Wednesday, May 09, 2018


While the first original Dirty Harry novel – DUEL FOR CANNONS – benefitted from the ghostwriting of Ric Meyers, the genre vet had to pass on certain installments due to his commitment to other "Men of Action" entries like The Ninja Master (written as Wade Barker). DIRTY HARRY #10: THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS is one of those installments and Meyers' deft touch with the material is definitely missed.

Even for a longtime fan of the original films, DUEL felt like an authentic Dirty Harry film adventure ported over to a pulpier environment, right down to Meyers' descriptions of fight scenes and our hero's sparse dialogue hissed through clenched teeth. STRANGERS – authored by Leslie Horvitz (THE DONORS, DOUBLE BLINDED, THE DYING) – feels more like a generic men's action novel whose main character just happens to be the beloved Dirty Harry. A suitably Eastwood-esque mug graces the cover but the man on the pages inside could be any random cop who gets mixed up in a terrorist plot funded by a Middle Eastern arms dealer.

In a terrifyingly lax pre-9/11 San Francisco, a couple of terrorist scumbags blow up part of an airport terminal and off some nosey patrolmen, which naturally draws the attention of Dirty Harry. But things get a little hard to swallow when our hero gets plucked off the streets to go undercover as "Dan Turner", a fill-in bodyguard for Gamal Abd'el Kayyim, a suspected arms dealer visiting California. After Harry/Turner foils an assassination attempt he finds himself moving in Kayyim's inner circle just as suspicion about him begins to boil over.

With every cop that could potentially ride shotgun either killed off or mortally wounded, Horvitz gives Harry a partner/love interest (of sorts) in Ellie Winston, anchorwoman-turned-reporter (Patricia Clarkson would play a similar role in 1988's THE DEAD POOL). Though it's hard to believe a seasoned San Francisco reporter wouldn't know who Callahan is, Winston finally realizes there might be a story in him and follows the cop from San Francisco to LA, Beirut and El Salvador as Harry's cover is blown and he finds himself matching wits and weapons with international arms dealers playing for both sides.

Brimming with head-exploding violence, THE BLOOD OF STRANGERS is a quick but instantly forgettable read. Whereas Meyers "gets" Callahan and the beats of the original films, Horvitz's attempts at harnessing their vibe fails and jamming Harry into international locales like Beirut and an Italian villa feels forced and more suited to an installment of Don Pendelton's Mack Bolan: The Executioner.

After twelve "Never before published or seen on screen" novels the Dirty Harry series (pulp division) ended with 1983's DIRTY HARRY #12: THE DEALER OF DEATH in which Harry's beloved .44 Magnum is stolen and used in a series of murders intended to frame the cop. After seven years away from the character, Eastwood agreed to once again strap on the badge of Inspector 71 for 1983's SUDDEN IMPACT and, coupled with the fizzling men's action market, that meant the end of the books.

Though I'd certainly recommend other men's action books of the era over this one, the couple Dirty Harry novels I've tackled have been quick reads and brought back fond memories of a character I spent many hours with over the years. I'll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled at garage sales and thrift stores, hoping to grab installments where Harry battles filthy pirates, watches a family reunion go south, or has to clear his name. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect. This review originally appeared in Exploitation Retrospect #52 available from Amazon and direct from the publisher.

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