Thursday, December 5, 2013
Psycho Squad #2: The Torturer, by Rick Dade
March, 1989 Berkley Books
If anything this second and final volume of Psycho Squad proves why the series was so short lived. Whereas the first volume spent way too many pages introducing one crazy cult member after another, this second installment at least focuses a bit more on its protagonists…that is, when it isn’t barraging the reader with an army of minor characters and unrelated subplots.
I still haven’t figured out who “Rick Dade” was, but it would appear The Torturer was written by the same person as Execution Night. I mean, it seems so for the most part, with the same mostly-good writing that nevertheless POV-hops, even occasionally lapsing into omniscient perspective (ie, “Someone fired at Flint. Flint didn’t know it, but the man shooting at him was one of Smokey’s thugs.”) But then there seems to be a lack of knowledge of what came in that first volume..the author only vaguely mentioning how the Squad got together, and not following up on any characters or events from Execution Night. Even worse, Flint never once uses his Eliminator “rocket gun,” and in fact never even mentions it!
But anyway, I can just imagine Dade, whoever he was, breaking out in a flop sweat as he tries to figure out how to put a novel together. “I’ll just keep introducing characters and situations! Th-that’s how you write a novel, isn’t it??” I honestly had to jot down notes to keep up with the swarm of characters and subplots. There’s no pickup from the previous novel, and indeed we never learn how much time has passed since Execution Night. We’re just tossed right in, and have to try to keep up.
At any rate Psycho Squad leader Jack Flint has upheld his vow on the final page of that previous volume to hunt down serial killers across the nation, using the unlimited funding of his boss, Anton Vraczek (who doesn’t even appear this time around). Thus Flint heads down to Miami, certain that the recently-discovered, mutilated corpse of a young woman named Linda Duquesne is the work of the Torturer, a serial killer Flint’s been tracking.
One of the few things that is picked up from the previous novel is the brush-off Psycho Squad member JJ Santiago is given; as in Execution Night he has a mere cameo role, not even appearing in the narrative until the final quarter. So rather than the titular trio heading down to Miami, it’s just Flint and Dr. Larry Mace, who despite suffering the horrific loss of his pregnant wife last time out is pretty much back to normal, though we learn he’s taken to packing a gun these days.
Immediately upon Flint and Mace’s arrival in Miami, Dade begins to hammer us with newly-introduced characters, and he won’t stop until the very last page. So first off Flint meets up with redheaded reporter Gloria Quarles, who of course is suitably gorgeous, though as with the previous volume there isn’t even a hint of sex in the narrative. She’s researching the Torturer case as well, and Flint trades info with her, as well as banter. Gloria acts moreso as Flint’s partner during the novel than Mace or Santiago do; strangely, Dade rarely gives us a scene feautring the Squad all together, as if he’s uncomfortable with the series concept.
Meanwhile Mace buddies up with an old colleague who now works as a Dade County medical examiner, looking over the corpse of a cop who tried to research the Linda Duquesne case. But instead of being the taut serial killer tale all of this introductory material makes you expect, The Torturer actually becomes a conspiracy/blackmail deal about rogue federal agents running guns into Central America, and the titular murderer turns out to be superfluous to the entire novel! And since Dade only gradually builds up this storyline, the novel is rather slow-going.
Action scenes sporadically liven things up here and there, to more of an extent than in Execution Night. For one Flint and Gloria are taken captive by goons who work for Rollo Prouty, a modeling agency owner who, we eventually learn, is blackmailing various Miami notables with a storehouse of files containing private and exploitable info. But Dade ruins all tension with Flint and Gloria being rescued at the last second by some guy in an orange Checker – a grubby private eye named Chub Odell who serves to take up more pages, with his own go-nowhere subplot.
Gradually (and I do mean gradually) all roads lead to Major Nordlinger, a shady military man who is trying to supply guns to Central America. Colonel North, I mean Major Nordlinger, employs two rogue Vice cops named Weems and Yates, merciless and humorless goons who have made a veritable kingdom for themselves in Miami. Cue many scenes of these guys harrassing Flint and Mace and then reporting back to North, I mean Nordlinger. Oh, and there’s a dude named Smokey Powers who operates out of the Florida wetlands, a guy who leads his own redneck army and is trying to get into the gunrunning business himself.
And I haven’t even mentioned Delgado, partner of the cop who was killed when trying to investigate Linda Duquesne’s murder. He plays a large role in early pages before being uncerimoniously brushed off toward the end. There’s also the infamous Borja, a sadist who ran a Nicaraguan death squad years ago but now lives in Miami, and who is enemies with Smokey Powers. When JJ Santiago finally shows up on page 142, it’s to go undercover as one of Borja’s thugs – and even here Dade introduces yet another half-assed subplot, revealing in the span of a page that Santiago has an old enemy here in Miami and so blows the dude away in a club to get Borja’s attention!
Hey, remember the Torturer? You might, but Dade has forgotten all about his titular villain; whereas Execution Night at least stayed true to its “men’s adventure meets horror” vibe, The Torturer forgets all about the horror stuff and focuses instead on a barely-there plot about gunrunning and displaced Nicaraguan rulers. What’s worse is the action scenes, when they go down, are dispensed with quickly, save that is for a climatic assault on Borja’s fortress compound, a chaotic scene which sees Smokey Powers’s goons attacking just as Flint and Mace have been captured.
Dade likely didn’t write any other men’s adventure novels in the ‘80s, as there’s none of the gun-porn the decade demanded. Guns are “guns,” and that’s it. Flint still uses his .44 Bulldog from the previous book, but other than a mention of Santiago picking up a dropped Uzi and using it to “ventilate” a few Borja thugs, this sequence is underwhelming from an action-series standpoint. It even skirts unintentional comedy, as Dade kills off swarms of characters he’s either just introduced or barely developed.
Anyway the Torturer appears on maybe two or three pages of the entire book, and not till the very end does Flint announce that he’s “figured out” who the killer is – not that there was a trail of clues for us readers to follow. In fact the book ends on the lamest of Scooby Doo cop-outs, with a “surprise reveal” that’s very hard to buy, followed by a quick wrap-up.
And that was it – there were no more adventures for the Psycho Squad. It’s too bad, because the series had potential, but it would appear this potential was squandered a mere two volumes in. And I’m probably reading more into it than intended, but it seemed to me that seeds were even planted for future volumes, namely due to a mid-novel mention that the murderer of Anton Vraczek’s wife and child ten years ago was never caught. Seems only natural that a future installment of Psycho Squad would’ve featured the trio hunting this killer down, but it was not to be.
