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Full Name: John Kane
Codename: Cain
Nationality: American
Organization: None
Occupation Freelance Agent

Creator: Ralph Dennis
Time Span: 1976 - 2019


John Kane is a freelance assassin.

That's what he has been doing for a couple of years now, operating more or less out of Atlanta. Kane would take only the cases that interested him but when he toke one on, he saw it to the end and that end was usually final for someone. Kane was very, very good at dispatching people, especially when they deserved it and deserving it was the deciding factor as to whether Kane would accept the job.

The jobs came to him via his broker, Jackson Carter, CPA. At least Certified Public Accountant is what the lettering on the door says but as his secretary and receptionist, Sarah, could tell you, she is instructed to turn away any new business with a friendly "no new clients at this time". And she might admit that there have been no old clients for the two years she has worked there. Carter was really the sort of man that someone who knows someone who knows someone would be contacted when there was a special sort of work needing doing. And Kane was the man that Carter would often call to do it.

But Kane had not always been Kane. Before, he was Cain, a codename for the man he had once been. Edward Starke, born about 35 years before the first recorded adventure. Raised in Virginia with a good family life, attended college on a football scholarship until an injury ended that. Denied military service because of that injury. Then while working at a gun store, came to the attention of Whistler.

Whistler was a big wig with the Agency. He saw in Starke a talent for killing and looked further into him. Eventually a job offer was made and after the requisite training, Starke became Cain and then followed several years of solid service. Then the explosion, the physical and mental trauma that would alter him. But he knew too much. In some circumstances, he might be marked for elimination but Whistler chose not. What Kane was given, unknown to him, was a second choice.

Chemically induced amnesia, followed by sessions to "give" him a new identity with a past of its own that did not include the Agency. Now named John Kane, he was put out on the street but monitored. His new history had him with a different but still happy childhood, service in the Army, a good past.

But when someone has been trained and trained to be a killer and had killed on numerous occasions as part of his 'normal' life, can that be forgotten? The answer is no. So Starke became Cain the government killer who became Kane the contract killer.


Number of Books:2
First Appearance:1976
Last Appearance:2019

1 Deadman's Game Deadman's Game
Written by Ralph Dennis
Copyright: 1976

Kane accepts a contract to find what happened to the brother of a woman and to exact vengeance if warranted. With help he tracks the man to a small city in the South and learns of the man's murder. His path is then clear but following him is a CIA agent ordered to take Kane out for good.
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2 Kane (working title) Kane (working title)
Written by Ralph Dennis
Copyright: 1978

An unpublished manuscript written sometime around 1978.

2.5 A Talent For Killing A Talent For Killing
Written by Ralph Dennis, Lee Goldberg
Copyright: 2019

This is a newly released merge between Deadman's Game and Kane, edited and partially rewritten by Goldberg, Lee to make one story. The plot of this rewrite is: "Kane was a top CIA assassin until he suffered traumatic physical and psychological injuries in a mission that went horribly wrong. The Agency wiped his memory, gave him a new identity, and retired him to a life of mundane, anonymous domesticity. But his training, and his talent for killing, came back with a vengeance. He created a new life for himself as a killer-for-hire, righting wrongs for people who can't find peace or justice any other way. He doesn't know that his memories are fiction, or that he is always being watched, or that he's been targeted for death by a rogue faction within the Agency."
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Back in the day, I would not have added Ralph Dennis's spy novel, Deadman's Game, even if I did read a few years ago in a Mystery File article that there had been an unpublished sequel. I mean, of course, I could have but unpublished meant just that.

Then Lee Goldberg, champion of all things Ralph Dennis and the man who resurrected the terrific Hardman series of private detective adventures, got permission to also dust off that unpublished yarn and, according to him, clean it up with some editing and needed tweaks and voila!

I was fortunate to get a sneak peak at the finished combination and absolutely loved it. Once I saw that work was itself released to the public, I jumped at the chance to rave about it on Amazon via review and to add this entry. I recommend the book strongly to anyone who likes both spy novels and private detective novels with a nice twist of assassin thrown in. Fun fun couple of books merged into one.


My Grade: A-


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