Review: A Talent For Revenge

A Talent For Revenge

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I think I may have found it. The apex. The apogee. The peak. The high point, the distillation of everything that “men’s adventure” fiction contained, all packed into A Talent For Revenge, the premier book in the “Specialist” series by “John Cutter” (a pen name of John Shirley).

The book stars supermerc Jack Sullivan as he’s hired by an heiress to kill an exiled African dictator. (Yes, the plot can be summed up in one sentence. This is men’s adventure). The men’s adventure-ness of this can be summed up by how the book blends more or less every single trend that these throwaway pulps put together.

  • 70s men’s adventure was notorious for sexual sleaze. Guess what this book has lots of?
  • 80s men’s adventure was notorious for ridiculously long descriptions of weapons. Guess what this book has lots of?
  • 70s men’s adventure frequently let its heroes get banged up. This happens to Sullivan, but….
  • 80s men’s adventure frequently turned its heroes into unstoppable fleshy Terminators. Sullivan also definitely qualifies as one.
  • Then there’s the constants, like a ridiculous amount of gore and a total lack of tastefulness.

By the late 80s, the genre had (with the obvious exceptions) begun to harden around the “80s, no sex, lots and lots of gun descriptions” style. The 90s commercially devastated it to such a degree that technothrillers looked untouched in comparison. When I came of age, “men’s adventure” in its purest form was down to cheap-looking Gold Eagles with awkward covers.

So I have a strange appreciation for this spectacle. If I had to show someone one book that would sum up “men’s adventure”, it would be this one.