As a reward for indulging me in my madness last week (indulge, hell, like any o' ya fuckin' read it! Ya fuckers oughtta be posting book reviews for me! ;) ), here's something a little more conventional: book reviews. They're mostly action-series books but I threw in a little horror and one pseudo-classic (Death Wish) in there, just for variety. If that doesn't shake ya, at least I scanned in a bunch of book covers you can look at. Yee ha!
Nazi Hunter #2: Slaughter Summit - Mark Mandell (Pinnacle - 1982)
Curt Jaeger is the son of a top Nazi war criminal out to make up for his father's crimes and avenge his mother's murder by tracking down his dad and killing him, and any former or Neo-Nazis he encounters along the way. In this book he goes to a ski resort where a cache of WWII gold is hidden and guarded by a former SS major and his Neo-Nazi underlings. Curt's mission is compromised by an Israeli commando raid on the place and Curt is captured, tortured, and nearly killed in a fissure in a glacier. But he escapes long enough to use most of the weapons in his arsenal of a grenade launcher, submachine gun, and a bolt-action handgun fashioned from a powerful hunting rifle. The Nazis are cowardly and inept so they don't make worthy adversaries, and too much time is spent torturing Curt so the actual fighting has to be crammed in almost as an afterthought, but this is still a well-written action novel. The fact that the swastika in the book's logo is facing the wrong way should serve as a warning not to expect too much accuracy, though... but, who can resist reading about Nazis getting mowed down?
Hawk #1: The Deadly Crusader - Dan Streib (Jove, 1980)
First in an action series that puts more emphasis on intrigue and romance than the usual. Michael Hawk is an ambitious journalist who doesn't mind getting in trouble to get a story, and has no trouble picking up women. Arriving in Greece after his release from a KGB prison, he soon finds more trouble in the form of a mysterious Godfather-like figure who doesn't want his secrets revealed. Hawk's determined to discover them anyway, and he's soon the target of assassins who want pictures he's taken, and a girl he's involved with may be a spy, and a lot of other overly-convoluted and not-quite-interesting-enough-to-keep-up-with plot is going on. It's decently written (although overwritten sometimes and a bit heavy on the melodrama; it's got ambitions to be more than pulp, which isn't a bad thing if it's handled well... but it runs away with itself here) and has some good action, but becomes a bit tedious. Might appeal to those who don't usually go for action-series books while it might not for those who do, if that makes sense.
Death Wish - Brian Garfield (FawcettCrest, 1972)
A good deal different from the classic Bronson movie, this novel of vigilantism charts the change a middle-aged liberal goes through when hoodlums kill his wife and leave his daughter catatonic. He wants revenge, but since he can't find who did it, he goes after any criminal he can find, shooting them down without much deliberation. His actions evoke mostly sympathy from the public, and from the police who are supposed to be trying to stop him. It's got some powerful stuff but the pacing is bad; the main character is an accountant and Garfield mires too much of the narrative down in depicting his office work, which is about the dullest stuff imaginable. You get very little action until the last third of the book. Not badly written, but the film improved on it.
Try not to be too terrified as you gaze upon the following image of unparalleled horror!
Tricycle - Russell Rhodes (Pocket, 1983)
It has a completely ridiculous cover and a how-the-hell-is-that-supposed-to-be-scary title, which doesn' tive one much hope but fired up my curiosity enough to actually track it down and read it, and it's better than you'd think. It's one of those "evil killer child" books, but this one is kinda plausible because the homicidal five-year-old's main target is a blind man, who a little kid might be able to trap and terrorize. Simon-the-evil-child's mother is a slut who cheats on her husband with half the faculty and student body at their college, inspiring Simon's jealous wrath against her paramours in the form of fires, unleashed snakes, tripwires, and other nasty tricks. The tricycle itself doesn't really figure into the horror and is just something Simon rides around on a lot, but it's squeaky wheels do serve to warn his blind victim of his presence. There's a surprise twist at the end but it wasn't much of surprise to me; I guessed it before I read the first third of the book, and you probably will, too. The final chapter is so sappy that it was irritating, but overall it's better than a novel with that title and cover art has a right to be.
