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In the ’70s Bloodiest Men’s Adventure Novel, Johnny Rock Wants to Feed Your Junk to Rats


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The Sharpshooter #3: Blood Bath
Author: Bruno Rossi
Date: 1973
Publisher: Leisure Books, New York
Discovered at: Used book store
The Cover Promises: When you eat here, you’re family.

Representative Quotes:

“He could hear Luci Sordi’s terrifying screams as another spatter of tearing slugs stitched down Milano’s back, almost cutting his body in half down to his blood soaked buttocks.” (page 132)

“He gouges out eyes and chops off your arm piece by piece and one poor man he had his face chopped with a hatchet and his tongue sliced long ways before he cut it off with garden shears. Another man who wouldn’t tell Alberto what he wanted, he buried right in our own back yard with just his head out. It was disgusting! Alberto keeps big Dobermans, man-eaters, and they shit a lot because they eat enough for three men.” (page 149).

“He gouges out eyes and chops off your arm piece by piece and one poor man he had his face chopped with a hatchet and his tongue sliced long ways before he cut it off with garden shears. Another man who wouldn’t tell Alberto what he wanted, he buried right in our own back yard with just his head out. It was disgusting! Alberto keeps big Dobermans, man-eaters, and they shit a lot because they eat enough for three men.” (page 149).

American men love bloody revenge so much that at some low points in our history they have even resorted to reading books to get their fix. Fortunately, today’s gentleman can sate this lust with a jaunt to the Redbox for the latest Snipesploitation classic.

But before direct-to-DVD and video games, it was up to novelists like “Bruno Rossi” — certainly a pseudonym — to chum the waters of masculine entertainment.

And chum Rossi did. In his Blood Bath we meet Johnny Rock, a man on a mission: “hunting down and personally murdering anyone even distantly related to the hated Mafia.”

Rossi is so focused on sadistic mayhem that he never explains why this is Rock’s mission, or even why he goes by “The Sharpshooter” instead of “Johnny Rock,” a perfectly badass name already — even if it does suggest a port-a-potty shaped like Rockefeller


In Blood Bath, Johnny Rock dedicates himself to brining down the powerful, respected mobster Lorenzo Torrielli, whose description was already hilariously dated, even in 1973:

“Torrielli was one of the most powerful Mafioso in the East and for all intents and purposes as legal as President Nixon.”

In the first chapter alone, the following violent acts transpire. Note the “House That Jack Built” quality to these events:

  • Teensy kittens get eaten by rats.
  • The legs of gangster (captured but not yet killed by Rock) are gnawed to bone by those same rats.
  • Rock engineers Chinese water torture by dripping blood from the rat-eaten corpse into a bathtub.
  • The blood in bathtub is licked up by the cats who have managed to escape the rats.
  • After poking half-eaten face of corpse with a stick, Jessie Armstrong gets kidnapped by Johnny Rock.

Those rats are a favorite motif of Rossi’s. They gnaw at flesh throughout the book, showing up about as often as these other key features of Rossi’s prose:
Risible Mafia dialogue:

“Listen to me, you fuckin’ birdbrains. I ain’t scared to say who I hit and I ain’t gonna’ say I hit when I don’t. Knock it off!”

Descriptions cribbed from that novel Snoopy’s been working on:

“It was so pitch black it was spooky.”

Excitable inventories:

“In his artillery case he had his faithful M79 Army grenade launcher with plenty of ammo, two Marine Corps sniper rifles, and his trusty Israeli UZI submachine gun. The latter piece could stitch a man’s head from his neck with such lovely precision the severed skull would appear to have been sliced off with a fine surgeon’s scalpel.”

Perhaps the best way to suggest the brute terribleness of Blood Bath is to itemize its most impressive bursts of nastiness, chapter by chapter. Please note that I’m skipping over many of the more workaday shootings and bludgeonings and blowing-uppenings.

Chapter Two:
Jessie Armstrong — described in this chapter as “the mighty Negro,” “the huge muscular Negro,” “this big black,” etc. — gets kidnapped by Rock. Again. Inevitably, Rossi describes “the grim-looking Beretta pointed right against the Negro’s thick neck.”

