mouth, Burt Reynolds had made quite an inroad into television.  Starting out as a guest star on a number of shows, including a recurring part on Gunsmoke, Reynolds had a run at a couple of tv series in the starring role.  One of those was Hawk.

In the novel based on the television series, John Hawk works for the special detective squad assigned to the District Attorney.  Hawk, a full blooded Iroquois, leads the team on his shift as they investigate a car bombing.  The man killed in the bombing is believed to be a supporter of an impending coup on a Caribbean island.  Although it turns out the man was a part of the movement, Hawk discovers that the person thought dead is in fact still alive.  One of the other members of the movement has been killed and, coincidentally, a massive amount of money raised for the rebellion has come up missing at the same time. Hawk and his team of detectives track leads across the city and uncover a rather twisted plot that threatens to succeed and to also mean the end of Hawk’s life on the rooftops of New York.

Let me preface that I have not seen an episode of Hawk since I was young, so young that although I know I’ve seen it, I can’t recall anything at all.  With that in mind, this novelization of the series is actually a fairly decently done police procedural.  It appears that the author did not approach it as if the audience would be fully aware of the property because of the tv show and did a good job in establishing not only Hawk as a solid lead character, but also the flow of the story, the way Hawk does his job. Characterization was solid and the mystery itself wasn’t just a rote procedural, but a real whodunit of sorts that resolved as it should have and wrapped up nicely.

One thing about concepts like this that I was concerned about had to do with Hawk’s lineage, his being a Native American. Oftentimes, authors will fall into the trap of making that a central part of what the character is, his driving force. And, yes, although there were comments about his tracking ability and a ‘sixth sense’ accredited to his upbringing, such references were not heavy or overdone in this case.  As much credit was given to Hawk’s training as a policeman as was given to the happenstance that he was born Native American.  That made this story work even better, it being just about a cop who, because of all aspects of who he is, does his job.

Although not the best I’ve read, Hawk is earns four out of five pages.  It’s engaging and a good, quick read.

This one also loads four out of six bullets by my personal scale.  Characterization is solid and the plot moves well enough along that I stayed engaged and was eager to get to the end.

Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins: A Jesse Stone Novel by Reed Farrel Coleman

Title: Robert B.   Parker’s The Devil Wins: A Jesse Stone Novel

Author: Reed Farrel Coleman

Format: Hardcover edition, Putnam

Published: 2015

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As I’ve said before, Robert B. Parker is probably the writer that has influenced me as an author and as a fan the most.  Not only because of his Spenser series, what I still consider possibly the best Private Investigator series in the modern era, but also because of ex big city cop turned Paradise, Massachusetts Police Chief Jesse Stone.  Parker’s second best known series is a departure from the insightful, self assured Spenser and presents with its lead character as being skilled, but damaged and the eternal question being which will outweigh the other, the brokenness or the ability.

With Parker’s passing in 2010, other authors have picked up the banner for at least three of Parker’s four existing series and this installment of the Stone books, The Devil Wins, is penned by Reed Farrel Coleman.

A massive winter storm reveals three bodies in a collapsing factory on the industrial side of Paradise. One body is quite recent, while the other two turn out to be two teenage girls who went missing a quarter of a century earlier.  Thrust into the national limelight once again, Jesse is a stranger in a new way in his new hometown.  Although everyone from Paradise and seemingly across the state of Massachusetts, is familiar with this cold case and has an emotional attachment to it, Jesse faces it as someone detached.  That both comes to his aid and to his detriment as Molly Crane, his most trusted officer, turns out to be tied directly into the mystery of what happened to her two friends while they were still in high school.

For walking Parker’s beat, so to speak, Coleman does a fairly decent job.  All the characters ring as true as ever, from Captain Healey to Suitcase Simpson to some of the supporting cast of townspeople that have appeared in other books. The characters new to this volume also fit right in, all seeming to be woven into the weird mix of suburban angst and rural melancholy that makes Paradise so vivid and real.  The storytelling fits in well, too, making this almost feel like a Parker entry into the series.

The only real issue I have with The Devil Wins is actually the portrayal of Jesse himself.  What makes Stone work as such a rich and exciting character is the fact that there are chinks in his armor.  Not subtle little dents, but major gaping holes in the calm and collected persona he struggles to portray, but never pulls off.  Coleman recognizes this, focuses on this, and actually makes it too much a part of the narrative.  Although the underlying theme to any Jesse Stone novel, a definite subplot each time, Jesse’s growth and overcoming of his own demons should be just that, something that occurs as the story prompts, as the mystery moves it along.  What happens in this book is that Jesse’s own issues almost threaten to overwhelm the primary story and take center stage.  Coleman keeps that from happening, but only barely, so fortunately Jesse doesn’t end up seeming as maudlin as he almost does.  But it is really close for comfort.

This is a good read for Stone fans and doesn’t make a bad one time read for people unfamiliar with Jesse and his cast.  But, even with that, it still only garners three out of five pages.

The Devil Wins is an average read for me, so it gets three out of six bullets in my gun.  I read it, enjoyed it for what it was, a new chapter in Jesse’s story, but likely won’t revisit it as I will other books about Stone.

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