Quarry in the Middle Cover Sketches

September 21st, 2009 by Max Allan Collins

We’ve had our first print review of QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE, by Mike Rogers in Library Journal and it’s a rave:
Collins’s eclectic hit man returns. With his “Broker” (the guy who arranges his kills) dead and Quarry in possession of the man’s records, he begins turning the tables on his fellow assassins by warning their soon-to-be victims and offering to save their skins by cleaning the cleaners—for a hefty fee. Looking to make one last juicy score so he can retire and get out of the life before his own ticket inevitably is punched, business takes him to Haydee’s Port, IL, a backwater sleaze pit that’s “all sex and murder and money.” There he approaches Richard Cornell, a casino owner who’s about to have a fatal accident courtesy of rival gambling boss Jerry Giovanni. As usual, things don’t go quite according to plan, and Quarry finds himself between the two when his cover is blown and Giovanni’s crew come gunning for him instead. Of course, in between shootings and beatings and double crosses Quarry manages to engage in satisfying sex with top-shelf honeys from their 20s to their 50s (he doesn’t discriminate).

Collins masterfully balances the standard sex and violence with humor and style, and like the series’ previous installments, Quarry in the Middle is a lightning-fast-can’t-put-it-down read. As soon as you finish it, you’ll be aching for the next one. Let’s hope Quarry never retires. Highly recommended for mystery collections.

Copyright 2009, Library Journal
Speaking of Quarry, Nate suggested that we show you the preliminary sketches by master noir paperback artist Ron Lesser that led to the published cover of QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE. One of the things that has made Hard Case Crime’s great reputation are the retro covers; another thing that makes the company great is editor Charles Ardai allowing the writer to have input into those covers.

Quarry in the Middle Sketch
Quarry in the Middle Sketch #1, Copyright 2009, Ron Lesser

Quarry in the Middle Sketch
Quarry in the Middle Sketch #2, Copyright 2009, Ron Lesser

Quarry in the Middle Sketch
Quarry in the Middle Sketch #3, Copyright 2009, Ron Lesser

The three rough sketches Charles sent me were all terrific, and he liked them all, but his least favorite was the sketch that ultimately became the basis of the cover. Charles actually allowed me to overrule him. I think he was surprised that I wanted to go with the slickest of the designs, the other two being very much the kind of dark, sexually disturbing image you’d see on a Spillane paperback (or imitation Spillane paperback) in the late fifties or early sixties.

But I liked making the obvious visual pun of having Quarry in the middle of two beauties, and I also liked the fun of putting my everyman hitman into a James Bond-ish image. The book wasn’t written yet, and I knew I could justify Quarry’s spiffier look, clothes and all, in the text. That’s something that happened with THE FIRST QUARRY—the painting came first, and I wrote the scene into the book, just like pulp writers used to in the old days.

The painting itself was tweaked a little to my specifications, as Quarry was depicted as very blond at first and, at my request through Charles, artist Lesser darkened the hair.

Quarry in the Middle

Now that Quarry is “back” (for at least a few novels), embracing the Bond-ish series look in one of the covers seemed appropriate and a hoot.


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4 Responses to “Quarry in the Middle Cover Sketches”

  1. uk_vintage says:

    Sketch 2 is a twin of a Mitchell Hooks cover Bantam 1565 ‘The Wench is Dead’by Fredric Brown:

  2. uk_vintage says:

    Here is the Cover:

  3. Those were just rough concept sketches, and the use of covers of the period as inspiration for retro covers like the Hard Case titles is pretty common. But it’s a moot point, really, since the design wasn’t used.

    Interesting connection, though. Thanks for sharing it.