Penetrator #2: Blood on the Strip - Lionel Derrick (Chet Cunningham) (BMI-1973)
Even-numbered (and therefore written by Chet Cunningham) Penetrator novel in which Mark Hardin takes on a white slavery operation in Vegas, which is being run by a woman called The Fraulein. Women are caged and trained as sex workers, and the hoods doing it slice up the face of a starlet who defies them. Big mistake, because she's a friend of Mark's. He tracks them down from a bogus talent agency that's a front for the operation and the rest of the book is violent harassment of the Fraulein's operation. Plenty of action, but not a lot of plot -- kind of a trademark of the Cunningham Penetrators. Decent entry.
(My copy of this book is paired with Hijacking Manhattan in a "Double Penetrator" novel. And if you think my vulgar juvenile mind is just making that up, I say thee nay, and I scanned the spine of the book in to prove it!)
Greatest special title since Marvel put out a comic book called Giant Size Man-Thing!
Assassin #1: Manhattan Massacre - Peter McCurtin (Dell, 1973)
Blatant Executioner rip-off by a guy who started several such series. Former trickshot artist and gun-merchant Robert Briganti turns down a Mafioso who tries to strong-arm him into supplying the mob with weapons, and his wife and son are gunned down in retaliation. Emotionally flatlined by the trauma, Briganti sets out to destroy the Mafia using Uzis, grenade launchers, and other heavy firepower. Unlike Mack Bolan, Briganti is a bit of a maniac and isn't preoccupied with civilian collateral damage; he kills anyone necessary to pile up Mafia bodies. Despite his total ruthlessness McCurtin keeps the body count at a realistic number and does keep this at a level where it still reads like a novel rather than a string of shoot-outs. He works in some sleazy atmosphere (everything seems grimy) and even though Briganti doesn't need much characterization since he's become a killing machine that feels nothing, he's not as cardboard as the very-similar Sharpshooter or Marksman. He also sends tapes to the media to draw attention to his exploits, which is psychologically interesting. The style is gritty and worthy of note in a genre that's all-too-often pure assembly-line prose. One odd note: Briganti takes time to attend a crazy, racist Black Power lecture that McCurtin recounts in full, like he's trying to sneak in some sort of odd propaganda. I know these guys were trying hard to meet a page count, but that's strange. Anyway, it's a decent book that delivers what you'd expect -- no-frills Mafia-killing.
Executioner #7: Nightmare in New York - Don Pendleton (Pinnacle, 1971)
Mack Bolan's war on the Mafia goes to NYC, where he's promptly wounded in a firefight and nearly dies but for the aid of some hippie girls who patch him up and hide him out. They will, of course, pay dearly for that when the Mafia finds out, and Bolan -- who recovers from his bullet wound in about a week - gets revenge in the usual shoot-guys-and-blow-things-up way. It gets a little silly when Mack disguises himself as a hippie -- complete with beads, a headband, purple glasses, and man-purse -- and uses a VW microbus with daisies painted all over it as his war-wagon! But there's a fair amount of mayhem and Pendleton writes it well, so it's an okay -- if average -- series entry.
Decoy #1: The Great Pretender - Jim Deane (Signet, 1974)
First in a short-lived (2 volume) series featuring a horny master thief, Nick Merlotti, cornily known as "The Great Pretender" (which he thinks is so cool that he leaves Platters albums at crime scenes). He's finally caught by the cops after a huge career of big scores and they cut a deal with him: they'll give him a chance to escape if he uses his criminal expertise to help them recover $5 million in heroin that went missing from their evidence room. There's a lot of wheeling and dealing, some strong action scenes (although, alas, not enough of them) and a preoccupation with sex that grows pretty comical; chapter seven's opening sentence is "Tits!" While there's a lot of sex, it's not described in much detail; he just lets you know it happened. The author's only other credit besides this series is a book on how to get and maintain a mistress, and I think he's trying to sneak some of that advice in here with Nick's very direct and effective methods of picking up chicks. Y'know, I think going up to a girl and saying "I'm awful at introducing myself to girls, but I'd really like to meet you. Will you help me get past the awkward opening?" might actually work better than throwing around horseshit, so Nick may have something there. Things get a bit tangled and move a little slow, but overall this is a decent read if you like a little Penthouse forum tossed in with your caper. Deane obviously admired Mickey Spillane because he used some of his structure (explaining the whole case at the end) and mentioned him a couple of times. No great shakes but s'ahright.