Monday, December 2, 2013
The Penetrator #19: Panama Power Play, by Lionel Derrick
March, 1977 Pinnacle Books
Whereas his previous volume of The Penetrator was almost surreal in its focus on action, this time out Mark Roberts attempts to go for more of a plot-heavy approach. It doesn’t always succeed, though, making Panama Power Play come off as a bit padded at times, very much lacking the spark of Demented Empire.
Roberts continues to dole out the metaphysical stuff with an opening which sees Mark “Penetrator” Hardin engaging in some past-life regression with his Indian mentor, David Red Eagle. This entire sequence seems lifted from a Western novel Roberts might’ve been working on at the time, with cowboys taking out Hardin’s Indian tribe. It kind of goes on for a while, too. Finally though Hardin emerges from the trip with the understanding that he should not hate his enemies, and instead look upon his vigilante activities moreso from a “maintaining the karmic balance” sort of view. I mean, he’s still supposed to kill them, just not hate them!
From this we clunkily go into the volume’s threat – one Norbert Briscoe, a tycoon who has escaped America, where he’s wanted on various white-collar charges. Now living in Costa Rica, Briscoe plans to take over the Panama Canal, funding a group of soldiers for the job. His objective is to then extort the US and other countries to use the Canal, but unbeknownst to him the commanders of his mercenary army are in fact communists and are secretly working with Cuba. Briscoe is an unlikely villain for the series, but Hardin takes the job because he’s bullied into it by Dan Griggs, a Federal agent who has helped Hardin in the past.
Hardin flies down to Costa Rica on his personal plane, and here again we have arbitrary bits in the text where Roberts informs us how pilots handle small aircraft in rough weather and whatnot. Was the guy a pilot or something on the side? Anyway Hardin’s shaky plan is to pose as Manny Czonka, Norbert Briscoe’s childhood friend; the two haven’t seen each other in decades, and Hardin hopes that Briscoe will have forgotten what Manny looked like. Czonka has gone on to become a left-leaning labor union rep, giving Roberts many opportunities to bash liberals and commies.
Unbelievably enough, Briscoe not only buys that Hardin is his childhood pal, but he immediately tries to recruit him into his Panama Canal scheme! This develops over a very long sequence in which Hardin as Czonka hobknobs with the expatriot jetset at a party on Briscoe’s estate in Costa Rica. We get lots of scenes in which Briscoe’s financial advisors bicker with one another over the Canal plan; they are immediately distrustful of Hardin, as is “The Colonel,” Briscoe’s security chief who is secretly working with the Cubans. In fact for a “financial wizard” Norbert Briscoe comes off like an idiot in Panama Power Play, constantly being fooled by those around him.
Action is sporadic for the first half of the novel, other that is than a completely superfluous scene where, before heading down to Costa Rica, Hardin heads up to Briscoe’s old home turf in Chicago and gets in an arbitrary fight with a pair of cronies who attack him. Needless to say, this incident has no bearing on anything and is never again mentioned. But I guess this would be like complaining about a “superfluous” sex scene in a porn flick. Anyway there’s very little action for the first several chapters of the novel, again marking it from its predecessor.
When the Colonel’s goons pull a hit on Hardin, he finally decides to kick things into gear. Once again hopping into his plane he flies on down to Panama to scout out the location. Here we have another strangely arbitrary scene where, on the main street of some village in Panama, Hardin just happens to run into two old army pals from back in his Vietnam days! These guys, who immediately thereafter disappear from the novel, serve as backstory-expositors, telling Hardin, whom they suspect is now CIA, how the army has gotten word that something strange is going on in the area.
Hardin forages into the jungle and finds a battalion of Cuban soldiers have already secretly encamped. Posing as a local he gets onto the base, but is immediately discovered. There follows a sequence torn from a war novel in which Hardin commandeers a radio and calls in the Panamanian army; troops descend upon the encampment and a smallscalle war ensues. The Penetrator literally disappears throughout this sequence, as we read about random Cuban or Panamanian soldiers blowing each other apart.
When Hardin returns to the narrative he’s busy trying to escape the surviving Cubans, who are still after the imposter who snuck into their camp, despite the apocalyptic battle they just lost. Hardin gets shot in the leg and falls off a cliff, right into a river; he wakes up to see a beautiful young Indian woman looking down at him. This is Rainbow Child, and the next sequence of the novel sees Hardin staying with the natives in their village as he recovers from his wound.
Rainbow Child is of course “given” to Hardin by the chief, though we learn that the girl wanted Hardin anyway. Strangely though Roberts doesn’t make much of the eventual sex scene, with Hardin instead biding his time until he recovers, so that he can finally thwart Briscoe’s Canal plan from occurring – despite the Cubans having been rousted, Hardin knows that Briscoe’s underlings are turncoats and no doubt still have something in mind for the Canal. Only when Rainbow Child complains that Hardin hasn’t slept with her does Roberts deliver the expected scene – but he skips right over it, which is also strange. I was hoping for a Soldier For Hire-style purple-prosed sex scene.
Speaking of sex, as soon as Hardin manages to get back to Costa Rica he finds Joanna Tabler waiting for him in his hotel room. Joanna is Hardin’s girlfriend in all but name, and this is one of the few Roberts Penetrator novels she’s appeared in. Sent down here by her boss Dan Griggs to pose as the girlfriend of “Manny Czonka,” Joanna does absolutely nothing to help Hardin – that is, other than immediately get abducted by the Colonel’s men!
In a sequence that seems to come right out of a sweat mag, Roberts has the Colonel’s stooges torture Joanna in horrible fashion. She’s stripped, burned, beaten (until the point where she pukes), and even violated by the Colonel’s rough fingers. It’s all pretty unsettling and seems to come out of nowhere, but it all culminates in a nice bit where Hardin magically shows up and blows everyone away – just in the nick of time to prevent Joanna from swallowing her cyanide pill.
From here Panama Power Play stalls into the home stretch as Hardin and Joanna turn into veritable pranksters as they try to fool Norbert Briscoe into believing his life is at stake. Their goal is to get him to willingly leaving the country, taking advantage of his “old pal” Manny Czonka’s private plane. At length the ruse works, and after drugging up Briscoe Hardin turns the plane from the Briscoe-intended destination of Cuba and back to the US, where Hardin delivers Briscoe into the hands of Dan Griggs. And by novel’s end, of course, Joanna has sufficiently recovered enough to want a little play time with the, uh, Penetrator.
