Thursday, March 26, 2015

Decoy #2: Moon Over Miami

Decoy #2: Moon Over Miami, by Jim Deane
May, 1975  Signet Books

The second and final volume of the misnamed Decoy series is just as boring and tepid as the first. Once again our breast-obsessed narrator, Nick “The Great Pretender” Merlotti, blathers on and on as he relates his latest (and thankfully last) case, which for some reason has him trying to clear the name of a young Hispanic kid who’s been set up on a murder charge.

It’s pretty bad when by the second volume the series is already in trouble; I mean, why the hell is a master thief like Merlotti suddenly cast as a civil rights do-gooder? At least the first volume had him pulling a heroin heist. This one dispenses with all of the sub-Parkerisms and instead makes Merlotti almost like a private eye or something. What I’m trying to say is, the “hook” this series had – namely, of a notorious heister coming out of retirement – is squandered, and we’re left with a boring tale that could’ve featured anyone as the protagonist.

The one thing remaining is Merlotti’s fascination with boobs. As in the previous volume, breasts are constantly mentioned, with at times two full paragraphs devoted to describing how they jiggle. This time it comes off as even more creepy, or puzzling, as if Jim Deane were trying to compensate for something – something made even more possible by the fact that, once again, he’s all buildup. We get like a hundred words about a gal’s tits, and then Merlotti will tell us, “We fucked again.” In other words, just like last time.

It’s hard to convey how puzzling this whole boob-exploitation stuff is, when coupled with the dearth of actual sex material. Call me strange, but if you write a few paragraphs about how a girl’s breasts look and move and jiggle and sway, then why the hell wouldn’t you just go all the way with it and write some bad sex material too? It’s just really, really weird, and to tell the truth kind of creepy, especially when you factor in Merlotti’s tossed-off “nuggets of wisdom” about women.

Well anyway, Merlotti’s in Miami, which is where he parachuted to in the climax of the first book. Now he’s in a trendy house with a big pool, living there with big-boobed Faye, his moll from the previous volume, as well as Mr. Waves, Merlotti’s black partner/technology whiz. Plus Waves has picked up a girl of his own. As Moon Over Miami opens, Merlotti’s sitting by the pool, licking Faye’s breasts…while Waves is sitting right there.

My friends, who in the hell does this? Other than like members of a rock group. Would you lick some girl’s nipples by the pool while your partner in crime tried to tell you about a young Hispanic kid who’s been framed for murder?? I think even a dog would show more courtesy. But Merlotti relays all this to us like it’s the most common thing in the world…and hell, Faye only dislikes it because Merlotti gradually starts showing more attention to Waves than to her unlicked nipples!

But anyway, Waves himself has changed – where previously he too was a career criminal, now he’s all fired up over how some local kid has been arrested for the murder of an old lady. The lady was Lori Daniels, once a Follies girl who in her day was as famous as Garbo, but then became just as reclusive as her. Now she’s dead, savagely attacked by someone who broke into her apartment and beat her to death. A few people claim to have seen a “Cuban youth” running away from the apartment building, and the cops converged on a kid named Jaime Ramos, who was blithely eating ice cream in a parlor a few blocks away.

So Waves badgers Merlotti to help out. Why, I don’t know. Now “The Great Pretender” becomes like the crime world’s version of a civil rights activist, and vows to do his best to clear Jaime Ramos. Meanwhile Waves just sort of fades out into the background; even though he came up with this whole deal, he leaves it all to Merlotti. It all just smacks of some ultra-lazy writing. Now Merlotti’s back to the same tricks as last time, wasting our time with “scenarios” where he goes on for pages and pages with his theories on why Lori Daniels might’ve been killed.

More padding with Merlotti’s casing of one of the cops who arrested Jaime, an oafish drunk named Dan Wilson. Here the breast-obsession goes into overkill as Merlotti sets up a caper where Faye, wearing revealing clothes, dances provocatively in a rock club Wilson frequents, in a bid to catch the cop’s eye. Deane writes paragraphs(!) about how Faye’s boobs jiggle. But it’s blue-balling of the worst sort, as per the plan Fay leads the lucky bastard out to the parking lot…and right into an ambush by some biker thugs.

Merlotti shows up with some “karate” moves to save the day, and he and Wilson become best buds. Faye’s gone, so Wilson’s lost out on that, but he’s gained a friend…not that it goes anywhere. More stalling as we get background detail on Wilson and who he thinks really killed old Lori Daniels. Back to square one, Merlotti poses as a reporter and goes around talking to various people. More stalling as it just goes on and on with tedious bullshit that bores you to your very soul.

