Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Copp for Hire by Don Pendleton

I was in junior high the first time I stumbled across Don Pendleton's Joe Copp series. I was a fan of his The Executioner novels--what junior high kid wasn't?--and when I bumped into Copp for Hire at my local library I gave it a try. I wasn't disappointed. Joe Copp is the kind of private eye hero who sprouted from the western tradition. He is a loner who resides on the fringes of society. A sad, noble man who exists more as a care-taker to society than a member of society. An American cultural icon, really. A John Wayne character personified, or any other cliche you want to throw in. He, the protagonist, needs society, but society needs him even more.

What's the point? I re-read Copp for Hire over the holidays, and I loved every minute of it. I had forgotten how heavy-handed Pendleton's portrayal of Copp was: I might as well tell you right up front. I'm a hardcase, and everyone I've ever dealt with knows it. A couple times I felt an urge to tell Copp to shut up about how damn-terrific tough he is, and get on with the story, but somehow I couldn't. It would be like telling Travis McGee to stop fucking the wounded birds. It's just part of who he is.

There's nothing really special about Copp for Hire, other than it is a brutal, fast and eventful read. If you haven't tried any of the Copp novels, try one. You won't regret it. And if you do regret it, don't come crying to me. You may not know it, but I'm a hardcase. I've always been a hardcase. Don't push me, because I'll push back.

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