I guess on second thought Panama Power Play was in fact just as discombobulated as the previous Roberts installment, jumping at random from one subplot to another, but still it lacked the nutzoid spark of other Roberts offerings, not to mention the gore and sex factor. Also on a pedantic note, the nifty little submachine gun Hardin had made at the end of Demented Empire is revealed this time out as being an American 180, which doesn’t look nearly as cool as Roberts described it.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Cybernarc #2: Gold Dragon, by Robert Cain
December, 1991 Harper Books
Picking up two months after the first volume, the second installment of Cybernarc is all about the action, as if “Robert Cain” (aka William H. Keith) is attempting to make up for the lack of it in the previous volume. Not that Cybernarc #1 didn’t feature much action, but as with most other latter-era men’s adventure novels it was moreso focused on introducing its characters and series concept.
Gold Dragon on the other hand opens with an action sequence and remains heavily action-minded throughout. We meet our titular Cybernarc, Rod the robot, as he’s crashing into a Hong Kong high rise hotel that’s filled with “inhuman monsters called drug lords” (as the back cover copy so hyperbolically refers to them). Rod, in Civilian Mod (meaning he looks like a regular human) and armed with a subgun, blasts his way across various floors as he hunts and kills a trio of Chinese drug lords (Feng, Hsu, and Cho) who happen to be in the hotel.
Spotting for Rod in another room in the hotel is Chris Drake, Rod’s SEAL partner and “friend.” As in the previous volume, Rod’s burgeoning hummanity plays a central role in Gold Dragon, with Rod learning what it means to be a friend, leading to some downright touching scenes – that is, touching amid all of the exploding heads and guts. Speaking of which, this second volume is a little less gory than the first one; to be sure Rod does rip people apart at times, often hitting men so hard that his hand impales their entire head, but these moments happen less frequently than they did in Cybernarc #1.
Rod succeeds in blowing away Hsu and Cho, but Feng escapes in a helicopter, and Rod is heavily damaged in his own escape, which sees him swinging via a long cable down to Drake’s hotel room window. Terminator style Rod’s face has been scraped off so that the black metal skull beneath is visible, which makes for a nice horror vibe during the action scene, as Chinese combatants drop their guns and run screaming from the terrifying sight. There follows a memorable bit where Drake uses an iron to fix Rod’s face, pulling the latex skin so that it looks as if he’s a regular human who just suffers from a bad facial scar.
Feng was the prime target of the hit, and as they repair to Mobile One, aka a retrofitted 747, Rod and Drake briefly meet up with James Weston, head of Project Ramrod, and Heather McDaniels, chief programmer and resident hot stuff who has yet to start up the inevitable romance with Drake – though given that Drake’s wife and daughter were horrifically murdered last time around, I guess we still need to give the guy some time to move on. In fact, and likely due to the era in which it appeared, Cybernarc is barely focused on sex at all – for example later in the book Rod and Drake meet up with Tai Song, a pretty young woman of Hmong/American descent, and the Drake/Song romance expected from tradition never happens.
A DEA rep named Lassiter informs the group that Feng is likely in Mongyin, Burma, a location deep in the jungle in which the drug lord employs the sadistic General Aung to run a heroin factory. Lassiter wants Rod and Drake to parachute in via High Altitude/High Opening and do some reconnaissance. Yep, it’s all just like in Rambo: First Blood Part II, with our protagonists dropping into the exotic jungle with strict orders not to fully engage the enemy. And just like in the movie they of course decide to do their own thing.
Rod, now in Combat Mod (meaning he’s built like a football linebacker, only with black titanium skin), parachutes into Mongyin with Drake, each of them packing light for the mission – Drake carrying a FN-FAL rifle and Rod an Uzi. Meanwhile we meet the pretty young Tai Song, who we learn would be considered beautiful by Western standards, but is generally overlooked by the men in her Hmong village here in Mongyin – again, all of it seemingly building up the potential for some good lovin’ courtesy Drake, but the author bypasses this; indeed Tai Song is eventually relegated to “translator” status and is shunted out of the narrative with little resolution.
First though we have a climatic rescue scene where Song, as we meet her, is dragged from her hut by General Aung’s troops and tossed into a cage which is hung in the town square. Rod and Drake, coming across the village after working through the jungle, immediately decide upon a lightning strike so as to save the girl. We learn though that it’s a trap – back in Hong Kong, while storming the hotel, Rod came across a nude Columbian woman in one of the drug lords’s rooms and let her go, deeming her a hooker or whatever and thus unimportant. Turns out though that it was Ramona Montalva, daughter of a high-ranking Columbian druglord, and Ramona was in Hong Kong to start a partnership between her family and Feng, even sleeping with one of Feng’s cronies to sweeten the deal.
Having seen what Rod is capable of first-hand, Ramona has now gone to Feng to warn him. Their gambit is to set a trap with the pretty, Western-looking Tai Song as bait, but of course Rod and Drake manage to waste all of Aung’s soldiers as they save her. The Hmong are born warriors and thus they now want a piece of Aung, who has ruled over them sadistically, even butchering people who have slighted him and roping their corpses to trees as warnings to others. So then Rod and Drake now have a native army as they go on deeper into Mongyin to assault Aung’s heroin lab – this being very much against orders, Rod having received a satellite-relayed message that the two of them are to proceed out of Mongyin asap.
Actually Gold Dragon is also like an installment of MIA Hunter (except with a robot!), as it indulges in the tropes that series is known for, including the traditional battle against a heavily-armed PBR boat along the Mekong river. The assault on Aung’s heroin factory is appropriately epic, with Rod tearing a Russian-made automatic grenade launcher off of the PBR and firing it submachine gun-style from his hip. The violence factor here is also large, culminating in the reveal that Song gets vengeance on Aung by hacking off his head in true Hmong fashion.
However, Feng has friggin’ escaped again, and once again Drake and Rod launch an attack, this time on Feng’s ship as it readies to disembark from Thailand. Feng again manages to escape, and in the course of this battle Rod is nearly destroyed and Drake is captured. This sets the stage for the climax, in which Rod, again in Civilian Mod (his Combat body damaged beyond repair), parachutes onto Feng’s ship as it sails through a stormy sea and blasts his way across it in search of Drake.
