Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gannon #1: Blood For Breakfast

Gannon #1: Blood For Breakfast, by Dean Ballenger

Manor Books, 1973

If you're not squeamish you won't want to miss this one!

Where to start?? Blood For Breakfast is one of the grimmest, bleakest, goriest, vilest, and misogynist books I've ever read. It's great!

The start of a three-volume series, this details a few weeks in the gutter-view life of Mike Gannon, a 31 year-old shitkicker who served in the military (missing both Korea and Vietnam though), saw some action around the world, and now works as a security officer. Gannon's sister is raped by two rich kids whose fathers now protect them from justice, so Gannon returns to the city to kick some shit. Mobsters, goons, college punks, gun molls, and other assorted pieces of riff-raff fall beneath his spiked brass knuckles or his savage karate chops.

Sure, the plot's standard, but the way Ballenger writes it... There's no way to truly replicate the dimestore Chandler goonspeak he's created here. Everyone talks the same way -- this super tough-guy chatter filled with brutal imagery that would stun a hardboiled private eye. (Choice line, from Gannon to a secratary -- one whom we're told, again and again, is a lesbian: "Get him on the phone or I'll kick your kotex up between your ears!") The gangsters, the gun molls who associate with them, the hard-living waitresses Gannon picks up (and "rolls"), even Gannon himself -- all of them talk in a fashion that reminds me of nothing so much as Fat Tony and his mobster goons on The Simpsons.

The problem with this novel, for me at least, is Gannon himself. No one but him is right, he barrels through his opponents without breaking a sweat, and even when he is captured he manages to turn the tables with ease. He has a violent streak which dwarfs even that of the so-called bad guys. He also has no problem with smacking women or chopping them in the throat.

Gannon straps on his spiked knuckles and delivers beatings which leave his victims mutilated for life -- and the narrative doesn't shy from the gore. In fact, this is one of the goriest books you'll come across, with mobsters blown up in car explosions, people shot in the face and hands, and ears chopped off as trophies. It's all as lurid as the '70s could get; even the sex scenes are grotesque, with Gannon the ladies man picking up women left and right, taking them back for a quick fuck, and then taking off.

This is a quick-moving piece of hardboiled crime fiction which will certainly leave an impression on you -- whether revulsion or slack-jawed disbelief (or both).


James Reasoner said...

I reviewed this one a couple of years ago and had much the same reaction to it. My comments are here:

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks for the reply! I've read your review and enjoyed it. Have you read any of the others? Gannon's kind of an acquired taste...and what with the tone of the narrative, I feel like Fat Tony's telling me a story.

James Reasoner said...

No, I haven't run across any of the others yet. I could probably pick them up somewhere on-line but haven't gotten around to doing it. I think Ballenger wrote some Westerns, too, and I'm interested in checking them out.