The Peacemaker #1: The Zaharan Pursuit, by Adam Hamilton
June, 1974 Berkley Medallion Books
Who thought putting a picture of our hero talking on the phone would be badass? Look out, troublemakers, or Barry will make a few calls! – Zwolf
Marilyn Granbeck, who as “Allan Morgan” gave us the trainwreck that was Blood, returned the following year with another short-lived series (4 volumes), this one from Berkley and with cover art by the same guy who did the Jason Striker covers. With Blood, Granbeck took a protagonist who was a kick-ass mercenary and turned in a slooow-moving cozy mystery that was more along the lines of a TV movie of the time. With The Peacemaker, Granbeck takes a protagonist who is a wealthy crime-fighter devoted to achieving global peace in his time…and turns in a sloooow-moving cozy mystery that is more along the lines of a TV movie of the time.
According to Hawk’s Authors Pseudonyms, Granbeck wrote this book with someone named Arthur Moore – Hawk only lists two Peacemaker books for the writing duo, but I’m going to assume they actually wrote all four. As I mentioned in my review of Blood #3, Granbeck appears to have mostly written mystery novels, and this is what she turns in for The Zaharan Pursuit. The action scene on the cover is incredibly misleading; Zwolf, as usual, was on-point in his pithy comment, for all Barrington “Barry” Hewes-Bradford really does in the novel is make a few calls.
Barry (and I had a hard time constantly seeing that name and not thinking of a certain past president) is 31 and massively wealthy due to an inheritance. He has armies of employees and properties all over the world, though this book mostly occurs in Hawaii, and in particular aboard Barry’s yacht, the Seabird. Despite my assumption, Barry is not a freelance spy along the lines of The Baroness; rather, he’s just a super-rich dude who secretly uses his wealth to ensure peace is maintained at all costs. While this is a goofy concept, Granbeck does little to exploit it. In reality much of the entirety of The Zaharan Pursuit is given over to Barry trying to find out who owns the boat that swideswept his yacht in the middle of the night on a stormy sea.
Not only that, but Barry, being a billionaire and whatnot, usually has his underlings handle the heavy lifting. This means that there are long portions of The Zaharan Pursuit where one-off characters take center stage, snooping here and there at Barry’s orders. Some of them aren’t one-offs, though, like Lobo, Barry’s right-hand man who was once a star linebacker. Lobo has his own vassals in the security wing of Barry’s company, and sends these dudes out to investigate the hit-and-run boat; two of them get involved in the first “action scene” in the book, engaging in a chase and shootout with some dudes. Later on one of these guys is killed in revenge…and meanwhile, our “hero” continues to sit on his yacht and ponder.
Unlike the Blood novel I read, this one at least has some sex, as Barry scores with two jetsetting hotties: Aura, a Eurasian who has inherited vast wealth from her old (now deceased) husband, and Jessica, an international sportslady or somesuch. But Granbeck doesn’t get down and dirty in the least; here’s the extent of Barry’s boff with Aura: “He made love to her on pale-yellow sheets.” That’s it, folks. The women aren’t as exploited as they’d be in the usual genre offering, perhaps unsurprisingly; and as for Barry himself, we just learn he has the expected rakish good looks. If I’m not mistaken, no mention is made of a beard, meaning that interpretation on the cover is solely the artists’s rendering.
During the interminable investigation Barry comes upon the name Zaharan, an infamous South American revolutionary who has never been seen but who has funded various left-leaning revolutions. (George Soros?!) Barry had his own run-in with Zaharan’s forces a while back, in a revolution the mysterious man started in a South American country Barry had invested in. Now it appears “Z” is running ammunition and was the secret owner of the ship that hit Barry’s yacht that night – at length, we’ll learn that Z is stirring revolution in fictional country San Martin, and that ship was carrying arms for the struggle. In this latest tangent of the investigation Barry heads to Mazatlan, where he eventually finds a Z-owned plane that crashed on land owned by a wealthy local resident.
Here in Mazatlan Barry gets in one of his few action scenes, being chased by a would-be sniper – the same dude, by the way, who has tried twice to kill one of Barry’s secretaries, failing each time. As I say, there is very much a TV movie or series vibe in play, with corny “tense” scenes that are the print equivalent of the swelling music before a tense commercial break; here, Barry’s secretary is in a hospital after the previous near-miss and the sniper shoots at her, chapter end. Next chapter, we eventually learn he missed!! I mean it’s all just so lame and tedious. But at least Barry manages to lose the annoying failure of a sniper, using his fancy fast-driving skills.
A nice scene occurs later on, as Barry and Lobo suit up in scuba gear and snoop around an island that’s being used to store Z’s weapons. While there isn’t much action here, Granbeck captures a nice vibe of potential action. Barry’s first actual kill occurs on page 159, here in this sequence – he takes out a guard dog! The Peacemaker, baby!! From there it’s back to the clue-tracking, with Barry certain Zaharan is in reality someone wealthy and powerful, “Z” just a guise this person uses. George Soros?!!
Spoilers for this paragraph, so avoid if you give a damn – well, Barry figures out sort of late in the game that he’s been close to Zaharan all along. It’s none other than Eurasian sexpot Aura, who has been working with a sleazy entreprenneur named Sevill, funding various revolutions. The finale sees a stupefied Barry slowly digesting this shocking reveal, and then chasing after Aura, who attempts to escape on her private helicopter, which Barry shoots out of the sky. But “the Peacemaker” is such a lame duck of a protagonist that his employees have to save Jessica, who meanwhile has been abducted by Z’s forces.
With that at least the book ends. It’s slow-moving, tepid, and not very exciting. Granbeck’s writing is good, though, which leads to the unavoidable conclusion that she was working in the wrong genre. Here’s hoping the next volumes are a bit better.