Ramona Montalva appears again in this finale, and we see that she’s truly in the Pulpy Evil Female mold I so enjoy; Feng trusses up a nude Drake and has his men torture him for intel, all while Ramona stands nearby licking her lips. There’s a very uncomfortable scene where she even grabs hold of his balls and squeezes them. But as these things go, Ramona doesn’t get killed during Rod’s storming of the bridge, and indeed our heroes go to great lengths to ensure they get her off of the ship in one piece, keeping her alive so as to eventually interrogate her. Methinks Ramona Montalva will play a larger role in future volumes, but we’ll see.
This final battle is one of those sequences the author excels in; Keith is great at delivering climatic battles that resonate both from an action standpoint as well as the emotional, with Rod the robot consumed with worry as he desperately searches for Drake. And the author turns it around with Drake, after being rescued, battling to get the critically-damaged Rod safely off of the ship.
So far the Cybernarc series has come the closest of all the men’s adventure series I’ve read to capturing the feel of a big budget summer blockbuster – I mean like the kind they made in the good old days, when they were action-focused and rated R. With the thrilling sequences, witty banter, and strong characterization, the series offers a whole lot more than you might expect.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Night Of The Phoenix, by Jack Cannon
September, 1989 Pocket Books
(Original publication June, 1975 Manor Books)
In 1989 Nelson DeMille decided to bring his Ryker series back into print, crediting himself as “Jack Cannon” with a note to the reader explaining that these editions were “revised and updated” by the author himself. The note to the reader also provides a little backstory on these books, briefly stating that the series started as Ryker with Leisure books before moving over to Manor and becoming Keller.
As part of the revisions New York “hero” cop Joe Ryker is here only referred to as such, and never as “Joe Keller.” It’s my theory that DeMille left Leisure because he got pissed off that editor Peter McCurtin published Ryker #3 under DeMille’s name, even though it was written by Len Levinson. Len explained this to me that McCurtin’s thinking was that Leisure owned not only the series but the rights to the author’s name. Doesn’t sound legally accurate to me, I mean DeMille was a real name, not a house name, but what do I know, it was the ‘70s.
But anyway shortly after this DeMille split from Leisure and went over to Manor, changed “Joe Ryker” to “Joe Keller,” and continued writing the series, which ran for a total of four volumes. Counting the two Ryker volumes DeMille published with Leisure (actually they published three by DeMille, but more on that below), that means the Joe Ryker/Keller books ran a total of six volumes, all of which were reprinted by Pocket in these “revised and updated” editions. Night Of The Phoenix originally appeared in 1975 as the third volume of Manor’s Keller series, but was the fifth (and thus penultimate) volume of the ’89 Ryker reprints.
Even this is screwy, though; as Marty McKee notes, Leisure actually published Night Of The Phoenix as the fourth volume of Ryker, titling it The Agent Of Death. Marty mentions that this Leisure edition features different character names than the Manor edition and also lacks a prologue which features so memorably in the Keller version of the tale (fortunately, the prologue is also in this Pocket reprint). So as Marty states, sly DeMille must’ve gotten paid twice for the same book…though if Len Levinson’s comments to me are any indication, DeMille probably didn’t get paid for either book, Manor and Leisure being notoriously reluctant to pay their authors.
Now that all that is out of the way, on to the novel itself. Night Of The Phoenix is along the same lines as the other DeMille Ryker I’ve read, The Hammer Of God. (A problem with all of these Ryker and Keller books is they're so goddamn expensive on the used book marketplace – hell, even the Pocket reprints are expensive, in some cases moreso than the original editions!) Rather than focusing on the action this genre is known for, DeMille instead delivers a police procedural that’s heavier on dialog and character.
And speaking of character, Joe Ryker is once again an arrogant, obnoxious prick, belittling coworkers and degrading superiors. Whereas Len Levinson made Ryker a whole lot more likable, DeMille’s (original) interpretation of the character is a hateful bastard, as repulsive as can be. Like Narc #4, this is another cop novel that takes place in the sweltering heat of a New York summer, and DeMille relishes in letting us know how sweaty and stinky his protagonist is – and talking about obnoxious, there are a few scenes where Ryker notes his own stink and will spread his arms so that others can smell him! So like I said, he’s a pretty repulsive guy.
As mentioned this Pocket reprint retains the prologue which was in the original Manor edition but removed from the Leisure edition. And truth be told, this prologue is the highlight of the novel; I could’ve read an entire novel about CIA assassin Morgan as he sits in ambush in some swamp deep in ‘Nam, targetting any unfortunate NVA or VC who might come his way. There’s a dark comedy afoot as we learn that Morgan is paid per kill, and, like Death Race 2000 or something, he’s paid in accordance to how important the person is he’s killed.
It’s late in the war and a CIA rep drops into the swamp to tell Morgan he’s no longer employed; the CIA rep further informs Morgan that he’s made the personal decision to kill Morgan and take the few hundred thousand dollars he’s amassed over the years in his Swiss Bank account. But Morgan ends up killing the rep and, stranded in the swamp (his sole companion a Vietnamese girl he wounded earlier due to a misfire and spent the rest of the night raping), begins walking his way out of the jungle.
This brings us to the “present,” clearly 1989 in this updated Pocket edition; I’m curious how much exactly DeMille revised, but the original Manor edition being so pricey I’m unable to compare the two printings. Anyway Ryker is called onto the case when a gruesome corpse is discovered; a former CIA agent is found sitting in his bathtub, killed by leeches. DeMille brings to life the nightmarish scene, with Ryker and his fellow cop “friend” Lindly looking in horror at the fat leeches as they float around in the bloody water – a scene which finishes on a bizarrely humorous cop movie-style joke when Ryker pulls one of the leeches out of the water and reads it its rights.
When the guy’s wife is later blown away by a sniper, Ryker is convinced something’s going on…his first clue being how his “stupid chief” superiors at the precinct sort of brush over how the Feds immediately swooped onto the crime scene and took away all of the evidence. Then CIA rep Jorgenson shows up and informs the cops that a rogue CIA assassin from the ‘Nam era is back and is hunting down the men who set him up. The assassin is of course Morgan, and Jorgenson delivers Ryker et al a background story that’s a little different from the “facts” as presented in the prologue. But then, Jorgenson makes it clear that he’s in the business of lying, thus making Ryker even more distrustful of the man and the entire situation.
But as mentioned Night Of The Phoenix is narratively identical to Hammer of God in that the novel is basically a dialog-heavy police procedural with none of the action or suspense a reader might want. There isn’t even much of a lurid element, other than the grisly crime scenes Ryker investigates, for example a later sequence where another former CIA agent who betrayed Morgan is found hanging above a building, the skin flayed from his corpse. As for sex, there isn’t any of that either, even considering a nonsensical bit where Ryker and his new partner Lentini hire a hooker for the night, even bringing her onto one of the crime scenes the next morning!
