Last month I had an opportunity to do a little jetsetting. Not far mind you, just up to Canberra, to the National Gallery where there was an exhibition of Renaissance paintings (Raphael, Titian, Botticelli et al.). You see, there is more to me than martinis, girls and guns – but not much. Of course, even a trip that short had me spending plenty of time on trains, buses and aeroplanes – and that required me to find a suitable piece of airport fiction. And to my mind there are only a few authors at the moment who are writing balls to the wall, by the seat of your pants, high octane thrillers, which take the drudgery out of endless hours of sitting on your butt, waiting on connections, or even worse, being delayed. One of those authors is Matt Hilton.
Cut and Run is the fourth book in the Joe Hunter series, and a rip roaring read it is too. For a brief second, I thought Hilton may have been repeating himself, with another psychopath chasing a defenceless woman story – but he proves he has a few more tricks up his sleeve by twisting this tale into a jungle adventure, with Hunter and his team making an incursion into Columbia.
The story starts with a nice twist. I must admit it has been about eighteen months since I have read a Joe Hunter story and had I forgot the story structure that Hilton uses. Which is, one chapter written in the first person, which is Hunter’s point of view; and then the next written in the third person which is the villain’s journey through the story. Now I am not going to spoil the beginning, but I forgot Hilton’s technique and he caught me on the back foot – almost so, that I was yelling at the book (which must have raised a few eyebrows in the departure lounge!)
The villain of the piece, is a fellow by the name of Luke Rickard and he is a hired assassin, and his target is Joe Hunter. But Rickard is such a twisted piece of work, and he doesn’t just want to kill Hunter, but also kill those close to him. In this instance, it is Imogen Ballard – a character carried over from the previous book in the series, Slash and Burn – that Rickard goes after.
Once all hell breaks loose, as it inevitably does, Hunter and his friends, Jared ‘Rink’ Rington and Harvey Lucas are seconded into the service of the CIA. It seems Hunter isn’t the only one that that has been targeted by Rickard. Other operatives who were on the same mission as Hunter, in Columbia, many years previous, have also been targeted (and killed), with their families, by Rickard.
Cut and Run is a great deal of fun, in a brutal riddled with bullets kind of way. But that is exactly the way it should be. By the end of the story, Hunter is battered, bruised and bleeding. He is absolutely put through the ringer – so too is the reader.
As someone who dabbles in graphic design, I must admit I am fascinated by the marketing and the presentation of the Joe Hunter books (in Australia and England at least, where we share the same cover art). They are presented as very slick, fast paced thrillers – which the stories undoubtedly are. Hunter is always shown in silhouette running and shooting, or rappelling from a helicopter, or parachuting down over a city. It’s all action packed, but they are very modern images. Despite the modernity, in some ways, as Hunter is often described as a vigilante, and the stories are blood and thunder epics, I do not believe they are too far removed from the old men of action thrillers of the 1970s and `80s. I certainly don’t mean that in a negative way, the Hunter books are considerably more substantial than those men’s pulps. But I can see a lineage which makes me enjoy the books even more – and there’s a nostalgic part of me that would love to see them with hand painted cover art, with an artist’s depiction of Hunter and ‘Rink’ standing back to back with their guns a blazin’. Of course, there’d be a dame on the cover too – most likely kneeling at Hunter’s feet, with an arm curled around his leg. Well it’s a dream anyway, but one that probably doesn’t belong in this modern world, but you know what I mean!