This novella is not a spy story, but the story has its roots in the ‘Men of Action’ stories that were popular in the ’70s and ’80s – and many of them were spy stories. But first, I want to talk to you about ‘Dirty Harry’. When I was growing up I was a big fan of Dirty Harry. In fact I discovered Harry twice. The first time was when I was a young teenager, then later as an old teenager.
The first instance was before video really took off in Australia. Back in the early 1980’s television censorship Down Under was very severe. We had what they called AO MOD TV movies – standing for Adults Only Modified for Television. Well the censors worked overtime on Dirty Harry, cutting out whole scenes and great chunks on dialogue. It is a testament to the strength of the movie that despite the removal of the violence and swearing, it was still a bloody good film. The cuts obviously diluted Dirty Harry from how it was originally intended to be seen, but in others ways opened up the film to a new youthful audience.
Four or five years later and I finally got to see an uncut version of Dirty Harry, and if you’ll forgive the Harryesque wordplay, I was blown away. But between that time I actually encountered Harry again. Not the filmic Harry as portrayed by Clint Eastwood, but the ‘Men of Action’ book series written by Dane Hartman (I think my first was one of the latter ones in the series Dealer of Death). I bring up the fact that my first filmic encounter with Harry was cut, because the books were extremely graphic, which delighted me no end. I do believe they were the series that taught me the word ‘viscera’. With the hindsight of twenty-five plus years, I realise the Dirty Harry series was trash…but I enjoyed it so. They were my ‘Men of Action’ series…the one I latched onto.
The thing is, if you grew up in that era, without all the video games, computer, ipods etc., then most likely to escape you read, and adolescent males read ‘Men of Action’ books. And there were heaps of them to chose from, Mack Bolan as The Executioner, Remo Williams as The Destroyer, The Black Samurai, The Specialist, The Hunter, The Penetrator and many many others. I am sure many of you have your favourite. You could always tell a ‘Men of Action’ book by the number on the cover – they were always numbered, hoping you’d keep along with the series.
The old ‘Men of Action’ books are all but extinct now – of course you can find them in second hand shops, but possibly younger generations have replaced them with video games, which provide them with more immediately thrills. I for one, kind of miss them. But it seems that I am not alone. Thankfully, a group of talented authors are coming together in a project aimed at reviving the spirit of the ‘Men of Action’ books in a new e-book series. The series is called The Dead Man, and the first book is Face of Evil written by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin. But this new series isn’t just retreading old ground, or presenting more of the same. The story tellers have added a paranormal, horror element into the mix. So Face of Evil presents a story in a style that you may be familiar with, but mixed with some other elements to bring the reader something new.
However, here’s my first little gib, and I know it’s an e-book, but in keeping with the ‘Men of Action’ ethos, it should have a big No. 1 on the cover to signify that it is the first in the series. Oh, and a guy with a gun… and maybe a girl in bikini. They don’t need to be in the story… heaven knows most of the old series promised more with their cover artwork than we actually got!
I know I am being superficial, but hey, I’m a traditionalist! The story concerns Matthew Cahill, who has been a widower for many years, and works in a saw mill. After many years on his own, Cahill looks like he is about to enter into a new relationship with a co-worker named Rachel. But this budding relationship is cut short, when one afternoon as they are skiing, an avalanche takes Cahill’s life. Or does it? After three months of being buried in the snow, his body is found and taken to the morgue. But as the coroner attempts to perform his autopsy he notices a very strange thing. As he cuts into the corpse, he notices that it is bleeding. Dead men don’t bleed.
So how does Matthew Cahill stand up as a ‘Men of Action’ hero? I think the jury still has to be out on that. Cahill has the potential to be a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining hero. He is in this story. But Face of Evil is somewhat of a ‘Beginnings’ story, which charts how Cahill becomes ‘The Dead Man’ and suggests the path that he is going to take. And I must admit I am eager to see where this path leads. So is he a great ‘Men of Action’ hero? He could be. Time will tell.
If there is a weakness to the story, it was in the horror aspects to the story. By nature I am squeamish kind of fellow, but the horror elements here didn’t have me chewing my nails, or have my heart racing. However, the thriller, and comedy – very dark comedy I will add – is first rate. I found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions (which is always embarrassing when you’re on a train).
Here’s the spiel about The Dead Man series:
Matthew Cahill is an ordinary man leading a simple life…until a shocking accident changes everything. Now he can see a nightmarish netherworld of unspeakable evil and horrific violence that nobody else does…
For Cahill, each day is a journey into a dark world he knows nothing about…a quest for the answers to who he is and what he has become…and a fight to save us, and his soul, from the clutches of pure evil.
FACE OF EVIL, the first book in the series, was written by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin and will be released on February 20th, to be followed in coming months by more all-new adventures of THE DEAD MAN by some of the most talented and successful mystery, western, horror and scifi authors out there today, including Bill Crider, James Reasoner, Matt Witten, Joel Goldman, James Daniels, Burl Barer and David McAfee.
Please forgive the clumsy faux cover art (right) I have created for Face of Evil. The simple fact is I was just having a bit of fun. So too, I think that the authors who have come together for The Dead Man project are having a bit of fun (although on the strength of Face of Evil, I would suggest their story telling ability is stronger than my artistic aspirations). The enjoyment, most evident in the in-jokes, is palpable when reading the story. Of course, I cannot know exactly what the authors were thinking when they wrote this story, but a part of me expects that it may not have seemed like work at all. The story races by at a brisk rate of knots, each twist and turn, and shift in time providing another revelation as the story moves towards its… well, I was going to say ‘end’, but that really is misleading. For now I will say ‘close’, but sure to be picked up in book two.
Face of Evil is only a novella, around 80 pages, which creates its own little duel edged sword. In many ways, I was happy that it was short, as the twists had me eager to know whats happens next. Therefore, I could finish the book in one sitting, rather than pressing on into the wee small hours and turning up to work bleary eyed the next morning. On the flip slide, I was enjoying it so much, I didn’t want it to end so abruptly. I guess I have to wait for the next installment in The Dead Man series.