Colley Donato loved guns. Even more than his women. He was sixteen when he first shot a guy – with an Astra Firecat pistol.
Brought up in Harlem, he lived amongst the hookers, pimps and junkies. A gun wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity. Folks either liked you or killed you.
For the liquor store job he used his .38 Detective’s Special. Killed a cop in the process and wished he hadn’t.
Being on the run, even for a pro like Colley, Cops everywhere. Sure, ex-stripper Jeanine helped him as did his old friend Benny, a pimp from the Bronx.
But in the end, it was all down to him. And he knew it……
A 1976 Ed McBain stand-alone for Past Offences’ Crimes of the Century meme. See other blogger's offerings here.
I’ve not read too much from McBain over the years, but based on my enjoyment of this harsh and brutal offering that’s something I’ll need to address.
We have a small gang of hold-up guys planning a liquor store robbery – their 13th job together. Colley wants to hold off because of the heat, more than superstition. Jocko, the leader is broke and insistent. You just know things are going to go wrong ……. and they do!
Two cops surprise them in the act and Colley shoots one, Jocko shoots the other but not before being wounded himself. With the help of the wheelman Teddy they escape back to Jocko’s apartment and his ex-stripper wife - Jeanine.
The late TV news confirms that one detective has died and another is wounded. Colley Donato’s living on borrowed time.
He visits a neighbourhood pal, Benny the pimp. He confesses and on his way to his mother’s house is shocked to find the police onto him so quickly. They are on the streets handing out fliers identifying him. A foot cop recognises him and the shout goes up. A chase ensues and Colley achieves a small triumph by eluding the cops, flipping them off in the process.
Back to Jocko’s, where things are not all well with our wounded leader and his wife. Jocko has systematically brutalised his wife over the years and she confides to Colley that she hopes he dies. Colley sees her bruises and a whole lot more and when Jocko drags himself from his bed and discovers the pair intimate, his rage explodes again. Colley’s a witness to Jeanine receiving more punishment before she grabs a kitchen knife and retaliates. Dreams can come true! Somewhat reluctantly as far as Donato is concerned, carnal relations resume on a blood-soaked floor.
Hasty plans are set in motion. Flee the city, get down South to Fort Myers where Jeanine lived before and somewhere she was once happy. Colley goes along with it, until he rebels. A botched diner robbery for some cash reserves, sees Colley shoot a short-order cook before abandoning Jeanine outside and heading for the woods. Fort Myers isn’t part of his future, especially not with a crazy lady. He’s a New York City boy.
City boys don’t do too well in the woods and Colley gets attacked by a massive dog on the loose, before managing to shoot his foaming attacker. Whilst recovering from the shock, he’s then laid out by the irate dog owner. I had visions of a re-enactment of a scene out of Deliverance as Colley comes to in a run-down hut guarded by an old hag – his captor’s wife, sister, lover….all three? His assailant returns with his slightly less mad brother. Eventually Colley outsmarts the trio – a considerable feat considering he isn’t the sharpest tool in the box himself and flees again.
Treatment for dog bites, another town and some flirting with another waitress. Colley harbouring delusions of a normal life, which isn’t going to happen. Another pursuit from the cops and an attempted gun store robbery. Colley’s race is nearly run.
Overall verdict – marvellous.
A great main character – Colley Donato; we have his family history, his descent into a life of crime. We are interested observers in his outcome, although we sense he’s doomed from the minute he unloads on the cop. A cop killer but someone who still had me rooting for him, during his various scrapes and escapades.
Harsh and brutal, with the odd splash off humour in some of our scenes. I was a wee bit surprised by some of McBain’s language. Perhaps if I had read more from him I wouldn’t have been.
4.5 out of 5
Amazon order history tells me I bought this for £2.76 back in May, 2006