For the most part Night Of The Phoenix is comprised of Ryker snapping at his colleagues and superiors that there’s more to the Morgan case than meets the eye; he of course runs afoul of Jorgenson, who makes veiled threats that Ryker “knows too much.” Ryker’s certain that a member of Jorgenson’s CIA team is a turncoat, someone who is feeding Morgan intel, but Jorgenson continues to backpedal and spread mistruths. After a while Ryker’s also certain he and his partners will come under fire, so in one of the more unusual “plot twists” I’ve ever read in one of these novels, he decides to hell with it and goes on vacation!
For vacation Ryker settles on a rural farmland owned by his ex in-laws in Chicago. Both of them “old unconverted Nazis,” they live on a compound guarded by dogs and the old man has an arsenal in his basement, complete with machine guns, subguns, and even gatling guns. There’s a part where Ryker, Lindly, and Lentini look over the weaponry, suspecting they might need it when the inevitable CIA squad comes after them – Ryker has gone on vacation so as to escape any death squads that might be sent after him, but when Lindly follows after him Ryker knows the cat’s out of the bag and his hiding place has been uncovered.
But man, DeMille can’t be bothered to write an action scene. Forget about Chekov’s dictum; DeMille shows us a whole lot more than just a rifle above the mantle, but doesn’t use them in the third act or any other act. When the squad does show up that night, all we get is a somewhat tense scene where Ryker et al hear the dogs barking outside; they see some headlights; and then the car drives away! The next morning, despite finding all of the dogs dead, Ryker just decides to leave, telling Lentini to go start up the car…and Lentini’s killed in the ensuing blast, the CIA of course having wired the car to blow. You see, Ryker’s an idiot in addition to being an asshole.
Please skip this paragraph if you want to avoid the novel’s surprise. As the murders continue, Jorgenson doles out more info, like the fact that Morgan is a leper. Ryker starts to wonder how a guy with such a supposedly-ruined face could get around the city without anyone noticing him. And like Ryker you soon begin to suspect Jorgenson himself. This turns out to be the reveal – Jorgenson is actually the murderer, and he doles out the tale for Ryker at the very end of the novel. Long story short, Jorgenson himself was part of the CIA team that screwed Morgan over, and also as coincidence would have it Jorgenson happened to be on the base a jungle-ravaged Morgan stumbled into after surviving his betrayal in the prologue sequence. So Jorgenson finished off Morgan himself (throwing him out of a helicopter!) and now, these years later, has decided to cash in on the Swiss Bank account, after getting the various serial numbers from his old turncoat pals. So in other words the promised tale of a leper-faced CIA assassin running amok in NYC is denied us, DeMille once again going for more of a “realistic” approach. Dammit!
While it skimps on the action and the sleaze, Night Of The Phoenix is still rather well-written, with DeMille bringing his characters to life, in particular his slimy protagonist. There’s good dialog and funny stuff too, though nothing on the un-PC level of Hammer of God. Speaking of which I don’t think DeMille removed too much of such material from this revised edition, as evidenced in an early scene where Ryker goes on about how black people hate cold weather. It’s just that in this installment Ryker’s moreso just a regular asshole instead of a racist and sexist asshole.
I’d like to read more of DeMille’s Ryker and Keller novels, whether in the original editions or these “Jack Cannon” reprints, but the prices for them are too prohibitive. However the post-DeMille Ryker novels from Leisure, credited to Edson T. Hamill, are fortunately much more affordable, so I’ll be reading them next.
Oh, and as for these Jack Cannon/Pocket reprints, each of them have similar covers, of this shades-wearing "cool" cop who in no way shape or form resembes Ryker or anyone else in these books. In fact, the covers look like stills from the sequel to Cobra that Sylvester Stallone never gave us.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Mystery, by Matthew Paris
February, 1973 Avon Books
If you’ve ever wondered what it would’ve been like if Philip K. Dick had written a crime novel, wonder no longer; this obscure paperback original gives a good indication of the book that might have ensued. What’s funny is the back cover of Mystery proclaims “An ordinary cop on an extraordinary mission!”, which makes me think the copyist either A.) Never read the book; B.) Read the book and couldn’t figure out how to synopsize it; or C.) Figured the hell with it.
There is in fact nothing ordinary about Mystery. It’s one screwed-up, surreal novel, ostensibly a murder investigation set in New York City, but a New York that seems to be out of some psychedelic sci-fi nightmare. Our narrator is Lt. Salvador, a top New York cop who when we meet him is investigating a murder. Salvador’s white whale is the mysterious Farmer, owner of the infamous Rabbit Club, a shadowy underworld of pleasure palaces. Salvador’s major goal throughout the novel is bringing down Farmer – though first he has to find him, or for that matter discover if he even exists.
Mystery starts off as a typical crime novel, albeit one with a definite literary bent, as Salvador drives around New York City following up clues on a murdered money-runner before he’s tasked by the DA to look into the murder of a call girl who worked at one of the Rabbit Club’s bars. But then Salvador stops off at a suspect’s apartment, a gorgeous woman who throws herself at him, and before they make it the woman tells Salvador to take a look inside her bathroom – and here Matthew Paris lets you know what kind of novel you’re actually in for:
The bathroom door was open. A large cow was sprawled over the edge of the bathtub on its spine. Its black eyes stared at me, probably with more feeling than when they had been alive. Its gigantic head hung limply under the running water falling from the shower. Fluorescent lights streaming from above the mirror illuminated the blood that was running through the hot water onto the colored tile. The cow’s throat was slashed across the jugular vein. I shivered with terror.
Believe it or not, Mystery only proceeds to get stranger. (And this dead cow in the bathtub is never even explained!) In the twisted course of this twisted novel we have conundrum upon conundrum as our narrator encounters a host of bizarre characters, from a general who keeps a harem of young boys to a priest of filth who lives in a church filled with statues made of excrement. There are also “doubles” of virtually every character, including Salvador – who, by the way, isn’t an “ordinary” cop at all; throughout the novel he just blows people away for absolutely no reason, and commits a variety of criminal and murderous acts without any reprimand. I mean, I thought the guy was with the NYPD, not the LAPD!! (Okay, just kidding…)
The name of the murdered Rabbit Club hooker is Velma Roach, and her corpse lies in the Club’s plush Manhattan location. Even the poor murdered girl is strange, as Salvador notes that the corpse is bald; we’re informed this is so because the Rabbit Club girls must be able to change their looks to suit the whims of their current client. Calimyne, one of Farmer’s cronies and the runner of this particular Club location, trades cryptic banter with Salvador in what is a forshadowing of the rest of the novel – for the most part Mystery is comprised of Salvador going from one location to another and trading bizarre, cryptic dialog with bizarre and cryptic characters. While interesting at first it does get old.