Already a month has passed, and Faye’s frustrated with just being thrown “perfunctory fucks” by an always-gone Merlotti, so after “The Great Pretender” catches her in bed with some other dude (since she wasn’t getting enough from our narrator she had to go elsewhere), she says thanks for the memories and heads home. Oh, and Waves is still around…doing whatever. You’d think the guy would be a little more involved in the case, given how it was all his idea.

Deane saves all the firewords for Vicki, the 17 year-old beauty who was one of the witnesses who apparently saw Jaime Ramos flee the murder scene. During his door-to-door reporter schtick, Merlotti catches a fleeting glimpse of Vicki suntanning topless, and we’re treated to another paen to boobs. But if you’re uncomfortable reading such material when it concerns a “teeny bopper,” get ready to get real uncomfortable.

Following the old porn-hack cliché of making the girl “seem a whole lot older than she really is,” Deane has young Vicki coming on strong to the Great Pretender. He has no intention of fending her off, either; Merlotti, that charmer of a man, informs us that 35 is his cut-off date, so far as a woman’s age is concerned. No, his only concern with Vicki is that she might be trying to hoodwink him, that she might know more about the Lori Daniels murder than she lets on. But with her constant use of the word “fuck” and the way she keeps batting her eyes at Merlotti (not to mention her breasts, of course!), we know where it’s headed.

And surprisingly, it’s to an actual sex scene. For the first time in this “series,” Deane actually writes more than “We fucked,” and goes all-out as his narrator-protagonist screws a 17 year-old girl. There isn’t even a hint of shame from Merlotti (or Deane, for that matter) as he happily regales us with the details of his conquest. But Vicki’s so experienced, so mature…she even promises Merlotti she’ll be “the best fuck” he ever had. And she is! I don’t know which character to feel more sorry for.

So far as the plot goes, it’s a straight-up waste of time. Merlotti eventually runs into a Mafia goon named Boom-Boom Cavaliere who briefly captures Merlotti, putting him through the horrible torture of shining a spotlight in his face(!). There’s also a big fake-out/miss on Deane’s part with the introduction of a porn actress who turns out to only appear for a few sentences; Deane builds her up to the point where you figure she’ll be another of Merlotti’s conquests. But as it is, she’s gone in a flash…and Deane doesn’t even exploit her breasts very much! Quite puzzling indeed.

The previous volume ended with Merlotti sort of hijacking a private plane; this one ends with him hijacking a courtroom. In one of the more middling “climaxes” in men’s adventure history, notorious criminal/mastermind heister Nick Merlotti acts as defense lawyer for Juan Ramos(?!), and when he discovers (as he expected he would) that the court is made up of men who have already deemed Ramos is guilty, Merlotti and Waves break out pistols and run the trial their way!

At gunpoint, Merlotti gets the true criminals to confess – as expected, it turns out to be young Vicki and her two teenaged friends. These three who claimed to see Juan Ramos running away were really the sadists who murdered old Lori Daniels. Merlotti has figured all this out on his own and only informs us here in the finale; have I mentioned that the events of Moon Over Miami occur over two long months? But yeah, young Vicki was screwing Merlotti mostly to find out what his angle was, in his research of the Daniels murder.

The truth uncovered, Merlotti and Waves take the judge hostage and board a private plane to Guadalupe. Here in the final pages Merlotti tells us he’s done for good, that this was his last job, and he’ll retire to a lifetime of screwing in Guadalupe. Waves chides the Great Pretender that he knows he’s not going to retire, that he enjoys the criminal life too much. Merlotti’s final line makes one wonder if Deane knew this was the last volume, or if he only planned to write two books, as Merlotti insists that he’s retiring for real this time.

Either way, it doesn’t matter, because whether he planned to or not, Nick “The Great Pretender” Merlotti did not return – and so much the better.


Zwolf said...

It's just as I feared! I've got the first one and thought it was okay for what it was, but it didn't put me in any rush to read the next one. And, yep, I remember the titty preoccupation. It seemed the whole book was descriptions of breasts, and "how to pick up chicks" advice. And weird things like leaving Platters LPs at scenes like they were Mack Bolan's sharpshooter medals. That's a pretty awkward thing to have to be toting around when you're breaking into places.

Yep, it'll still be a while before I read this one...

Joe Kenney said...

Yeah man, there's no rush to read this one at all. It was one of the least entertaining men's adventure novels I've yet read. And the "titty preoccupation" is taken to disturbing extremes. I've got Deane's "The Mistress Book," where I assume most of his "how to pick up chicks" advice is taken from.

By the way, the image of some dude hauling Platters LPs around with him is priceless...sounds like some comedy skit.