Alongside Thriller Corner, I’ve decide to start another strand within the site where I’ll review books from the pulpier side of the street. OC
THE CRIMINALS DIDN’T TAKE THE STREETS OVERNIGHT. ONE BATTLE WONT WIN THEM BACK. JOE RYKER IS A COP FROM THE OLD SCHOOL. HOMICIDE IS HIS JOB. MURDER IS HIS LIFE. AND HE’S READY TO STRIKE… As sirens wail in the heat of the city night, an over burdened police department is up against a crime wave that’s spreading like blood from a sliced artery. The Sniper is one man with a rifle, choosing his victims at random, killing with the cold skill of a pro. Detective Sergeant Ryker is going in after him – into the sleaze and decay, into the night. Somewhere in the panic-stricken city the killer and the cop will come face to face – and a last deadly battle will be raged…
Title: The Sniper | Author: Jack Cannon (aka Nelson DeMille) | Joe Ryker #1 | Publisher: Grafton| Pages: 224 | ISBN: 9780586204511 | Publication date: 24th January 1991 (originally published 1974) | Source: Purchased
‘The Sniper’ is a far better book than it has any right to be. Originally published in 1974, it’s a quick and nasty cop thriller about a brutal, nihilistic cop hunting a deadly sniper. The fact that it came out a few years after ‘Dirty Harry’, a cop thriller about a nihilistic cop hunting a deadly sniper, is probably no coincidence. It was the first published novel by author Nelson DeMille, who is best known for writing fat espionage thrillers that you might call Ludlumesque if they weren’t better than most of Ludlum’s output. He obviously decided the weightier books were better for his career, as they kept his real name and ‘The Sniper’ and its four sequels were reissued under the unlikely pseudonym Jack Cannon. He obviously still had some fondness for the books though, as he took the time to update them for the 90s reissues. This review is of the 90s edition of ‘The Sniper’.
The main draw of the book is the anti-hero cop at its centre. Joe Ryker is a scumbag who will stop at nothing to catch his prey. In between times he takes cheap sex where he can get it and drinks cheap liquor. He cares about justice rather than the niceties of the law. So determined is he to catch the villain in this book (a crazed Vietnam veteran sniping blondes) that he spends large parts of the book smeared in dog faeces. DeMille knows what a dick Ryker is and seems to delight in putting him through as much pain and degradation as possible.
The result is a book that feels like it wants to shock readers into enjoying it. Watching Ryker at work is a guilty pleasure, whether he’s beating up suspects or threatening witnesses. DeMille is a good enough writer that he keeps things taut and interesting, even if the plot lacks originality.