A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi & Bill Pronzini


LOREN ESTLEMAN – Kill Zone. Peter Macklin #1. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1984. Fawcett Gold Medal, paperback, 1986.

   In Kill Zone, Loren Estleman, who is best known for his rough-and-tumble. Chandlcrcsque private-eye novels, introduces Peter Macklin, “efficiency expert” — a euphemism for hit man. Macklin is the toughest character-hero or antihero-to arrive in crime fiction since Richard Stark’s Parker; and Estleman’s prose the hardest-boiled since the days of Paul Cain  and Cap Shaw’s Black Mask. Macklin and Estleman, in fact, would probably have been too grimly realistic even for the pioneering Shaw and his magazine.

   A terrorist group takes control of a Lake Erie excursion boat with 800 passengers, rigging it as a floating bomb. They demand the release of three prisoners within ten days. Michael Boniface, the head of the Detroit mob. offers his assistance from his prison cell in return for parole, but it is not until the FBI discovers that one of the passengers on the boat is a cabinet member’s daughter that they take him up on it. Boniface’s assistance is in the form of his top “efficiency expert,” Peter Macklin.

   Macklin tries to concentrate on the business at hand while dealing with an alcoholic wife. the knowledge that someone close to him has betrayed him, and the fact that he is being stalked by a killer working for Charles Maggiore, acting head of the mob, who does not want Boniface to get out of prison.

   Estleman takes an expertise previously displayed in PI and western novels (one of his westerns, Aces and Eights, won the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Novel of 1982), and in applying it to a different type of novel has once again scored high marks. Fans of hard-boiled fiction won’t want to miss it — or subsequent Peter Macklin titles: Kill Zone is the first of at least three.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

      The complete Peter Macklin series —

1. Kill Zone (1984)
2. Roses Are Dead (1985)
3. Any Man’s Death (1986)
4. Something Borrowed, Something Black (2002)
5. Little Black Dress (2005)