Monday, June 24, 2024

Books of 2024: Week 26 - Dirty Harry: City of Blood

Cody continues reading the Dirty Harry book series.


There is a surprisingly strong slasher vibe to some of the entries in the Dirty Harry novel series (which was commissioned by Warner Bros. in the years between the third and fourth Dirty Harry movies) – and as a fan of both slasher movies and Dirty Harry movies, I’m more than fine with that. The fifth book in the series, Family Skeletons, basically was a slasher story, it just happened to have Inspector Harry Callahan in there to thwart the killer. The sixth book, City of Blood, also has the San Francisco-based cop tracking down a blade-wielding madman... and again, there are sequences in this book that read like something straight out of a slasher movie.

The opening line lets us know, “At four-thirty in the afternoon the Tocador Hotel is a quiet place.” But things are about to get very noisy and exciting in there. A man called Teddy meets up with two prostitutes in one of the hotel rooms... and after a sequence that reads like the author was putting together a letter to Penthouse before deciding to drop it into the first chapter of this book, Teddy pulls a razor-sharp blade out of his satchel and hacks both of the women to pieces. Then he sets the room on fire, starting a blaze that causes the deaths of several more people in the hotel.

So Harry has to stop this killer, who will do more hacking and slashing as the story goes on and may or may not also be the Mission Street Knifer that has recently been stabbing homeless people. As he works the case, he gets a new partner in Drake Owens, who worked as an actor down in Los Angeles before he became a homicide detective. Those acting skills are put to use when he’s set loose in the streets, made up as a drunk homeless man in hopes of drawing the attention of the Mission Street Knifer. Owens’ wife, Mary Beth, still works on movie sets as a wardrobe consultant, and happens to be working on a movie that’s being produced by a subsidiary of the multinational corporation Cavanaugh-Sterling, where the chairman of the board is a man named William Maxim Davis. This is worth bringing up because, in the second chapter, Harry and Owens get mixed up in a massive shootout when a group of terrorists try to assassinate Davis. So we get the big action movie sequences as well as some slasher moments.

Aside from the scenes where Teddy is said to be slicing people up, the most slasher-esque scene in this book comes when Owens hits the street in his homeless person costume on Halloween night and ends up following a large figure dressed as the Grim Reaper into a park. This leads to a violent confrontation with the Grim Reaper, who shows a resiliency reminiscent of the likes of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers when Harry and Owens open fire on him.

The Dirty Harry novels are credited to Dane Hartman, but that was a pseudonym shared by a pair of different writers. While reading these books, I have been trying to figure out which one of them might have been written by which author... but I haven’t been able to crack the case. All I can say for sure is that someone involved with this series was clearly a fan of slasher movies, and I thank them for working that fandom into their Dirty Harry stories.

Whoever it was also mixed some cool action and a nice mystery in with the slasher scenes featured in City of Blood, making this one a very good reading experience.

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