Monday, May 26, 2014

Target: Doomsday Island (aka Nick Carter: Killmaster #71)

Target: Doomsday Island, by Nick Carter
February, 1973  Award Books

Back in January 2011 Andreas Decker wrote a great overview of the Nick Carter: Killmaster series for The Paperback Fanatic #17. I hadn’t read one of those novels since I was a kid in the ‘80s, and I remember not being very fond of them. But Andreas’s commentary was so compelling that I decided I’d have to check the series out again, particularly the installments from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Given its back cover blurb about “pot and sex parties,” Target: Doomsday Island went to the top of my Killmaster read list. Apparently this volume was written by a Richard Hubbard, who only turned out one other entry in the series; I looked the author up, only to find I actually have an Award paperback published under his own name: Woodstock: One More Time, from 1971. I’ll definitely check it out someday, as if anything Hubbard has a gift for trashy, beach-read fiction.

Because humorously enough, there really isn’t much “men’s adventure” about Target: Doomsday Island. Superspy hero (and book narrator) Nick Carter himself seems unsure what the hell he’s supposed to do, given the vague mission his boss Hawk tasks him with. There’s this Howard Hughes-type trillionaire recluse named Grady Ingersoll who apparently owns the majority shares of a company that has created “Tripleheader” nuclear missiles, which are capable of automatically seeking out targets. These are money-savers, in that a country wouldn’t have to launch several missiles to ensure a hit; the missiles themselves would be smart enough to know if one target had been hit, and so would move off automatically to the next target.

Apparently what’s got Hawk’s superiors in a fuss is that Ingersoll has secluded himself in opulent Doubloon Hotel in Double Cay, a twin island resort near the Bahamas. One island is called Resurrection, and there Ingersoll owns several hotels and resorts, never venturing out of the one he lives in by himself. The other island is called Doomsday, and not only are no guests allowed on it, but there appears to be something shady going on there. Ingersoll now directs all of his communications to the outside world through the “Inner Six,” five young men and one very attractive lady, who are the only people to have seen Ingersoll in years. Hawk is concerned that Ingersoll might be under their control or perhaps has been replaced by a lookalike. 

Ingersoll monitors all guests at Double Cay Hotel via closed circuit TV, and calls in a select few to party next door at his private Doubloon Hotel. Here the “pot parties” of the back blurb come into play, with the mostly young crowd indulging in free dope while an unseen Ingersoll apparently monitors them on TV. After a red herring of an opening, in which Carter, vacationing in Vermont, thinks he’s saving a pretty young girl from her domineering, mobster father, the Killmaster is briefed by Hawk, who tells him he’s to pose as a successful rock manager who is vacationing in Double Cay. Part of Carter’s “research” actually entails visiting record stores and the like, and also growing a thick moustache, so he’ll look more like a successful young “hippie.” 

The majority of Target: Doomsday Island is basically beach-read fiction; other than Carter’s hardboiled narrative tone, there’s nothing about the novel that’s much different than, say, Island Paradise. We get lots of description of Double Cay and the sunbathing guests and the gorgeous ocean views. Hubbard doesn’t do much to bring to life the characters here, most of whom are young jet-setter types. He pours most of his character-building skills into the luscious Cheena Negrita, a stunning professional dancer with waist-length black hair and stupendous breastesses, whose exotic, dark-skinned looks are courtesy her mixed Cuban, Chinese, and “mulatto” heritage.

Cheena is one of those women who only exist in these kinds of novels: she’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with a body to match, and she’s there for Carter’s taking. She goes around in revealing outfits and talks in a sort of gutter English that’s very enticing in its own way, and after a few smouldering looks at one another it’s clear that she and Carter are going to have some hot sex, and soon. First though Carter snoops around Double Cay, posing as a super-hip rock dude. Meanwhile he spots some mysterious “Orientals,” who appear to be the exact same ones Carter ran into during a brief Tripleheader missile research trip to NASA on his way down here.

We get the briefest of action scenes as Carter’s jumped in his room one night, but he pitches the dude off the balcony and that’s that. He’s sure it’s these Asians, and in fact he learns they’re in the room right beneath his, but he’s more focused on finding out what’s going down on Doomsday Island and if Grady Ingersoll is really across the street in his secluded Doubloon Hotel. Carter figures that Cheena, given her status as a high-profile employee here, can be his “in,” so he of course mixes business with pleasure.

