Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Mafia: Operation Hit Man (1974) by Don Romano

“God, flying gets me horny, you know that?” 

This one had been sitting on my bookshelf for some time but after a steady diet of Remo Williams and Mack Bolan I decided I needed a little palette cleanser and MAFIA: OPERATION HIT MAN seemed like a good choice.

Dom Caressimo is a decorated Army vet living in a cheap studio apartment, bedding the building manager’s main squeeze and passing out nightly from cheap hootch – only to wake up with a splitting headache before doing it all over again. So, when he’s approached about a job as a “shooter” he jumps at the chance to improve his lifestyle and bank a little cash in the process.

Seems that Anthony Vicarella – a “legitimate businessman” who owns some local soft drink bottling plants – wants to create a murder-for-hire biz with Caressimo as the triggerman. Setting his new hit man up in a modest brownstone and instructing him on how to maintain a nondescript lifestyle while carrying out jobs for The Family, Vicarella, Dom and his crew of former Army pals immediately begin to reap the rewards of this exciting new venture.

But when Dom is hired to knock off a face from his past, well, that’s when things start to go haywire – and MAFIA: OPERATION HIT MAN turns from a straightforward cheapie Mafia Mania cash-in into an action novel with generous bits that feel cribbed from Penthouse Forum fantasy letters. After completing the job in question, Dom starts having trouble getting Little Dom to do his job. So, when Dom seeks therapy for his – ahem, problem – The Family starts to get suspicious, and Dom finds himself in the crosshairs of the killer team he’s assembled.

Surprisingly better than expected MAFIA: OPERATION HIT MAN is a fast-paced 205-page slab of junk pulp filled with plenty of sex, murder, gore, kinky sex, murder, double-crosses, globe-hopping and the kind of casual 1970s dialogue/prose that would make today’s PC Police blanch. In all honesty, I found myself mentally scripting an OPERATION HIT MAN flick in my head and would not be at all disappointed to watch it streaming on some weekend night after a few beers.

Not a men’s action series a la The Destroyer or its brethren, MAFIA: OPERATION HIT MAN is part of a series of one-shot pulp thrillers depicting various slices of Mafia life, be it the porn trade, cocaine trafficking or truck hijacking. All written under the totally believable nom de plume “Don Romano”, the books were “produced” by Lyle Kenyon Engel aka The Impresario of Paperbacks who re-launched dusty spy Nick Carter as Nick Carter – Killmaster and berthed the hugely successful “Kent Family Chronicles” series written by John Jakes. (For some fascinating reading of a different type Google “Lyle Kenyon Engel” and read some of the profiles, articles and obits chronicling his fascinating career. Where’s the documentary on this guy?!)

It took just a few nights to blow through this one and I’m actively seeking out other installments in the series. This one grades a B+ and is definitely worth a pickup if you spot it in the wild. – Dan Taylor<

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. He also hosts the internet radio show Around the Dial.

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