You see, the problem with Mystery is the same problem that plagues any overly-literary tome that attempts to be surreal: eventually the reader realizes that there will be no resolution to anything, and what with all of the “weird” stuff the book soon lacks any emotional content. I don’t mean “emotional content” in today’s meaning of the phrase, ie the way everything from movies to commercials will try to milk emotions, pandering to the lowest common denominator – rather I mean you don’t care for anyone in this novel, because each of them is devoid of any human spark.
So then we read with more of an intellectual pleasure as Salvador tracks clues and, uh, randomly murders various people. Seriously, there will be parts where he’s talking to a suspect, and as the suspect walks off Salvador will whip out his gun and blow the person away. Paris works up a subtle subplot that Salvador might be on some psychedelic drug; there is often mention of a mysterious powder various Rabbit Club reps are snorting, and at one point a doctor briefly examines Salvador and asks him, “Are you taking any drugs?” (Salvador’s response is classic: “Should I be?”)
Eventually Salvador hooks up with Kelly Starr, gorgeous Rabbit Club VIP who is an intimate of Farmer but who wants to help Salvador find him…or at least, I think that’s how it goes. The book is very obscure at times. Paris even proves himself unconcerned with doling out regular novel stuff; for example in one scene Salvador heads into a bar to talk to a contact while Kelly waits for him in his car, and when Salvador comes out Kelly informs him that she just received a call from the DA, who asked her to inform Salvador that a host of minor characters were all just knocked off! It’s pretty ridiculous, but just another indication of the surreal world in which this occurs.
It also gradually becomes apparent that Paris is more concerned with word-painting than he is with telling a story with a plot. The murder investigation loses focus as the author spends more time serving up descriptions of his hellishly weird New York. Again, while the writing is good, plot development and any sort of meaning is lost. As mentioned, major events happen “off camera” and the cryptic dialog makes the reader feel as if he’s only getting half the story. Nothing is explained, not even the doubles. For example when Salvador first meets a double, it’s during an apocalyptic firefight, and rather than question the guy Salvador instead tries to kill him. Even when the two meet again in the finale Salvador never once asks who the double is, or even what he is.
Speaking of the finale, there isn’t much of one, but then this is expected given the increasingly surreal nature of the writing. Once again Paris is more content to word-paint rather than deliver a suspenseful climax, thrusting Salvador into a variety of arbitrary locations in which bizarre shit goes down, none of it explained. As for the book’s sleaze quotient, there isn’t much of one; the gunfights are minimally described, and the few sex scenes immediately fade to black. Overall the book has more in common with the self-indulgent hippie lit of the era; funny that it was packaged as a genre novel, complete with a lurid cover painting.
I can’t say I recommend Mystery, but it’s definitely an interesting read. Perhaps this is one of those novels that improves with a second reading, but the constant obsfucation and casual disregard for plot development, characterization, and reality served to turn me off in the long run.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Psycho Squad #1: Execution Night, by Rick Dade
October, 1988 Berkley Books
Thanks to Mike Madonna for letting me know about this forgotten, two-volume series. Credited to “Rick Dade” but copyright Berkley Books, Psycho Squad capitalizes on the late ‘80s serial killer/satanic panic fad and melds it with the men’s adventure genre. But while this first volume has an interesting concept, it’s lost amid the plethora of characters and the lack of action scenes.
My bet is the author was inspired by Maury Terry’s awesome 1987 book The Ultimate Evil, a true crime publication which contested, with convincing evidence, that the Son of Sam murders were actually committed by a satanic cult which operated around Yonkers, New York and stretched all the way back to the Manson massacre. Whether Terry was correct or not, the fact remains that The Ultimate Evil features a fascinating concept, that of a sort of “satanic mafia” which operates in the underworld, and one of these days I’ll probably get around to reviewing the book itself.
Anyway, Dade (whoever he was) peppers Execution Night with enough clues to let one know he’s read Terry’s book. He too presents a satanic cult for the villains, one with criminal leanings…it just takes forever for him to get them all together. Sadly, rather than being a slam-bang action-meets-horror affair, the novel instead hopscotches all over the place, introducing one new character after another until there are way too many cultists in the kitchen – and worse yet, there are so many of them that the author loses control and is unable to present them as a viable threat.
The heroes suffer too; the back of the cover has it that Jack Flint, Larry Mace, and JJ Santiago are the titular Psycho Squad, but Flint takes up all of the “good guy” narrative, with Mace getting a very small portion of the text and Santiago relegated to what’s basically a cameo appearance. In fact the group doesn’t even become a group until the final page; like most other first volumes of a late-era men’s adventure series, Execution Night is heavily focused on story-building. If this book had been published in the ‘70s, the Squad would already be formed by page 1 and they’d be gorily blowing away a faux-Manson by page 2. But since it was published when the genre was attempting to be a bit more “respectable,” it’s all about plot and story development.
Flint then is the star, but even he is lost amid the author’s constant shuffling from one newly-introduced psychotic villain to the next. A sergeant in the NYPD’s Homicide department, Flint we learn has gotten a rep for bringing down serial killers. When we meet him he’s in the act of taking on the infamous Doctor Blood, a serial killer dentist(!). Flint blows him away in what will prove to be one of the novel’s scant action scenes; as he dies Blood warns Flint that the killings “are just beginning.”
Meanwhile the author begins to unveil the endless parade of psychos who make up the threat in this opening volume; lead by the bald and creepy Myron Nemo, it develops at great length that they are members of the Tribe, a Manson Family-esque cult which got together in the late ‘60s and hasn’t been seen since. Their Manson is a freak named Dean Bishop, aka The Source, who has been in an insane asylum for 15 years but is now, due to dimwitted psychiatrists, about to be released.
There are way too many members of the Tribe to get into in this review (honestly, the novel is mostly comprised of introducing each of them in various one-off scenarios as they leave the real world to return to the cultish fold), however one of the main members bears mentioning: Erwin Roth, a massive biker who leads the Wheels of Death, yet another satanic cult, this one made up of bikers who do jobs for organized crime; in addition to leading the Wheels Roth also serves as Myron and Bishop’s top enforcer.