Chapter Three:
Armstrong — “the agile Negro” — “clobber”s Johnny Rock, so Rock shoots Armstrong — “the fleeing Negro” — in the ankle on a subway platform. Later, after being called “Whitey,” Rock throws a Smith & Wesson at the skull of Armstrong (“the powerful black”).

Also, Rock chloroforms Armstrong’s girlfriend — “the Negro wench” — prompting this response:

“‘Holy Chirst!’ the black exclaimed, snorting his nostrils. ‘Holy shit!'”

Chapter Four:
A huge dog, dead on a pier, swarms with maggots and has already lost its head to rats, which strikes Johnny Rock as symbolic of the Mafia. Meanwhile, Armstrong — here “the huge Negro” — “slug”s Rock, so Rock brings “a flashlight crashing down on the black’s head.”

Eventually, Rock chlorfoforms Armstrong and some rats, which he stuffs into a sack for later use.

Chapter Five:
Rock chains up Armstrong and the half-naked “Negro wench” in a cage with the sack of  flesh-eating rats. Than he blows up a boat toting a shipment of ammonium, which is apparently what the Mafia is into.

Chapter Six:
Gangsters Joseph Latino, Soap Moranno, Georgio Da Vinci, and others discuss Johnny Rock in dialogue like “He don’t do no pussyfootin’.”

Chapter Eight:
Rock visits gay bar “The Cock-a-Too” to find Charles Milano, a gangster who owns “seven bars catering exclusively to the interests of sexual deviates.” There Rock finds “tastefully dressed men of all ages” but notes that “the entire bar smelled like a woman’s cosmetics counter.”

Weirdly, Rock brings a gangster down with “one silent ‘plop’ of the Baretta.” Rock slaughters many men, some of them “prissy.”

Chapter Ten:
Rock tortures Armstrong, kidnaps yet another mobster and a girlfriend. The girl winds up in the rat cage, which Rock tricks out with barbed wire; the mobster ends up shot. Meanwhile, Armstrong “licks his thick lips” as his eyes “travel hungrily over the lightly clad body” of the new girl.

Chapter Thirteen:
With blasts from his UZI, Rock severs the arm of a captive gangster so that it dangles from the wrist of of the nude woman to whom said gangster was handcuffed. Later, Rock tosses the severed arm to the rats.

Chapter Fifteen:
A tender interlude with the wife of a Mafioso.

“She talked briefly about her husband. Why she cheated on him. How she was forced to marry him. How he maltreated her during sex. ‘You know he’s only dicked me here once, and it hurt like all hell. All the other times he goes the back road and that hurts less. I’m practically a virgin.”

Rock’s response: “What about all those other guys. They all didn’t turn you over.”

That is no typo of mine. Rock is so cool he doesn’t even put a “?” at the end of his questions.

Also, Rock shoots two rats who aren’t quick enough to chow down on a severed leg he tosses them, and the kidnaped wife who has witnessed all this throws herself into Rock’s arms and says, “I like you!”

Rossi describes Rock’s response thusly:

“His decision mechanism was vacillating.”

When his mechanism settles, Rock chloroforms her.

Chapters Eighteen Through Twenty:
In a stolen Cadillac occupied by two dead gangsters, Rock blows up a building or something, which is apparently the climax, although Rossi neglects to describe it.

Also: “Two of the larger male rodents were fighting over Grimaldi’s penis and testicles.”

Shocking Detail:
Other fine publications from Leisure Books!

Not once throughout these 200 pages is Rock ever in any danger, and never once does it appear his plan might not come together. Because Rock is clearly psychotic, and because he is one of those men’s adventure prepared-for-anything Batman types, he always has the drop on everyone. That means the book’s only suspense lies in wondering just how depraved Rossi will let the killings become.

Sadly, they’re never more inspired than the bloody bathtub of the first pages. The rest are as rote as the non-boss encounters in a second-tier video game.

Poor Rossi: his Sharpshooter books made it to thirteen volumes but never reached the success of The Executioner or even that knock-off comic thug The Punisher.

Steady, no-tension slaughter was his business — and business is boring.


This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 13, 2011

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