Monday, July 23, 2012
The Penetrator #15: The Quebec Connection
The Penetrator #15: The Quebec Connection, by Lionel Derrick
July, 1976 Pinnacle Books
This volume of the Penetrator finds our hero Mark Hardin going all over the place, from Quebec to France, seeing a lot of action along the way. Author Mark Roberts appears to combine a few separate plotlines here, with The Quebec Connection starting off like just another tale of Hardin's tracking down and killing the members of a terrorist group, but then ends like something out of TNT, with Hardin fighting a trio of dwarves atop the Eiffel Tower. Even Hardin himself in this volumes wonders "what the hell he'd gotten himself into."
A group of hippie terrorists dubbed the 23 May Liberation Front is bombing places both in their homebase of Quebec and in the States; the novel opens with a pretty female member of the group planting a bomb in a Buffalo, New York bank. In addition to this the group is dealing a drug called Ziff, no relation to Artie Ziff, which appears to have the same effects as Ecstasy, just a decade or so before that drug existed. Only Ziff has a bizarre side effect which Hardin doesn't learn about until later.
As usual Hardin's method of research is pretty basic: he beats people around. In one out-of-left-field sequence, probably there just to boost the action quotient which is a bit lacking in the first quarter of the novel, Hardin poses as a priest and is jumped by a gang of street toughs, whom he kills after a protracted and brutal fight. Eventually he makes his way to Quebec (one of my favorite places in the world is Montreal, by the way), where he has tracked the movers and shakers in the 23 May Liberation Front.
Here the action picks up, with Hardin "penetrating" terrorist bases, killing guards and planting bombs. The hippie terrorists prove little threat, and indeed Roberts must've realized he already had Hardin kill a bunch of hippies back in #9: Dodge City Bombers, so he opens up the plot. While Hardin's tracking the French-Canadian terrorists, a separate group is tracking him: a Chinese villain who suffered fallout from Hardin's crime-busting way back in #3: Capitol Hell is finally getting around to his revenge, and so has sent out various teams of Chinese killers to waste Hardin.
There are some fun action scenes throughout, from Hardin taking on the first wave of Chinese assassins to another drawn-out sea warfare sequence with Hardin, in a commandeered yacht, launching a surprise attack on the hippie terrorists while they're engaged in a drug drop. After this battle the Feds appear, having been tracking the hippie terrorists themselves, and despite Hardin being a wanted man the Feds propose that he work with them on the case! Joanna Tabler, Hardin's occasional girlfriend, is with them; I'm pretty sure this is the first time she's appeared in a Roberts-penned installment of the series. (In fact, Roberts ends the novel with Hardin realizing that he'll have to break off relations with Joanna!)
After a laughable sequence in which we learn that Hardin has purchased a bullet-proof business suit, he flies to Marseilles, France, where a la The French Connection the Ziff has been imported from. Here those dwarves appear: the side effect of Ziff is that it corrupts the biology of the user so that his or her offspring will be born a dwarf. Masterminded by a trio of sadists who think dwarfism is normal and who hate the "giants," Ziff is created here in France and funnelled out to the 23 May Liberation hippies, who themselves are unaware of its damaging effects.
The Chinese have followed Hardin even here, and there follows a scene in which his bullet-proof suit is put to use, followed by an even better scene where Hardin gets his revenge. Meanwhile he closes in on the Ziff manufacturers, blowing up their plants and killing more terrorists. The finale is by far the best part, with those dwarves -- who, by the way, are dressed like the Three Musketeers at the time -- taking on Hardin atop the Eiffel Tower. (And yes, there's a part where Hardin grabs one of them and hurls the little bastard right off the Tower!)
While it was for the most part entertaining, I just felt that The Quebec Connection went on too long, and despite the abundance of plotlines it just seemed to drag at times. But then, I've found that I much prefer the sadistic, fast-moving installments written by Chet Cunningham.