The two take a pleasure cruise on Cheena’s runabout and sneak onto heavily-guarded Doomsday Island. Here Hubbard delivers a pretty explicit sex scene, the second in the novel (the first being with that young girl back in Vermont, in the opening pages). I’ve read that early volumes of the series featured sex scenes that were clouded in purple prose; not so here, as we get to read all about Carter’s “long, sliding plunge” into Cheena’s nether region and the whopping mutual climaxes that ensue. In fact our narrator wants us to know he’s so good that Cheena tells him it’s the best sex she’s ever had and begs him for more.

But now firmly in business mode, a callous Carter, who suspects Cheena of being more than she pretends to be, demands that they sneak around Doomsday. He finds nothing of note, but Cheena’s promptly caught by gun-toting Asians and carted off, where she’s slapped around. Carter too gets caught; pretty easily at that. Only via some hidden weaponry does Carter free them, using the handy blade embedded in his sandals to gut a few of the Asians. (Goofily enough, Cheena’s all over Carter after their escape, even though he’s the guy who got her caught and beaten around.)

Sadly, those “pot and sex” parties (my favorite kind of parties, by the way) don’t even come up until the last quarter. As mentioned Ingersoll’s Inner Six pick out Double Cay Hotel guests and invite them over to Doubloon Hotel. Carter gets invited by the seductive Angela, the female member of the Six, and he and several others go over to the opulent playground next door. It’s just another pool, though, with copious amounts of grass up for grabs, but when they’re invited inside it gets kinkier. Here loud “throbbing” music blasts from speakers, incense clouds the murk, and the guests are invited by Ingersoll, who appears on a tv screen, to get high and have fun.

Carter’s a killjoy though, only puffing a joint when he realizes he has to, otherwise he’ll look suspicious. But then he immediately begins snooping, only to end up in a room with a massive bed and a nude Angela and a nude Cheena waiting for him. Turns out the gals are lovers, and Angela’s pissed that Cheena took Carter for herself, last night, as the women have a “sharing” policy. But what promises to be a sleazy scene changes course quickly, with those “Oriental” goons coming in and taking away Carter, who is bound and beaten, before the goons decide to just kill him.

Carter has hidden weapons and gadgets that even the Baroness would be envious off, including a mini-torch that’s sewn into a hidden pocket in his swimming trunks. After an implausible escape Carter doubles back for Doomsday Island, ready to bring the mission to a close. The ensuing action finale is anticlimactic for sure, with Carter again getting caught – but this time he discovers that Grady Ingersoll is indeed an imposter. Blithely telling Carter all his plans for conquest, the fake Ingersoll relates that he was once Ingersoll’s stand-in, a lookalike who decided to become the real thing.

And what of the real Ingersoll? Turns out he’s frozen in cryogenic preservation, just like Walt Disney. In fact he’s right behind a handy set of drapes; fake Ingersoll pulls them away so Carter gets a good look at the real Ingersoll, frozen and motionless, behind a high-tech glass pane. The Inner Six meanwhile are apparently hippie terrorists, or at least left-leaning youth, most of the males disaffected Vietnam vets and Angela a former Red Cross worker or something. Their goal is to use the Tripleheaders to show America how dangerous nuclear warheads are, and to do so they intend to strike Florida, where the President is currently vacationing.

But as mentioned the finale is perfunctory at best, Carter disposing of the Inner Six with his hands and appropriated weapons, the action barely described. Potential is wasted again and again; for example Angela is off-handedly dealt with, despite the build-up Hubbard has given her throughout the narrative. (Meanwhile Cheena, the last we see of her, is left handcuffed in her dressing room, and Carter just leaves her there!) At least the climax with Ingersoll plays out more satisfactorily, Carter chasing him to Doomsday Island where they have a very Bondish confrontation beneath the missile pylons.

And that’s pretty much that. Carter heads home and the denoument is handled in clumsy dialog, Carter doling out exposition on what the Inner Six and fake Ingersoll planned to do, and how he worked with the government of the Bahamas to clean up Doomsday Island. I mean, it all just reads exactly like what it was – a quick and dirty installment of an endless series as churned out by a contract writer. However, that’s not to say it was terrible or anything, and at the very least I look forward to reading more of these novels.

In the meantime, check out Zwolf's complete Nick Carter collection!


Grant said...

The writer definitely used a lot of actual facts and speculations about Howard Hughes, like the island hotel that Ingersoll never leaves, and the "inner circle." Even the cryogenics part - as far as I understand, that subject was associated with him (though a lot less than with Walt Disney) after he was out of the public eye for a long while.

Trever Palmer said...

I've attempted to read a few of these, but could never get into them.

