Dark and gritty streets don’t get that way by themselves. Lurking eyes, thoughts soured by peril and desperation, and minds numbed by sickness and perversion make them that way. San Francisco Inspector Harry Callahan can be called the cure to these back-alley ills. Like all hard-boiled detectives, Callahan didn’t earn the nickname “Dirty Harry” by sitting at a desk.
While the 1980s were full of meaty fiction, and paved the way for dark literary giants such as Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Clive Barker, the 1980s were also a time when lesser-known novelists toiled away on classic characters. Conan novels were huge reads for anyone looking to devour the further adventures of their favorite Cimmerian, for instance. Other famed series includes Mack Bolan, Nick Carter, the James Bond continuation novels by John Gardner, a plethora of Star Trek paperback adventures, and plenty more. Into this mix came the pulpy, paperback Dirty Harry novels. Culled from the scenery-chewing Clint Eastwood films, which began with Dirty Harry in 1971, the series by Dane Hartman remained loyal to the no-nonsense, no-mercy killer found in Inspector Callahan.
Drenched in sex and gore, the novels take the grime of San Francisco’s unspoken bowels and explore them in a way largely untouched by the popular Warner Bros. film franchise. With only 12 books in the three-year run, the Hartman pulps were published during the height of Dirty Harry’s thug-shooting popularity in the early ’80s. Then, with publication of The Dealer of Death, the novels burned into obscurity, just as so many hot-blooded pulps of the ’40s and ’80s did before it.
Hartman, however, is largely believed to be a pseudonym for two successful authors who wrote for Warner’s Men of Action books imprint at the time. According to Wikimedia and other sources, author Ric Meyers, a film consultant and martial arts authority, is credited with penning the novels alongside fellow author Leslie Alan Horvitz, who specializes in scientific fiction and nonfiction.
Beginning with Dual for Cannons, and including such lurid titles as The Mexico Kill and City of Blood, the books threw Callahan against every type of heartless criminal imaginable, from kidnappers to pirates and all in between. Like many of the great pulps, including The Shadow and Fu Manchu titles of yesteryear, the Dirty Harry series left creative writing’s tendency for intellectual overachievement at the door, focusing instead on the story, brutal descriptions, and fast-paced action. Those looking for an adventure with their favorite .44 magnum-toting San Francisco police inspector need look no further than the pages of the Hartman novels to get one hell of a fix.