Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Sharpshooter #11: Triggerman

The Sharpshooter #11: Triggerman, by Bruno Rossi
January, 1975  Leisure Books

Russell Smith returns to the Sharpshooter series in what appears to be yet another of Smith’s Marksman manuscripts that was turned into a Sharpshooter novel. At first it’s hard to tell, as for once the editors managed to change most instances of “Magellan” into “Rock,” but as the novel progresses you can clearly tell this is indeed a Philip “Marksman” Magellan novel – especially when, about 90 pages in, the “Magellan” goofs start to pepper the text.

Anyway, Triggerman opens with no pickup from any previous volume, with Don Ricardo “Rick” Tattilo getting out of some mystery prison in New York (“A –”) where he’s spent the past two years. We get lots of background detail on Tattilo, an obvious page-filling gambit on Smith’s part. We also learn that the only reason “the Rock” hasn’t come after him yet is because Tattilo’s been in the joint since Rock started his campaign against the Mafia. Now that he’s out, Rock is coming for him.

At first I thought this novel was a straight-up Johnny Rock story, as early on Smith has Rock reflecting back on the murder of his mom and dad and etc, all of them murdered due to the family business, which the mob wanted a piece of. As die hards know, this was the origin story of Johnny Rock, as told in #1: The Killing Machine. However, on the very same page, Smith also has Rock reflecting back on his mob-murdered wife and son, and as die hards also know, this is not Johnny Rock’s backstory – it’s Philip Magellan’s.

But no, this is really a Marksman novel, with “Rock” displaying the expected Magellan characteristics, from obsessing over his “Valpak and artillery case” to even wearing “nylon cords” around his waist (to bind whatever thug he happens to beat senseless). There’s also Magellan’s fondness for stripping and tying up captives, keeping collections of them stored away for future torturing. He also enjoys donning disguises, another Magellan penchant, and Smith mentions that one such disguise is one “Rock” hasn’t worn “since Puerto Rico.” This is likely a reference to The Marksman #5: Headhunter

Now, how about the actual novel itself? Triggerman really isn’t that bad, and is on par with pretty much everything else churned out by the human typewriter that was Russell Smith. As usual you can tell the dude was winging it as he went along, with tons of incidental detail dropped early on but hardly any of it amounting to anything in the actual text. Things just sort of happen with little rhyme or reason. Magellan/Rock murders with impunity, walking around in a “hippie disguise” and blowing away mobsters with his silenced Beretta.

Triggerman also operates on Smith’s usual fondness for lazy coincidence. For one, after getting intel from an old black guy named Mickey the Fish (who apparently was saved by Magellan/Rock a year before), our “hero” checks into a hotel in Manhattan, where he later discovers, nestled in a courtyard behind it, an old “Quaker meeting hall” from which both heroin is distributed and a sort of kinky sex parlor does business. There’s also an old treehouse back there, which “Rock” soon uses to hide the gory mobster corpses he creates.

Meanwhile Tattilo holes up in the Manhattan apartment of Eleanora Constantini, the gorgeous 35 year-old madam who runs his lucrative whoring business. Smith for once delivers several sex scenes, all of them featuring Tattilo, particularly when later he stays in the Hotel Irwin and bangs Marge, neglected wife of the drunk mobster who runs the place. These scenes in particular are pretty sleazy, with Smith busting out all sorts of exploitative detail, to the point where Triggerman is the most sex-filled installment of the series yet.

Smith’s customary coincidental plotting again rears its head when Tattilo, fearing Magellan/Rock is going to find him, leaves Eleanor’s apartment and heads to the Hotel Irwin (which Smith sometimes mistakenly refers to as “Hotel Irving”). Guess where Magellan/Rock’s staying? That’s right, in the very same hotel. Not that “Rock” instantly discovers this; he’s too busy sneaking around in that courtyard around the hidden Quaker hall, murdering mobsters with his silenced Beretta and hiding their corpses in the treehouse.

Smith also as usual adds in goofy humor, with Tattilo one morning looking out over nearby Gramercy Park and seeing the Quaker hall beneath his window, scoping his binoculars over it…and seeing all those gory corpses. Yet he tells no one, because he’s certain people will think he’s nuts(?). When he calls over fellow don John Tedesco to check them out, guess what, “Rock’s” just rented a panel truck and lugged each corpse onto it, so that they’re all gone when the two mobsters take another look down there with binoculars.