Pissed off over the political red tape which allowed Doctor Blood to run amok for so long, Flint ends up punching out his captain and quitting the force. But when a “copycat killer” murders the woman Blood was after in the opening pages (the killer being Roth, who’s finishing Blood’s job), Flint vows to bring the killer in on his own. Humorously enough he illegally portrays himself as a cop throughout the book; having kept his badge Flint goes around showing it to people so they’ll let him in on crime scenes and whatnot.
Flint visits a gun store operated by an old friend to decide upon his new hardware. Interestingly, he settles upon a Charter Arms .44 Bulldog revolver, the same gun that was used in the Son of Sam murders. I take it this is yet another Ultimate Evil reference by the author, but still, wouldn’t it have made more sense to give this gun to one of the villains?? Anyway this scene also serves to introduce JJ Santiago, a pencil-moustached “dandy” who too was once an NYPD cop, one known for his sharpshooting skills, but who was kicked off the force five years ago. I figured from here Flint would form the titular squad, but Santiago disappears until the final pages of the novel.
Larry Mace serves as the NYPD Deputy Medical Examiner, and thus has an acquaintance with both Flint and Santiago. (The cover artist by the way provides accurate illustrations of the three heroes, Mace being the blonde, Santiago the moustached “dandy,” and Flint the gruff one who looks like he’s posing for, well, the cover of an action novel, even though he’s in the middle of what appears to be an insanely close-quarters firefight.) Neither Mace nor Santiago are given much depth or personality, and the author further shames them by delivering Mace a serious blow in the final pages, one that despite its viciousness lacks much impact. (Long story short, Roth blows away Mace’s pregnant wife – shocking and unsettling enough – but the hell of the thing is Dade doesn’t even bother informing us she exits until a page before she’s killed!)
The series concept is introduced very late in the game with the appearance of Anton Vraczek, a Donal Trump-like tycoon whose family was murdered by nutjobs years before; Vraczek uses his massive funds to aid police in catching criminals, and asks the now-unemployed Flint if he’d like to work for him. Flint tells Vraczek he’ll head up a force that goes after serial killers, using Vraczek’s vast resources. Bizarrely enough, this is Vraczek’s only appearance, the author immediately going back to his one-off introductions of various Tribe members.
As mentioned the Tribe is getting back together; we gradually learn that years ago they perpetrated the Montauk Massacre, where a few of Bishop’s followers killed a slew of people. As Nemo puts the old gang together again he intimates that “Execution Night” is coming again, prepping the reader for an apocalyptic finale. Strangely though Dade delivers an eleventh-hour reveal where Nemo and another Tribe leader are really putting everyone back together as a land-buying scheme! It’s their plan to have Bishop et al murder a whole bunch of people in a certain developing area so Nemo’s company can buy the land for cheap, their logical assumption being that no one will want to buy land where a massacre has occurred. Makes sense, but why sully up a pulpy plot with such a “real world” concept?
There are only a two real action scenes: one toward the end in which Flint and Santiago take on the Wheels of Death, and Flint and Santiago’s climatic attack on the docked ship in which the Tribe is hiding. Though the book is violent, at least so far as how many people are murdered by the Tribe, when it comes to the action Dade brushes over the gore for the most part, just writing that people get shot and fall down. On the plus side there isn’t much gun-porn, though. The characters mostly use pistols, save for Santiago, who goes for a Mac-10. Elements of sci-fi, or at least the old GI Joe cartoon, are introduced via the Eliminator Mark IV Ballistic Launcher, a “rocket gun” that’s the size of a machine pistol and fires miniature tail-finned rockets; Flint uses it in the finale to blow up a few people real good.
The novel runs at a dense 234 pages of small print, and what’s odd is how rushed the finale is. As mentioned Mace is dealt a crippling blow in the final pages, but this too is glossed over for the most part, the author quickly dispensing of the villains he’s been building up throughout the entire course of the novel. In other words, the conclusion is not very satisfying. I was expecting something more massive or tense; instead the Tribe begins to turn upon one another, and the three protagonists basically show up and blow the remaining ones away.
There was only one more volume in the series, The Torturer, which appears to be a bit more action-centric. No matter of searching has revealed who wrote this first volume, but “Rick Dade” was likely a house name. I’m also not sure yet if the same author wrote the second volume. Given the book’s focus on story and character, to the detriment of the violent action scenes, makes me suspect that Execution Night might’ve been the work of Simon Hawke, who wrote the similarly-structured Steele #1, which coincidentally or not was published around the same time.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Cut, by Jerry Bronson
July, 1976 Pinnacle Books
Proving once again that the best trash is ‘70s trash, Cut pulls no punches in its sordid tale of an asthmatic private eye, a missing socialite, a hippie cult, and the sick world of snuff films. “Jerry Bronson” was actually the pseudonym of two British authors, which Justin Marriott explains below, and after reading this novel I’ll need to reassess my lazy opinion of UK pulp as “prudish!”
But then, nothing about Cut comes off as British, save for one slightly jarring bit where Frank Reagan, our Dirty Harry-esque former cop turned private eye, uses the distincly British curse “bloody.” Otherwise the novel is as lurid as one could wish a trashy ‘70s novel to be, opening with the graphically-detailed filming of a porn scene that, unbeknownst to its drugged-out starlet, is actually a snuff film…and her ensuing on-screen murder goes on for a few pages, the authors going out of their way to push buttons. And they succeed – I’ve read some sick shit, and this opening chapter of Cut is pretty damn sick!!
The opening chapter also introduces the villain of the tale, namely Priest, a muscle-bound and bald “guru” of sorts who wears denim suits and white gloves of kid leather; Priest also fancies himself a director and shoots snuff films on stolen equipment, usually murdering the people he steals it from. In this scene we witness one of his snuff films in full, as the novel opens from the perspective of Reena, the starlet who thinks she’s shooting just another porn scene.
As mentioned the explicit detail in this sequence alone places Cut outside the realm of most other ‘70s pulp, but then it gets super sick as the masked and caped mystery man who’s humping Reena pulls out a dagger at the moment of truth and stabs her in the throat…and then continues to mutilate her face in excruciating detail for a few pages. The mystery man’s identity is easily figured out as the novel progresses, but this first chapter really sets him up as one sick bastard.
