Shannon #2: Shallow Grave, by Jake Quinn
November, 1974 Leisure Books
I nearly forgot about the Shannon series; the initial volume, The Undertaker, was one of the first reviews I wrote on the blog. Shallow Grave is very much in the vein of its predecessor; author Jake Quinn, whoever he was, is once again more focused on sex and drinking than on gun-blazing action, more focused on the “leisure” in Leisure Books.
Our hero Patrick Shannon is still a globe-trotting spy who likes his Jameson’s whiskey and his women. In fact the novel opens with not one but three girls hitting on Shannon as he swims in the pool while on vacation in Montego Bay, and they all go up to his hotel room for a little lovin’. As I wrote in my previous review, Shannon is incredibly idealized, but this series has to be a satire or spoof of the genre…I mean, we learn in this volume that Shannon is even a best-selling author, churning out a series of books about a spy, all of them based on his “real life” missions.
Quinn takes his good ol’ time setting up the plot. Apparently some voodoo cult in New York City is hacking up hookers and leaving their mutilated corpses laying around…but who cares, ’cause Shannon’s on vacation and he’s getting laid. He soaks up the sights with a friend who lives down here, eventually ending up in a swanky club where a gorgeous black lady dances for the audience. One lucky member can share a drink with her if he can do the limbo, and sure enough, Shannon’s the man. But the lady doesn’t just have a drink with him; she of course goes back to his place.
I should mention here that though there is quite a bit of sex in Shallow Grave, it isn’t the page-filling gratuitous kind like one would find in The Baroness. Yet for all of that Quinn doesn’t dole out the sexual euphemisms that Paul Kenyon is known for. In other words, he calls a cock a cock.
Eventually Shannon returns to his penthouse suite in Manhattan, where you will recall he lives in ultra-swank ’70s style, complete with a bedroom which is furnished with mirrored walls and ceiling. His stalwart companion Joe-Dad is there, the half-Chinese/half-black sidekick who serves up drinks, meals, and politically-incorrect banter. And too there’s Shannon’s stacked and gorgeous prostitute best friend, who is as ever in love with Shannon.
This time Quinn better works the lady into the plot; it’s her friends who are showing up dead, prostitutes whose mutilated and heroin-ridden corpses are popping up about NYC. So she plays a much larger part in Shallow Grave than in The Undertaker, even going out on reconnoiter missions with Shannon and Joe-Dad (who himself plays a larger role here).
But again our man Quinn is more concerned with the good times. Rather than jumping right into the case, Shannon instead bides his time, more focused on looking out from his penthouse view and belaboring over the misery of the world while sipping on some Jameson’s. As in the previous book Shannon drinks a whole bunch here, and I still say a case could be made for an “alternate reading” of the text, that Shannon in “reality” is a drunk who lives in his own fantasy world. Hell, the “bestselling writer” tag added with this volume only clinches it. Maybe the “real” Patrick Shannon is a drunk hack who churns out James Bond rip-offs while living in his own imaginary, booze-filled world.
Anyway this has nothing to do with the plot itself. Finally Shannon becomes involved, demanding that his boss, “Number One,” assign him to the case. Shannon’s method of research is so casual as to be hilarious; he basically just looks around New York City and waits for another body to show up. Quinn keeps the ball rolling with lurid scenes of hookers getting murdered every few chapters. A voodoo cult has sprung up in the city, and it likes to gather together, pound the voodoo drums, and sacrifice heroin-ravaged hookers.
Despite all of this, Quinn is still more interested in the non-action stuff. He even manages to slip in long flashbacks of not only Shannon’s bio, but also how he met his prostitute best friend/occasional lover (whose name I have obviously forgotten and am too lazy to look up). It’s funny, really, and while it might sound annoying it’s actually fun just because it’s so goofy and so unconcerned with action or thrills. In many ways Jake Quinn is like the alternate universe version of Joseph Rosenberger. Where Rosenbger is all action, all of the time, Quinn holds off on the action until absolutely necessary, and then dispenses with it quickly.
Strangely enough I really enjoyed Shallow Grave. In fact I enjoyed it even more than The Undertaker, which despite being a bit more lurid (what with its dwarf villain who wanted to hack off Shannon’s manhood and have it sewn on his own body…!), was actually a bit more boring. Actually, it’s that Shallow Grave is just so super-’70s.
There’s a great website/blog called Plaid Stallions, which is devoted to shaggy ’70s pop culture. The owner of that blog created a character to personify the he-males of 1970s fashion and lifestyle ads, and called him Brick Mantooth. Well, if Brick Mantooth starred in a men’s adventure series, it would be very much like Shannon.
And is it just me, or does it look like Shannon’s punching Gerald Ford on the bottom left of the cover?