Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Enforcer #2: Calling Doctor Kill!

The Enforcer #2: Calling Doctor Kill!, by Andrew Sugar
April, 1973 Lancer Books

After the fantastic Enforcer #1, this second volume is quite a letdown. It's nothing like its predecessor, filled with needless and endless exposition, bland characters, and lazy plotting. It only cements my opinion that the first volume was conceived as a straight-up novel and not the first volume in an ongoing series; this "sequel" appears to be nothing more than a quick and dirty follow-up churned out to meet a deadline.

What makes it all the worse is that Calling Doctor Kill opens so strongly. We pick up with clone Alex Jason on vacation, trying to get over the disastrous events of Enforcer #1. His girlfriend, fellow clone Brunnie, was killed in the final pages of that novel, and Alex still can't accept her death. In his latest clone body he is of course oggled by his fellow vacationers in the resort, but Alex is too bereft with misery to acknowledge them. Until he meets an attractive young lady dealing with her own bereavement -- several pages of graphically detailed sex follows, a sure cure for any woes. But beyond the hardcore shenanigans this is actually a touching scene, as these two characters find strength in one another. A "regular" novel could've focused solely on this aspect...but this is an action series, dammit, none of that pansy stuff.

To wit, Flack appears in the middle of Jason's frolicking and breaks it up with grim news. Flack is Jason's contact with "Big John," the institute for which Jason serves as an Enforcer; Flack relays that Rosegold, head scientist at the institute and Jason's friend, has been kidnapped by the syndicate. Jason breaks it off with his lady friend -- clones can never have relationships with nonclones, after all -- and heads with Flack back to headquarters where they can plan out a mission to free Rosegold.

Here's where the novel starts to suck. Back at Big John Jason engages in tons of conversations with Flack about Rosegold and how he was captured; also endless theoretical and political debates with the young doctor Jason is about to impersonate. Rosegold it develops is most likely imprisoned in a syndicate-owned rehab clinic, and Jason is to pose as this young pathologist and break Rosegold out. If he can't break him out, then he must kill him. I had a hard time buying that Jason could pose as such a specialized doctor, but no matter -- the narrative completely skips over any possibilty of Jason having to fumble his way through a pathologist's duties. Instead, once Jason arrives at the exclusive, resort-like clinic, we're to believe that the place is so overstaffed that a pathologist is only here for appearance's sake.

The enemy this time out is Guider, a ranking psychiatrist who runs the clinic. Guider's a syndicate member and Jason's certain the man has Rosegold locked away in the violent ward. What follows is a lot more exposition as Jason's shown around the clinic, with useless rundowns on various patients, the layout of the place, and etc. Page filler. More page filler ensues with more good ol' graphic sex, as Jason meets and then enthusiastically screws Janet, a gorgeous Big John inside agent who works with children in the clinic. This bit leads to one of the more lurid elements of Calling Doctor Kill; one of Janet's patients is Dennis, a retarded child who is used as a "private sucking machine" (to quote Burt Hirschfeld) by various orderlies.

More lurid stuff follows; part of Jason's ruse is to stir up a revolt in the clinic, and to do so he berates the local union rep. This happens to be an irascible black man, and Jason takes the opportunity to call the guy every racial slur in the book. Yep, that's our hero. It all finally boils to a head in the last pages, as Jason is captured, bullshits his way out of a certain death, and finally locates Rosegold. In fact the ending is so rushed that it's upon us before we even realize it.

All told, a disappointing followup to Enforcer #1. Even the writing is a step down. I have the rest of the series and I can only hope the ensuing volumes improve.

In 1975 Manor Books took over The Enforcer series, republishing the volumes; here's their cover for Calling Doctor Kill:

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