Monday, May 7, 2012
The Force #1: Deadly Snow
The Force #1: Deadly Snow, by Jake Decker
February, 1984 Pinnacle Books
One of the last gasps of Pinnacle Books before they went belly up, The Force is an obscure four-volume series by one Jake Decker. I'm betting this is a house name, but no information is available. And in fact "Jake Decker" really could be the author's name. At any rate, the "Force" in question is a three-person team who works for a shadowy government agency overseen by The Librarian, who sends the team out on missions too risky or delicate for regular agents to handle.
The Force is comprised of Steve Sinclair, a grizzled 'Nam vet who lead a previous incarnation of the Force, one which was decimated a few years ago by the elusive villain D'Arbanville. Sinclair's now retired and wants to stay that way, but being the main protagonist of the series, he's soon called back in to start up a new version of the Force. The second member of this new team is Micah, a New Orleans-reared agent who is gifted with mental powers. He can implant ideas into the minds of others (talk about "the force!") and he can read thoughts. Finally there is Jezebel Cooke (!) a redheaded Texan beauty who can kick all sorts of ass due to her martial arts skills.
It's the murder of Jezebel's sister that initiates the formation of this new Force. Acting in a series of kung-fu movies shot in Thailand, Jezebel's sister discovers that the studio is just a front for a global heroin ring. (As a bit of trivia, this is the same plot as the 1976 Japanese film Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist, starring karate ultra-babe Etsuko "Sue" Shihomi.) She is soon murdered for her discovery. Jezebel, daughter of a Senator, somehow gets to the attention of the Librarian, who decides to put Micah on the case. However the Librarian feels that Micah is a bit too rough around the edges and needs a more seasoned agent to hone his obvious skills.
Here we meet Sinclair, who now bides his time at Ma's Diner ("Ma" by the way is a guy), a roadstop dive apparently frequented by nothing but former members of the Force and its parent agency. Sinclair quit the life bitterly after the murder of his former teammates during a mission in London, a mission in which even the woman Sinclair loved was also murdered by D'Arbanville. Micah pays him a visit at Ma's and it's an instant hate between the two, which sets off a steady stream of witty, mean-spirited banter that goes on for the duration of Deadly Snow.
Micah only asks Sinclair to be his new leader because the Librarian told him to, Sinclair doesn't want to get back into the business, yadda yadda yadda. We all know where it's going. And of course a bevy of bikers show up right on cue to sow chaos at Ma's, only to get their asses handed to them by Sinclair and Micah. After which Sinclair gives it a bit more thought, meets the Librarian, and agrees to the mission -- that is, only when he discovers that D'Arbanville is tied up in it somehow. It's payback time!
Jezebel Cooke enters the fray in a head-scratching development where the Librarian somehow decides that this female civillian, who has no ties to any covert agency, would make a fine third member of the new Force. Okay, whatever. Really though she's just there to provide a buffer for the constant bickering between Sinclair and Micah, as well as being an object of lust for both men. She also appears to have latent psychic powers of her own, instantly detecting when Micah tries to read her thoughts.
In fact Jezebel takes on most of the action in the novel. She's used as a guinea pig, taking an acting job with the heroin-smuggling movie studio in Thailand while Sinclair and Micah sit around and twiddle their thumbs. A strange thing is that Deadly Snow is less of an action novel and more of a suspense drama with a heavy dose of comedy. There's a sardonic vibe which runs throughout, and many scenes are played up for laughs. Decker does a great job of bringing the various characters to life and provides good dialog for them.
So then, while it's well-written, Deadly Snow is actually a failure as a men's adventure novel. There is precious little action here, and what little we get of it is just martial arts-type stuff, quick fights that are over as soon as they begin. In all honesty, the book started off strong with good characters and a level of writing above that of the genre norm, but it gradually settled into a plodding pattern. My guess is that Pinnacle was going for something different, a book with less gore and carnage and more characterization -- there is, too, a bit of sexual tomfoolery, but even it is written in a conservative tone.
Mileage then will vary. Personally I like the crazy shit, and Deadly Snow just wasn't crazy enough for me.