Possibly it was the wrong frame of mind... I don't know.

Kurt Reichenbaugh said...

Oh man, how I used to wish every party I went to back in my not-so-wild youth would turn into a pot and sex party! Instead, it would by mostly guys drinking beer around a keg with Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush playing on the stereo. The few girls that would show up were understandably bored out of their minds, and always asked if we could listen to Journey instead. Then they'd leave.

As for Nick Carter, this weekend I just finished The Nichovev Plot about a Death Cult kidnapping the Soviet Premier. Carter's assistant is a blond Soviet babe who promptly gives him mind-blowing sex, and there several scenes of Kali-worshipping orgy-and-sacrifice rituals with lots of hashish it it. Tough job being a spy for AXE back then!

Zwolf said...

Thanks for the plug! :)

That's the thing with this series - you can never be certain what you're going to get. A couple months ago I read one (_The Devil's Dozen_) which was one of the best reads of it's kind I've encountered in a while (turns out it was by Martin Cruz Smith, which may explain why!). Then last week I finished _Spykiller_ and barely got through it. It was the worst one I remember reading... and it wasn't that the writing was bad or anything, it was just somehow uninvolving. And Nick was barely in it - they followed some thief around most of the time.

Sometimes you get one that's kick-ass from start to finish, and other times Nick just sits around like he's Joe Gall or something. Sometimes they're realistic, other times there are Aquaman clones and submarine-eating clams. Sometimes it's first person, sometimes it's third. There are very few rules. I think they just handed the writers a basic set of instructions like, "He's a spy, he's got a Luger named Wilhelmina, and... go!" A hundred people might day, or it may be like a transcript of an Anthony Bourdain episode and we learn a lot about Paraguay or something.

So far more of them have been good than not, though, luckily. Whenever I do another blog post (I'm workin' on it) there should be a couple of those, and some other series (Confirmed Kill, Revenger), but, along with that _Spykiller_ book, I've been hitting more than my share of duds lately. The one I'm reading now (a Stormrider book) looks like it may be better, though. It's written almost entirely in an invented post-apocalypse biker slang, so it's got that going for it.

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks a lot for the comments, everyone.

Kurt, very funny you should mention "The Nichovev Plot," as it's one of the handful of Killmasters I picked up. I was about to read it after "Doomsday Island," but instead went for one titled "The Satan Trap," which was sort of along the same lines, only with a Satanic cult instead of a "Death Cult." It wasn't nearly as lurid or sleazy as it should've been, though. Also I have to admit, girls who ask to listen to Journey sound like girls worth knowing, especially when compared to their modern-day counterparts, who would probably ask to listen to like Katy Perry or some such shit.

Zwolf, your Killmaster collection is very impressive! I'm looking forward to reading some of the ones by Manning Lee Stokes. Also, will be interested to read your thoughts on the Confirmed Kill series, as that's one I've picked up a few volumes of but haven't read. As for the Revenger, I have a review of the first volume of that series coming up this week. "He's a spy, he's got a Luger named Wilhelmina, and...go!" Classic! And probably pretty much accurate!

Trever Palmer said...

THE REVENGER is a decent series. It was created by my friend Terry Harknett. Towards the end, it was fielded out to Angus Wells, who wrote the final two books.

I've always enjoyed it and think you will, too.

AndyDecker said...

Thanks for the plug :-)

Zwölf is right. You never know what you get. The writer who did Dooomsday Island only wrote one another according to some lists and the other one wasn't great either.

Come to think of it, a lot of the early 70s novel were not very memorable.

Joe Kenney said...

Trever, I was actually referring to the US Revenger series, which was by Jon Messmann (and I'm betting Zwolf was, too). The UK Revenger series by Hedges/Harknett was called "Stark" over here, which is how I refer to it -- and as coincidence would have it, I happen to be reading the third volume ("The Chinese Coffin") at the moment. So far so good!

Andy, thanks for the comment, and I've really enjoyed all of your Paperback Fanatic articles.

Trever Palmer said...

Ah, okay! I duly stand corrected. :)

Trever Palmer said...

And to veer slightly OT, I'm proud to announce that today the final book in my adventure to complete THE DEATH MERCHANT series finally arrived!


Surely we'll be getting more Rosenberger goodness on this blog, yes?

Anonymous said...

Joe thanks for the links to the Nick Carter title list. I have 147 Nick Carter books and now with the list I can track down the others. Really thanks again

Scott said...

I did not care for this title. I have read them all. Some good, Some not so good. One good title to read is The Ouster Conspiracy written by David Hagberg