Monday, December 7, 2015

Justin Perry: The Assassin #2: Vatican Kill

Justin Perry: The Assassin #2: Vatican Kill, by John D. Revere
October, 1983  Pinnacle Books

Just as twisted as the other books in the series, Vatican Kill is another disturbed, bizarre-o installment of Justin Perry: The Assassin, courtesy Hal “John D. Revere” Bennett, and once again I’m certain this series was some sort of experiment on the part of the author. But what exactly he was trying to prove with the experiment is anyone’s guess – personally, I think it was his attempt at sort of pulling the rug out from beneath the traditional square-jawed/white American hero edifice of action pulp, but who knows.

Because regardless, this series is fucked up to the core. This is displayed posthaste, as a mutilated scientist, having defected from evil terrorist organization SADIF, briefs the CIA in the opening pages on his former organization’s latest gambit. SADIF has armed a space rocket with a thermonculear warhead and aimed it for the planet Venus as a sign of their superiority…and also as a way to draw in new converts(!?). The scientist has defected as he is certain this warhead will cause the destruction of the galaxy. In his escape he was mauled by dogs, who also bit off his testicles – as ever it all comes down to the groin in the world of Justin Perry.

And speaking of our hero, a page or two later and Justin Perry is covered in cow shit, secretly watching as a former Nazi now posing as a Vatican City gardner is being bathed by a nun with a “prominent harelip.” The Nazi is Carl Werner, and he’s taken over the gardner position from none other than Joseph Mengele, infamous Nazi sadist who has been hiding here in the Vatican for decades, controlling the Italian division of SADIF. But Mengele’s too sick and has absconded to Paraguay (which, strangely enough, is where the real Mengele died…though in 1979), and now Werner, who was still a teenager when WWII ended, has assumed his command post.

Werner it gradually develops is runing “Project New Fire” (as the SADIF Venus warhead plot is called) from the Vatican. Justin scraps his assassination attempt when Werner is suddenly called away. Justin washes off the cow shit, appropriates a priest’s garb, and then heads outside the Vatican…where he’s picked up by a horny young Italian girl(?!). Her name is Angelica Montessori and she is a virgin, she announces. She needs Justin, whom she believes is a priest due to his appropriated clothing, for an experiment she wishes to try. So the two walk around Rome all afternoon, Werner and the rocket to Venus totally forgotten, before they go back to a hotel.

There Angelica strips Justin and then gets nude herself, but she makes Justin promise he won’t touch her. We’re treated to her long backstory, during which Justin keeps arbitrarily flashing back to when he was twelve years old and was sent to India by his military bigwig father. There young Justin had his first sexual encounter, with Mrs. Blossom Reed, the fat wife of one of his father’s subordinates in the army. Angelica brings Justin back to the present with a quick blowjob and then Bruno, proprietor of the hotel, storms in, saying Justin was supposed to die; Justin kills him, feels woozy, realizes the wine he’s been drinking was drugged. Angelica tells Justin it’s a trap but she’s “fallen in love” with him and begs him to flee.

It’s not weird enough yet, so then the door bangs open and in storms the “harelipped nun” from earlier, as well as a young German boy who is apparently Carl Werner’s prize possession, and wouldn’t you believe it none other than Blossom Reed, aka “Mrs. Reed,” aka the lady Justin was just thinking of for no reason, who has “lost a lot of weight” in the ensuing decades and who keeps screaming that Justin must be captured. But Justin runs away, escaping nude into the streets of Rome, before he passes out due to the drug, his last conscious image that of Mrs. Reed towering over him and hitting him with a broom.

Oh but meanwhile, all this is actually going according to plan – the “Old Man,” ie Justin’s CIA boss, has planned for all of this with his usual inhuman foresight. SADIF was aware of Justin all along, and thus had Angelica, forced into SADIF servitude, there waiting for him, but the Old Man’s plan was for it to appear that Justin was not aware that he’d already been made…or something.

The book you see is more focused on theological debates, particularly Justin’s own struggling with the concept of a “benevolent” god, which he thinks is an impossibilty. Throughout the novel he flashes back to his youth, particularly an instance in India where he saw a train conductor derail his train, casting himself and about a thousand passengers into an abyss, all so as to avoid hitting a sacred cow that was standing on the train tracks. Cows also thus play an important part in Vatican Kill, particularly cow dung, which is mentioned again and again, as well as Justin’s penchant for running around in shit. We also get frequent flashbacks to a strange incident in Justin’s youth in which his mother made him dress up like Donald Duck(!).

What I’m trying to say, friends, is that this is still one fucked up series, so damned weird that you start to worry about the author’s mental health. While it’s well-written – Hal Bennet is if anything a gifted word-spinner – it’s just so weird, so obsessed with bizarre and unsettling imagery. Characters will be talking and Justin’s mind will trail off and we’ll get these long, morbid digressions on death, complete with more disturbed imagery like an army of crows feasting on those train-passenger corpses back in India.