“Action” is relegated to the usual Smith sadism, with an early scene featuring Magellan/Rock shooting up several mobsters in the lobby of Eleanora’s apartment building (this being the incident that really sends Tattilo into paranoia, eventually causing him to move to the Hotel Irwin). This scene too is goofy, because “Rock” wants to get upstairs to kill Tattilo without anyone seeing him, yet just a few sentences later he’s shooting one Tattilo guard after another, to the point where there’s a crowd of onlookers and the cops are rushing to the scene.

Magellan also has a penchant for picking up cleaning ladies (seriously), and not only does Triggerman open with “Rock” already being friends of sorts with a maid named Clara Green (which makes me wonder if this character will appear in another Smith Marksman/Sharpshooter installment), but towards the end he rescues from sexual servitude another maid, Maria. In another of the novel’s sex scenes, we see how Eleanora Constantini “forces” Maria to sleep with her, and the girl is super-happy to escape with “Rock” at the novel’s end, with the clear implication that she’s going to stay with him for a while.

The finale is pretty weird. Magellan/Rock stages a raid on Eleanora’s lush suite, blowing away scads of mobsters and then “literally slapping the shit” out of Eleanora herself! After the already-mentioned rescue of Maria (who throws herself all over “Rock”), our boy heads back to the Hotel Irwin…where all of the villains have conveniently congregated in one of the apartments. Magellan/Rock loads up his Uzi, kicks open the door, and blows everyone away! To add an even stranger tenor to it, “Rock” then goes over to the corpses and steals the cash out of their wallets!

Maybe it’s a weird Marksman/Sharpshooter hybrid who stars in Triggerman; on pages 132 and 142, he’s referred to as “Philip Rock!” It should say something that I found more interest in rooting out the editorial maniuplations, but all told Triggerman isn’t really that bad. It has a sleaze quotient missing from other Smith contributions, and for once the plot is tied up in a single novel – messily tied up, but at least it comes to a conclusion.

And Ken Barr’s cover, as usual, is great.


Anonymous said...

Always love your Sharpshooter/Marksman reviews. I wish these two series could be reprinted in some sort of omnibus set.

On an unrelated note, I remember you mentioning an older book about how to write men's adventure novels which is now available in e-book format a while back, but I can't find the link or the post you mentioned it in. What was that book again?

Brian Drake said...

I think you're thinking of "How to Write Action Adventure Novels" by Mike Newton. Worth every penny. I still read my first-edition that I got for Christmas in 1989!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brian!

Anonymous said...

Another question...

Is there a complete list of the Sharpshooter & Marksman books written by Russell Smith available somewhere online? The only book in either series I own is Marksman #13: Mafia Massacre, and I've sort of been holding off reading it because I'm curious as to whether or not it's Smith's work.

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Don, here's a review of Mike Newton's book:

As for a list of Smith's Sharpshooter/Marksman work, unfortunately no such thing exists. I've only been able to figure it out through way too much time on Google, usually searching individual volume titles in various Catalogs of Coypright Entries from the 1970s. However in many cases no info is available at all, but since Smith's style is so unique you can usually figure out it's him pretty easily.

Here's what I currently have as Russell Smith's contributions to both series:

The Marksman:

Vols 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 15

Doubtless he wrote more of them, but so far I've only read up to the 11th volume of the series -- I'm betting he did some others, but there's no info online, and I won't know for sure until I read the rest of them. For example, the volume you have but haven't yet read will likely turn out to be another of Smith's volumes.

The Sharpshooter:

Vols 2, 3, 6, 11, and possibly 12

That's for sure all the ones he "wrote" for this series -- I'm certain though that all of the Smith books published for The Sharpshooter were actually written as The Marksman installments. Volume 12 might be a Smith contribution, but it's sometimes credited to Paul Hofrichter -- again, won't know for sure until I get around to reading it.

On a random note, I've confirmed a long-held suspicion, thanks to Len Levinson, that Peter McCurtin came up with all of the titles for the books in these two series. That's why the titles rarely match the contents of the actual books -- Len told me that he didn't even title the three Sharpshooter novels he wrote, he just left it to McCurtin.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joe! Once I get finished with the book I'm currently reading, I'll take a crack at Marksman #12 and see if its content reminds me of your reviews of Smith's other books. Based on everything you've written, it should be fairly obvious once I get into the book.