by Gary Alexander
In this age of the fictional vampire and other writerly fads, is the classic hit man/woman/person in mystery fiction getting the hook?
Perhaps, perhaps not.
I’m not suggesting that they’re going the way of the Ivory-billed woodpecker, but their purity is in jeopardy. Hit persons are showing up as protagonists, for crying out loud.
|Disappeared's new digital cover!|
Whether they’re pathologically bad or are written with some, uh, redeeming qualities, they pretty much do the same thing. They kill somebody and get paid for it. This usually goes on until the end of the novel. Then the hit person is either dispatched by a civic-minded protagonist or retained for the next book in the series, whether he or she is the protagonist or not.
I’m sorry, but that’s just too neat and civilized for my taste.
In Disappeared, Ted Snowe turns the profession on its ear. Ted is an ersatz hit man. The Mafia pays him to “whack out” individuals with whom they have grievances. Ted takes their cash under false pretenses. Instead of giving value for payment received, he prepares new identities for the subjects, throws a net over them, charges them a hefty fee for their lives, and releases them into the wild, thus double-dipping.
Ted is bluffing them. He wouldn’t harm a soul, except opponents with his elbows when he played minor-league basketball in places like Rockford and La Crosse, as boos echoed throughout near-empty gyms.
This outrageous violation of business ethics eventually comes to the attention of his clients, who send a real hit man after Ted.
Leonardo (The Asp) Aspromonte loves his work and takes enormous pride in it. He idolizes Albert Anastasia, president and CEO of Murder Incorporated, an organization with an impressive body count. Albert, himself, was whacked out on Friday, October 25, 1957, while reclined in a barber chair at Manhattan’s Park Sheraton for his last shave, allegedly by the Gallo brothers, capable hit men in their own right.
The Asp does catch up to Ted, but he also receives a minor-league elbow to the noggin before he can do what he does. When The Asp awakens, Anastasia is inside his head, serving for the rest of the novel as a consultant.
So there it is, an untidy professional sequence, circular mayhem or the promise thereof. A hit man who isn’t is pursued by a hit man who is, aided by the mother of all hit men, who was ventilated over fifty-five years ago.
Further, Ted Snowe, the phony-baloney assassin, becomes romantically entangled with the ex-wife of one of his non-victims.
And late in Disappeared, yet another person arrives to practice the craft, providing a lollapalooza of an ending.
That would be telling.
Gary Alexander's mystery caper, Disappeared, first appeared in hardcover through Five Star Cengage Press, and is now available digitally through Istoria Books. Order here on Amazon.
Istoria Books's "Mysterious Monday" program features posts about mystery writing, reading, bookselling and more by writers from beyond the Istoria stable. Stop back on Mondays for insightful posts on the mystery genre. Check out Istoria Books's mystery offerings here.
Mysterious Monday posts from the past:
- A President's Day Mystery
- Mystery writers' and readers' mystery pet peeves, part deux
- Mystery writers and readers' mystery pet peeves, part one
- Carola Dunn writes about her experiences with a mysterious bookstore display: Downton Abbey, Barnes & Noble, and Carola Dunn
- JennyMilchman writes about "Putting the MIST in mystery: obscuring facts"
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