Book Report: Sharky’s Machine by William Diehl (1978)

Continuing what only appears to be 70s Week here in the MfBJN book review department: I bought this book at the Kirkwood Book Fair for $2.00 because I recognized the name from the 1981 Burt Reynolds movie and thought that, since it was only $2.00 for a stated second printing, it might be worth something Of course, since I seem to be falling into collecting books that are the sources of movies (more to come from the Kirkwood Book Fair where I fell), I guess it is worth that to me, even though I’m not making a killing on these books. Perhaps it’s just my way of reading the pop culture that everyone talked about some years ago.

At any rate, this book depicts a narc cop (Sharky) who gets put on vice detail when one of his narc stakeouts takes a deadly turn. Once in vice, he gets a case to run, complete with supporting personnel (the “machine” of the title). A simple investigation into a prostitution/blackmail stakeout leads to a presidential candidate looking to unseat President Ford bankrolled by stolen World War II gold.

The book starts out Ludlumesque, but about 300 pages into its 370 page length, the book goes Hollywood. You can almost hear the pens of the Hollywood people signing the option while Diehl was still writing. Nevertheless, the book represents some interesting, accessibly 70s pseudo-pulp. The book relies on a third person limited omniscient narrator, but cuts back and forth betwene characters and even begins with the 1944 theft of gold to engage the middle-aged reader of its day. Equal parts MacLean, Ludlum, and 70s film detective fiction, this book satisfied me. For a couple bucks, who could go wrong?

Of course, you cannot expect to get a stated Second Printing for a couple bucks like I did, gentle reader. You should expect to pay $30 or $150 or something so as to inflate my perceived value of my own collection. If you’re not buying the stuff off of Amazon courtesy the handy links below, it’s the least you could do.

Books mentioned in this review:

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