Thursday, April 19, 2018


After three flicks cementing Spaghetti Western vet Clint Eastwood in the role of San Francisco Homicide Inspector Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan, the versatile actor/director declared that his relationship with the .44 Magnum-brandishing cop was over.

Looking for ways to wring more cash from one of their most bankable creations – and establish their own line of men’s action novels to rival Pinnacle’s stars like The Executioner and The Destroyer – Warner Bros. launched ‘Men of Action’ featuring original Dirty Harry novels alongside such pulpier titles as The Ninja Master , S-Com, The Hook (a “gentleman detective with a talent for violence and a taste for sex”), and Ben Slayton: T-Man.

Ghost-written by pulp and non-fiction vet Ric Meyers under the pseudonym “Dean Hartman”, the first Dirty Harry adventure seamlessly flows from silver screen to printed page. Mimicking the beats and pacing of the original films, DUEL opens with a bloodbath at a cheap California amusement park as a hired gunman hunts down San Antonio sheriff – and Friend of Callahan – Boris Tucker. Though misguided officials would blame the deaths of Tucker and some local teens on the stressed Texas cop, Dirty Harry knows better and heads to the Lone Star State to settle the score.

Texas isn’t very welcoming to Harry, with corrupt cops, local businessmen, street gangs, muscle-bound hit men and two-bit hoods hassling him at every turn. The SOBs even go so far as to slice up Harry’s wardrobe and keep him from getting a cab. Soon, Callahan finds allies among Tucker’s few  remaining friends on the force – as well as a rival determined to kill him by book’s end – and they look to disrupt the corruption flowing through town.

It’s no surprise that Meyers nails what we’d come to love about the Dirty Harry flicks, from Eastwood’s mannerisms and fighting style to his minimalist dialogue. The book’s cover art does nothing to suggest Harry isn’t Eastwood and there’s little attempt to describe him from a physical standpoint, so Meyers takes every opportunity to make you think Clint is delivering each pistol blast and flying fist during DUEL’s many action scenes.

Though the tale veers dangerously close to going wildly over-the-top and is a bit too neatly wrapped up (a common problem with men’s action tales of the day), DUEL feels more like a legit Dirty Harry installment than SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) or THE DEAD POOL (1988) featuring Liam Neeson (as a horror film director) and a pre-stardom Jim Carrey. Meyers’ attention to detail and inclusion of characters and events from DIRTY HARRY (1971), MAGNUM FORCE (1973) and THE ENFORCER (1976) go a long way towards drawing us into this cinematic world.

DIRTY HARRY #1: DUEL FOR CANNONS landed on bookstore shelves in 1981, the first of a dozen entries in which “The Magnum Enforcer” would battle corrupt cops, serial killers, “dope-running sea pirates”, terrorists, arms dealers (look for our upcoming review of DIRTY HARRY #10: THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS), a renegade government scientist and a killer looking to frame Inspector 71. The books can currently be found on thrift store shelves, flea market tables and boxed up at garage sales near grandpop’s musty back issues of PLAYBOY (and the occasional OUI). – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and has way too many men's action novels on his bookshelf. This review originally appeared in Exploitation Retrospect #52 available from Amazon and direct from the publisher.

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