Get ready to feast your eyes, for the next cover is truly beautiful:
Notice one bizarre thing about that picture: all the Mafia guys have the same face! Kill the Mafia clones! I almost wonder if it's not supposed to be some kind of action-sequence shot of the same guy being thrown around the room by Johnny Rock's bullets.
And, of course, they're eating spaghetti. What else?
Sharpshooter #3: Blood Bath - Bruno Rossi (Leisure Books, 1973)
Featuring one of the greatest covers in the biz, this is one of the most gruesome and depraved action series entries ever. Mafia-goon-killing-machine Johnny Rock (occasionally referred to as Magellan because the writer using the Bruno Rossi pseudonym this time forgot he wasn't writing a Marksman book) comes across as a real psycho here, kidnapping anyone with vague connections to the Mafia and chaining them up in a waterfront warehouse to feed them to rats he's been collecting. Occasionally he forays out to blow something up, but mostly he tries to torture info out of his captives, or chops off their body parts to feed to the rats. He machine-guns one guy until his arm is severed but still handcuffed to a Mafia bigwig's wife; of COURSE she falls in love with him after that. One of the guys he chains up is black, a fact which "Rossi" definitely wants the reader to know for some reason, hammering us with reference to "the black" and "the Negro" and his girlfriend, "the Negro wench." So add racism into the sleazy, plotless slop of gore and sadism and you've got yourself quite the early 70's cheapo pulp artifact. I have to admire it when an author makes me feel like I'm reading something I really shouldn't be reading, and this is one of those books. The story's written like the writer was paid by the word, with adjectives thrown on with a shovel, and the grisly details are piled on like an EC horror comic: rat-gnawed bodies, blood-filled bathtubs, fiendish torments, and psychotic behavior on the part of the "hero," who is free from any characterization whatsoever; he just kills Mafia guys and that's it. There's more pretense than plot, with Rock trying to track down heads of crime families, but that's actually just a diversion from the absurd and lurid rat-feeding. Junk, of course, but such junk that it counts as a classic of its kind.
For more info about this wonderful book, there's an in-depth exploration here, with lots of sleazy excerpts.
Donovan's Devils #1 : The Assassination Is Set For July 4... - Lee Parker (Award Books, 1974)
Dirty Dozen style commando action in which a tough soldier named Donovan (under orders from the president) assembles a team of misfits -- a thief, a professional killer on the run from the Mafia, an angry black man who's in trouble for killing a pusher, a big biker, a moonshine runner, etc. -- to go after a South American warlord in Paraguay. He's got some important American hostages and plans to murder them, so Donovan and his squad have to rescue them. It's nicely written but at 154 pages it's a little rushed; trying to cram the set-up of the situation, the assembling of the team, and the mission all in and still leave room for characterization of a whole team of guys is a lot to accomplish. It manages it well enough but comes across as a little generic, but not bad. Two more followed in the series.
If you like this kind of stuff, I recommend the following blogs which cover similar things. I always find interesting reading when I visit 'em.
Bullets, Broads, Blackmail and Bombs
Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Too Much Horror Fiction
Groovy Age of Horror
Phantom of Pulp
And if you don't like any of that, you can follow me on Twitter and see if silly, vulgar, immature humor is more to your liking.
And if none of this pleases you, then you can just suck my dick, I guess, jeez, whattaya want?