Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sharky's Machine by William Diehl

Sharky's Machine By William Diehl
Dell 18292, Copyright 1978

William Diehl waited until the resilient age of 50 to start his first novel. The story behind that, is he was a
seated juror on a trial and was so bored with it, he grabbed a notepad and starting writing. Well if true, we have to thank his local jury commissioners office, because what came out was “Sharky’s Machine,” a novel that holds nothing back and throws just about everything at the reader.

She lay beside the table. Her face was gone. Part of her shoulder was blown away. The right side of her head had been destroyed. She was a soggy, limp bundle laying partly against the wall in front of the door, blood pumping from her head, her neck, her shoulder. A splash of blood on the wall dripped down to the body.
Sharky clenched his teeth, felt bile sour in his throat, cried out, "No. Goddamnmit, no!"

Kicked out of the narcotics department after a bloody shootout in the streets of Atlanta, Sharky gets thrown down into the lowly Vice Squad. But he’s a good hard street cop and along with fellow beaten down Vice misfits, (the “Machine”) they quickly stumble upon a high-class prostitution ring. The operation seems to be shaking down wealthy “johns,” so they set up surveillance involving everything from shadowing people to wire-taps. A hooker named Domino becomes the "person of interest" in the corrupt scheme and Sharky obsessively
makes her the focus of the investigation. Just when we get comfortable with the violence, sex, and pace in the story, Diehl takes it to another level. You have an U.S. Senator making plans for a Presidential run linked to the call-girl, a shady millionaire called DeLaroza who is connected to the Senator and Domino, and one of the most ruthless paid killers I have come across in any novel. Murders start occurring and once Sharky learns that Domino’s life is in danger, the "Machine" decides to hush up the investigation from their superiors and go it alone.

This turns out bigger than a standard street cop novel. Millions of dollars of stolen gold from WWII is tied to DeLaroza, and he needs people silenced. The U.S. Senators’ bid for the White House is in jeopardy and he needs Delaroza’s help. And our crazed hitman just keeps on coming. Of course Sharky falls for Domino, and the sex scenes of her with customers and Sharky listening in on the wire, are vicariously erotic. (Definitely “adults only” stuff) The novel succeeds in capturing the acrid street pulse of the late 1970s, using violence on high-volume, plenty of foul mouth language, and mysterious characters thriving on sleaze and power. Diehl creates a dirty, rash, and cold atmosphere, which makes the private scenes between Sharky and Domino, that much more endearing. And it is these brief pockets of tenderness that balances out the extreme raw edge that dominates the novel. But don’t get me wrong, this novel was written to get your attention.

For starting late, William Diehl authored a handful of excellent novels and fans of his work will differ on which is their favorite. But for me, “Sharky’s Machine” will always be on top.

This novel is an erupting force that spits at you.....


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, August. It looks like a great one.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Wasn't that a Burt Reynolds movie title - any connection?

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Yep Wiki'D IT - It was.

August West said...

I never saw the movie, but I'd be curious on how they pulled it off. This novel is so full of bloodshed and descriptive sex, that anything put on film must have been watered down and the plot line altered. (I hope it was played straight and not one of Burt Reynolds' silly movies)

I've lived by the rule that the book is always 99% better than the film. I'd wager a small bet that this is true for "Sharky's Machine." (But I've been known to be wrong many times)
If anyone out there read the book and saw the movie could answer this-Please let me know.

Prof. Hex said...

I read Sharky's Machine when I was 13 and it completely blew my young mind. The sex, the violence- it pretty much sums up 70s adult novels for me. The movie was a successful adaptation and well received at the time though largely forgotten today. Reynolds played it straight and also directed. Excellent cast, too. Henry Silva is really scary as the assassin and a young Rachel Ward played Domino. I remember the plot being somewhat simplified from the novel but basically the same. One of Reynolds' better pictures to be sure.

There seems to be a remake in the works with Mark Wahlberg (!) so the book should come out in a new edition shortly.

Excellent choice for a forgotten book!

FizzWater said...

Great book - very underrated. I always recommend this and Quinnell's Man On Fire when they ask about books that have been adapted.

The movie was excellent and is an example of just how great a director Burt Reynolds is. Wish he'd do more.

Terrific site.

Juri said...

There was also a great late eighties rock band called Sharky's Machine - very mean and loud Detroit-style rock. I've always wondered if they took their name from the film or the book.

Marty McKee said...

I did a book report on this when I was in high school. My teacher was not thrilled with my choice, when she looked at the book and noticed the, uh, mature content. It's a terrific book, though, and a heckuva movie, even if it is somewhat sanitized. The best film Burt Reynolds ever directed, for sure, and one of the best he ever starred in. Diehl's a great writer, and his Martin Vail trilogy (the first of which, PRIMAL RAGE, was also filmed) I heartily recommend.

Marty McKee said...

I forgot to mention that SHARKY'S MACHINE is sadly underrepresented on Region 1 DVD, only available in a pan-and-scan format. A real crime that this film isn't getting its digital due.

August West said...

Marty: I wonder what you got for a grade on that book report.

Anonymous said...

I googled "Valdez is Coming" and that's how I ended up here. I was looking for western book suggestions. Got a few western suggestions but also some others including this book.

I saw the movie. It is one of Burt Reynold's better movies. It has a good cast. Brian Keith is in it. Charles Durning, Earl Holliman and Bernie Casey who I believe was a tight end for the 49ers at one time. I don't recall any sex but there was a good amount of violence. The movie has one of my favorite movie lines in it. Burt Reynolds goes into a restaurant to tell the head bad guy that he's going down - every crime drama has to have one of those. So Reynolds tells him he is going to take him down and he ends with: "And you know what the worst part is - you're from out of state." Classic line.

Anonymous said...

By far the one of the best Burt Reynolds if not THE best because he played it totally straight. The scene where he is kicked out of his department and sent to VICE is like someone going down into hell. At first you think he will be miserable down there. He is not a team player. But his character learns to like his coworkers and together they form a "machine" that ends up tackling a much bigger problem than he ever did alone. Rachel Ward is staggeringly lovely in the movie and it is intense. I'm not a BR fan, but I've seen this movie close to ten times.

Anonymous said...

Good movie and a great book. Hard to believe there was actually a time when there were books and movies made for adults instead of teenagers and tech geeks. I miss those days. Oh well at least there is always my DVD collection.