Passion Has No Rule Book by Ennis Willie (Merit Books, 1964)
This is one of the better Sand books, or better than the two we have discussed here, Aura of Sensuality and Warped Ambitions, which were okay…then again, maybe they were read out of order. Ex-hitman on the run, Sand, as well as Ennis Willie, have quite the uinderground following, and seems to have influenced a number of writers, from Ed Gorman to Wayne Dundee to Bill Crider…and now we are convinced that Andrew Vachss modeled his anti-hero, Burke, after Sand: similar voices and tone, similar colorful characters popping up…like Sand, Burke lives on the edge of society and the law, but operates on a curious moral compass of justice and a code of honor found only in the mean streets of crime noir, with the occasional over sensual beauty entering the anti-hero’s life.
Passion Has No Rule Book is a dumb title for this short novel, which is why Willie has re-titled it Death in a Dead Place for the recent omnibus from Ramble House, Sand’s Game. It opens with Sand catching a bullet from a Syndicate snuper but surviving. He has been hiding out as a homeless man, making friends on the street…one is an old man named Sticky, who lets Sand rest at his niece’s place. His niece is shocked, but soon falls for Sand and they spend three days in bed — strange? Well, passion has no rule book as the title says, and women always fall for the tall blonde Sand in these books.
Uncle Sticky then turns up dead in a dark rented room with strange growths all over his body — just as Sand arrives, a man in a suit is there and tries to shoot Sand and Sand takes the gun and kills the man. Seems Sticky had stolen an attache case belonging to this man, and inside were liquid viles, but they did not contain booze…
The man Sand kills has a foreign passport. He knows this isn’t a hit man from the mob. He puts two and two together and comes up with a bio-terrorism plot that Sand’s inside guy at the police station thinks is a crazy idea, so Sand decides to do his own investigating — he cares less about the terrorists, he wants to avenge the death of his friend, which is the motivation behind the other two Sand books we looked at here.
The terrorists and their plot is a bit far-fetched, but who knows these days, maybe possible and plausible, and as Sand kills off more hit man on his tail, he winds up saving millions, and probably the world, something he will never get credit for…
Damn good read with an ending Mickey Spilliane would give two thumbs up.