After this charming opening we are introduced to the “hero” of the tale, the aforementioned Frank Reagan (his last name elicits a few Ronald Reagan jokes in the text), a former Las Vegas cop who was kicked off the force after blowing away a drug dealer who sold Reagan’s former-junkie wife some heroin, heroin which she OD’d on. Now working as a P.I. in San Francisco, Reagan is as mentioned asthmatic and as bitter and cynical as you’d expect a private eye to be.
With its jaded, ball-busting private eye protagonist, snuff film plot, over-the-top tone, and super-lurid vibe, Cut is everything LA Morse’s The Big Enchilada wanted to be. However unlike that later novel Cut is told in third person and, despite the seriously dark humor that runs throughout, it never devolves into satire or spoofery. Also, at 146 pages of big print, it’s half the length – indeed it’s shorter than the average volume of The Penetrator – which is also to its strength.
Reagan’s contacted by the wealthy and beautiful Lorraine Hamilton, who lives in opulence in Los Angeles. A veritable man-eater, Lorraine sets her sights on Reagan as soon as he enters her palatial home. After getting the details of the job out of the way – Lorraine wants Reagan to find her sister, Lee, an 18 year-old nympho who’s run off into the hills around LA to join some hippie cult – Lorraine promptly gets down to the business of having sex with Reagan.
As expected for a pulp P.I., Reagan’s method of “investigation” is basically to harrass and beat up people. He drives up to one of the communes in the hills and does precisely that, throwing around tranced-out hippies who have no idea who Lee is. Eventually he gets wind of Priest’s cult; larger and more mysterious than the others, it’s located among the same hills, the cultists having taken over abandoned studio sets from the golden days of Hollywood.
Anyone hoping for a deeper glimpse into who Priest is and an explanation for why he holds people in such thrall will be let down – I mentioned ealrier that the short length of Cut is a good thing, but that’s at least so far as its overall impact goes. One thing it lacks is much explanation for what we are witnessing, or much depth. But anyway like a muscular Charlie Manson Priest rules an obedient flock, and shortly after barging onto the cult’s property Reagan is escorted by Priest himself to Lee’s shack, Priest proving to Reagan that the girl is here of her own will.
Guess what, this leads to yet another sex scene, Lee throwing herself at Reagan. Again, the novel is very similar to The Big Enchilada, with its protagonist scoring with practically every woman he meets. Here at the commune Reagan runs afoul of a few of Priest’s stooges, thus setting the scene for the later action sequences, including one enjoyably arbitrary bit where Reagan drives back up to the commune in the middle of the night for the express purpose of murdering a few of them!
The novel rushes headlong for its conclusion as we are quickly introdued to Douglas Q. Wilde, a Boris Karloff/Vincent Price-type horror actor with delusions of grandeur who is known for portraying insane men who get off on murdering women. (Even the “subtle” material is obtuse in Cut!) Wilde happens to be at a party Lorraine is hosting, and Reagan instantly suspects something about the guy. Meanwhile Lorraine doesn’t believe that her sister is really a willing Priest devotee, and insists that Reagan bring her back, regardless of what the girl says.
The authors are also good at setting up action scenes. When Reagan finds himself being tailed by two of Priest’s goons the next day, he veers off into Disneyland, and the ensuing action sequence suspensefully plays out among the rides and attractions. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is the setting for one memorable scene, where Reagan jumps out among the model pirates and blows away one of his pursuers as he rides by in a boat.
Like Dirty Harry Reagan carries a .44 Magnum, though sometimes it’s a .45, and sometimes it’s an automatic…that is, when it isn’t a revolver. And yes, he just has the one gun! So it’s safe to say the authors forgot to compare notes when it came to Reagan’s gun. Strangely enough they don’t play up too much on the gun-battle gore, with Reagan apparently doling out clean and nonmessy kills, which must be pretty hard to do with a .44 Magnum.
Before it’s all over we get another detailed snuff film sequence, this time “starring” a character we know. And unlike Morse’s parodic character Sam Hunter, Reagan is actually fazed by what he sees, to such a point that Priest gets a drop on him while he’s watching the flick. This leads to a suitably apocalyptic finale, one that leaves Reagan further unsettled. In fact it’s strange that there was no sequel to Cut, as the authors leave a lot of potential for further lurid adventures with Reagan.
As for the authors and more background info on Cut, here’s what Justin Marriott has to say:
Jerry Bronson was Laurence James and John Harvey. The late Laurence James is my hero, ex-editor at NEL whose final days were spent on Deathlands as Jerry Axler. When the original author of the first Deathlands story faced a few personal issues which resulted in him supposedly turning in a manuscript consisting of several hundred pages of dialogue between the two lead characters crouching in an armoured tank, it was Laurence that Gold Eagle turned to. No doubt due to the connection between GE editor Mark Howell and Laurence -- they worked together at New English Library in London during the early 1970s.
John Harvey is the best-selling and politically aware crime author. I asked Harvey about the book, and his version was Laurence did the kinky bits and he did the PI bits. From what I know of Laurence, that would definitely have been the case. Apparently he always had the latest scandalous gossip and sometimes photos of various dignitaries and celebrities up to no good. His Hells Angels books as Mick Norman for New English Library are my favoutite all-time books - subversive and hugely entertaining.
Cut was written for the American market. The link here was Andy Ettinger at Pinnacle who reprinted a number of Laurence's UK books at Pinnacle, and those of his colleagues. Examples include the Edge westerns by George G Gilman (Terry Harknett was the author but Laurence was key in their development), The Killers by Klauz Netzen (Nettson in the US), The Gladiators by Andrew Quiller (the pun only works with the English series which was called The Eagles. Aquilla meaning Roman for eagle), The Vikings as Neil Langholm, and Simon Rack as Laurence James.
There's no way Cut would have been printed in the UK in the 1970s. I think the stilted and restrained approach of UK pulp authors reflected the standards of the time and our strict censorship laws. Hardcore only became legally available here in the 1990s and is still only available through licenced sex shops. In the 1980s the video distributor of The Evil Dead was given a jail sentence and the likes of The Exorcist weren't available on DVD until the late 1990s. At one point the word Chainsaw was banned, so that terrible film with Gunnar Hansen was renamed Hollywood Hookers. Nunchaka scenes were also banned in the 90s, which meant Enter the Dragon couldn't be seen uncut and the video cover was doctored to show Lee holding what appeared to be a large baguette! (At one point, an uncut version was accidentally shown on terrestial TV and was the source of bootlegs for many years.) Bizarre I know - we Brits are totally obsessed with sex and violence yet at the same time totally repressed and hung-up.
I think Cut shows what they could write with the brakes off!