Thursday, June 10, 2021

Adrano For Hire #3: The Swiss Shot

Adrano For Hire #3: The Swiss Shot, by Michael Bradley
April, 1974  Warner Books

The third volume of Adrano For Hire picks up a month after the previous volume; Johnny Adrano is still in the jungles of Mexico, and he’s in a bad way, suffering from dissentery and barely able to move. We learn he’s been staying here at the behest of his local friends, as this might be the one place in the world where the Mafia won’t be able to find him; as we’ll recall, there’s a contract out on Johnny from his actions in the first volume, and a psycho capo named Rizzo in particular wants him dead. 

Where the previous installments have been ensemble pieces along the lines of Mafia: Operation, The Swiss Shot keeps Adrano in center stage a little more than previously. However there are many sequences that cut away to other characters. More importantly though, if I didn’t know “Michael Bradley” was a pseudonym for Gary Blumberg, I’d figure with this volume that it was Adam Diment. There are sections of this novel that could’ve come right out of the Philip McAlpine novels (only in third-person, not first), with that same cynical vibe and all-knowing, all-annoying protagonist. Blumberg even works in a total Diment-ism with Adrano frequently musing over how he’s now “old,” given that the novel opens on his thirtieth birthday. 

The schtick of this series is that Adrano is a lone wolf in the Mafia who uses his gift for disguise and languages to pull cons and capers in the criminal world. At least that seems to be the schtick. But in this one Adrano falls on his face time after time; he spends the majority of the narrative being traded from one captor to another, and is knocked out so many times that you figure the dude’s going to have a permanent concussion. What makes this all the more amusing is that his arrogance remains unchecked. But honestly he is incredibly ineffectual in this one. The “disguise” angle is lost, as is the “caper” angle, and Adrano’s such a chump on the action front that he’s constantly dropping whatever gun he gets his hand on, or having a gun taken from him. That being said, he does kill one guy just by hitting him hard with his fist. 

We get our first indication of our protagonist’s buffoonery when he finally decides to leave the hovel he’s been living in, deep in the jungle, and ventures to Mexico City…where he’s promptly captured by a pair of mobsters who work for Rizzo. This after Blumberg has also given us an indication of the time-wasting he’ll treat us to throughout the novel; Adrano’s just sitting there, as ever mulling over his “old age” (as I say a recurring gimmick that gets real old real quick), and a pretty local chick with perfect English comes over, starts talking to him…then invites herself up to his room so she can change into her bikini and go swimming with him! She leaves to get her bikini and then the mobsters show up, and she’s never mentioned again, nor even the possibility that she was like a honey trap for the two mobsters. 

But at any rate this will be just the first of several times in which Adrano is whisked away by a couple of armed thugs. Meanwhile as mentioned the cutovers to other characters aren’t as excessive this time, but they’re still there. A la previous volumes there’s a lot of treachery afoot in the mob world: so there’s “old fart” Don Gaspar Rinaldi, Rizzo’s boss, but Rizzo wants the old man out of the way, and to this end has cooked up a scheme with Gaspar’s nutcase son, Michael. The belabored plan has it that Gaspar, in Geneva to visit a clinic for various ailments, is kidnapped and held in the clinic, with his doctor being forced to inject Gaspar with rabies if he doesn’t hand over the reigns of his empire to Michael by a certain date. However Michael and Rizzo are also plotting against one another, each of them planning to get that power for themselves. 

The plotting gets more complex; Adrano finds himself with a new pair of abductors, these ones Corsicans. This time he’s knocked out (again) and put on a plane, where he’s knocked out via drugs frequently. When he comes to he finds himself in the presence of Jean Paoli, the heroin kingpin from the first volume who lives in Marseilles and became uneasy allies with Adrano. Paoli explains that Gaspar Rinaldi is crucial for his network to succeed, thus Adrano is ordered to go rescue him from that clinic. After a little arm-pulling Adrano agrees, asking for papers and a gun. But don’t worry, friends, ultimately he won’t even use either of them, as the dude blunders through the novel and makes one mistake after another, to the point that it’s no great shock why there was only one more volume after this one. 

Blumberg does a pretty good job of bringing the Swiss locale to life, but truth be told the book was a little hard-going for me and I had to work to drum up any enthusiasm for it. This time the “sub-Adam Diment” stuff was the problem; there’s a part where Adrano visits an actual psychedelic club in Switzerland, but instead of bringing the place to life Blumberg has Adrano sneering over how it’s “ten years out of date.” This entire sequence could’ve come out of any of the Philip McAlpine novels, particularly when some nameless local girl appears at Adrano’s table and starts coming on to him. Blumberg, a la Diment, doesn’t even bother to tell us what she looks like, let alone exploit her any, and Adrano for his part refers to her as a “female-person,” which is such jaded hipsterism bullshit that I almost wished I could transport myself into the book and punch him. Luckily the sex scene isn’t a fade to black (I mean why do writers fade to black when it comes to what surely must be the most fun scenes to write??), but the girl turns out to be a honey trap, and Adrano, believe it or not, is captured again! 

This time Adrano’s forced to dig his own grave while the two captors watch him with guns; more Diment-isms as Adrano chafes at the affrontery of this and goes bashing with his shovel. Somehow Adrano manages to escape and find Gaspar Rinaldi, which leads to a bit where he’s almost captured yet again. But the rabies injection factors into the climax, being used on an unexpected character in the novel’s most memorable moment. For Blumberg here is not writing an action-centric saga by any means; Adrano, when he even has a gun, only occasionally shoots anyone, and the violence is not exaggerated at all. But his sendoff of a villain here is pretty memorable, given that a bullet to the head is considered mercy in comparison to the rabies injection. 

The finale of The Swiss Shot sees Adrano fifty thousand bucks richer, as reward for successfully completing the job, and last we see of him he’s planning to stay in Jean Paoli’s opulent pad and read the man’s original editions of Machiavelli. In the original Italian. Let’s not forget, Adrano is a genius and all. Not that you’d know it from the way he handles himself in any of these books. As mentioned, there was one more volume of the series to go, and I will assume it will turn out to be as lackluster as the first three.

1 comment:

Robert Deis (aka "SubtropicBob") said...

The Adriano covers are kinda funny. Steve Holland is the model for the main character in the painted scene at the bottom in #2 and #3, but he's not the guy with the corduroy jacket, which looks like a photo. I guess the Art Director figured nobody would notice.