Mrs. Reed you won’t be surprised to learn is also a SADIF agent – as in the previous volume, it appears that every single person in Justin’s life has been a secret SADIF agent, preparing him from birth for some bizarre reason. The final volume revealed this reason – that Justin was intended to sow future generations after civilization was wiped out by Halley’s Comet – but for reasons I still haven’t figured out SADIF was dropped from the final volume and the main villains were revealed as “the Halley Society,” which doesn’t even exist in these early volumes. SADIF is Justin’s version of SPECTRE, not the Halley Society.

But as mentioned the Old Man (himself outed as the head of the Halley Society in that final volume) is like thirty steps ahead, so we learn in flashback that all this has been planned for. So when Carl Werner tells Justin that if Justin assassinates the king and queen of Spain(?!), the Venus rocket will be destroyed via remote control, Justin agrees to do it, having known all along that this is exactly what Werner would demand of him. Justin’s only request is that his CIA pal Bob Dante, returning from the previous volume, be allowed to go along with him. Werner consents to this. So Justin travels with Mrs. Reed and Bob Dante to Spain, where Justin carries out the assassination…only, in one of the novel’s few clever touches, it’s actually a pair of SADIF agents that Dante has captured and brainwashed off-page.

But wait – I forgot all about the part where Justin’s first captured by Carl Werner and stripped nude and then thrown in with a pack of rabid dogs, and the crazed, ferocious look in their eyes, coupled with his random flashbacks about that train wreck in India and those vultures gorging on the corpses, results in Justin getting a whopper of a hard-on, which he clutches desperately while he fights the dogs to death!! And then when he wakes up he’s greeted with a blowjob courtesy Mrs. Reed, or “taking his milk” as she always put it when he was twelve years old…and then later he takes Angelica’s virginity, after which she’s basically dropped from the narrative until the very end.

And I totally forgot to mention the part where Carl Werner, as some sort of message, ties the “harelipped nun” (who turns out to be Angelica’s aunt) to a big poplar tree, the top half of which is pinned to the ground, and then cuts the lashes loose so the poor nun is nearly decapitated by the thrashing tree as it flings back to its normal position.

But anyway, Justin kills the pseudo king and queen of Spain, fooling Mrs. Reed and thus SADIF, however it was just a lie…she happily reveals that the “New Fire” rocket’s real intention is to impact with the nuclear missile which the US has launched to stop the SADIF rocket; when the two rockets collide there in deep space, the resulting thermonuclear explosion will knock out communication in the west for several hours, during which SADIF will take over the world, or something. But forget that, the regicide has Mrs. Reed all hot and bothered, and here she is with these two good-looking young CIA studs, so what’s an old lady to do…

The sex, while frequent and, really, making up the core of the novel and the actions of the characters, isn’t very explicit. In fact it’s more off-putting than anything. The only “normal” sex scene is where Justin takes Angelica’s virginity, but it isn’t very detailed…more focus is placed on the sordid engagements, like when Justin and Bob Dante double-team Mrs. Reed, which Justin thinks to himself afterwards was like “fucking a bucket of guts”!! Bennett as usual excels in making the erotic disgusting, particularly when Justin peers at ol’ Mrs. Reed’s nether region and thinks that it looks like a bunch of ashes…

Yeah, man, this is one sick series. I should mention the novel ends with Carl Werner being fooled into thinking he’s going over to the CIA, but instead they’re just setting him up for a grand kill – Justin’s mission you see is to give Carl Werner a spectacularly gruesome death, so he spends the novel wondering what he’ll do (that is, when he isn’t thinking about that train crash or the vultures feeding on the corpses or the questionable reality of a “benevolent God”). So what he does end up doing is crucifying a nude Werner upside down, and then a CIA doctor cuts off the Nazi’s dick, stuffs it in Werner’s mouth and sews his lips shut, all while Werner has been dosed with “excitol,” an experimental drug which prevents him from fainting, so that he is super-aware of his misery until he finally dies.

I mentioned this is a twisted series, didn’t I?

Once again Hal Bennett isn’t much concerned with action scenes, nor realistic detail; Justin again uses a .38 revolver that both has a safety and can be equipped with a silencer. There’s hardly any action at all in the entire novel, and what passes for the climax has Justin and Bob Dante, suited up in one-piece black commando suits like the one Justin wore in the previous book, ambushing Werner and his SADIF agents in the caverns beneath Rome. But it’s all pretty dumb, as they just make all the SADIF freaks gather together in a dank well after shooting one or two of them. As usual, more focus is placed on twisted imagery and bizarre thoughts rather than action or thrills.

So anyway, Vatican Kill is strange, off-putting, slow-paced, and yet still well-written, and really just seems to come from some bizarre alternate reality.


Tom Johnson said...

I picked up issue #3 in this series, and actually read it. CRAZY. Another series I refused to buy after that one encounter (lol).

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks for the comment, Tom. Yes, #3 looks crazy indeed -- that's the one with the plot about chickens. I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but I know it will at least be a memorable read. By the way, I really enjoy your Amazon reviews. Here is a link to them for others who'd like to check out Tom's great reviews.

Unknown said...

Holy shit. Okay, I HAVE to get this series now. It's too twisted not to read. :D