The Penetrator #31: Oklahoma Firefight, by Lionel Derrick
May, 1979 Pinnacle Books
Mark Roberts turns in another installment of The Penetrator, proving again that he’s mostly using the series now as a platform to project his beliefs. Along the way Mark “The Penetrator” Hardin wastes a friggin’ ton of Muslim terrorists who have somehow slipped into the US, posing as employees of a new oil company, gunning them down in action scenes that are almost surreal.
Otherwise The Penetrator continues its downward trend, with a titular hero now such an emasculated, pale reflection of his former self that he doesn’t even get to score with this volume’s babe – though there’s a lot of hand-holding and staring into each other’s eyes. The casual sadism of the earliest volumes is also pretty much gone, as is the brutal charm of the series itself. So I guess you could say the blandness that overtook the ‘70s had overtaken The Penetrator as well.
But it is pretty surreal – there’s this new Arabic oil conglomerate, Al Jihad(!), taking over all the US oil companies. Their goal is to ensure oil interests are only in Arabic, ie Muslim, hands. To this end they want to keep American companies from oil-prospecting even within America itself. So of course they kidnap the daughter of one American holdout, Phelps Lucky Seven, to ensure the complicity of its tough-guy CEO, “Hot Hole” Harry Gorse(!), former oil “wildcatter” turned company executive. As the action opens, the Muslim fiends have sexy young Sheila Gorse in their custody, threatening her bodily harm if Harry doesn’t sign Phelps over to Al Jihad.
Enter Mark Hardin, already on the scene. Posing throughout as “Hulie Crowkiller,” claiming to be a representative of the possibly-mythical “Council of the Good Red Road,” Mark presents himself to fellow “full-blooded Indian” Harry Gorse. Mark lies that “the Council” is interested in this oil business because many of the American oil fields are on Indian land, or somesuch. At any rate this leads to the first of several action scenes, as Mark blasts away a bunch of Jihadists and frees Sheila – who of course instantly falls head over heels for “Hulie,” even though nothing comes of it.
Roberts never wrote for Gold Eagle Books, but it’s interesting that Oklahoma Firefight prefigures the template used by most of that imprint’s series novels. To wit, we have scenes with Mark waging war, and just as many scenes from the point of view of the villains – Arabic terrorists, just as in so many of those Gold Eagle books, who squabble among themselves and worry over what to do about the Penetrator. In this case the main Al Jihadi goon is Ali Hassan, who again is a sad reminder of the oldschool Muslim terrorist, most of whom looked almost like Mister Rogers when compared to the modern Muslim terrorist. Ali you see not only fears death, but is open to negotiation and wants to cement Al Jihadi’s oil rule in as above-the-board means as necessary.
In fact, Mark Hardin comes off as worse than the Jihadis; while they plot and maneuver, the most they do in the book is kidnap Sheila and threaten Harry. Mark meanwhile travels around Oklahoma and Texas and just murders them left and right. He even runs into them by accident, in what makes for some of Roberts’s humorously-convenient plotting; while hunting (and we’re informed the Penetrator isn’t much of a hunter…even though he has hunting licenses in just about every state!?), Mark runs into a roving patrol of Al Jihadis, who take him prisoner, wondering what to do with him. I forgot to mention – the Al Jihadis are also leftists, or at least pretend to be, mostly so they can play to the gullibility of Western leftists (my how times have changed, huh? Oh, wait…). So the leader of this batch sympathizes with Mark, being that Mark’s a Cheyenne Indian, and thus has “also” been exploited by the white rulers of America and whatnot.
Not that this stops Mark from butchering these guys, too, freeing himself by a hidden knife, a new tool in his arsenal which is so built up that it’s almost product-placement on the level of Jerry Ahern. Mark’s escape is damn easy, and it helps that all the Al Jihadi terorists are presented as incredibly stupid and inept. Mark soon captures one of them – a young boy he tortures for info in Sheila’s hotel room, and whose fate Roberts forgets to inform us about. Sheila meanwhile has fallen in love with “Hulie,” and Mark chastises himself that his on-again, off-again girlfriend Joanna Tabler (unseen this volume) would never let him hear the end of it.
The novel is pretty repetitive; both Harry and Sheila are abducted twice each. One of the Harry abductions leads to an actual car chase, one that occurs on the campus of Oral Roberts University – and once again Mark easily rescues his comrade, taking out a bunch of inept Al Jihadi goons in the process. This one features an unintentionally-humorous finale where all the hippie college kids start to take photos of the license plate on Mark’s rented car and he takes off before they can.
Speaking of humor, Roberts is back to his old in-jokery, at least; early on a character refers to “that Camellion fellow,” and a guard at Phelps Lucky Seven is chastised for reading “too many adventure novels.” A later action scene prefigures Die Hard, with Mark alone and surrounded in the Al Jihadi corporate headquarters in Houston. This might be the best of many action scenes in the book, with Mark tearing the place up and making an easy escape thanks to a handy fireman suit he’s brought along with him.
In fact the final quarter is comprised of lightning strikes Mark makes on various Jihadi strongholds in Oklahoma and Texas. There’s also a lot of setup to each of these action scenes, with padding about Mark driving around, talking to locals, asking if they’ve seen any strange new Arab companies opening in the vicinty, etc. Meanwhile Sheila Gorse is caught again, and her fate I admit was a bit surprising, almost casually relayed via Roberts. This incident leads Harry Gorse to whip up his own strike force of Cheyenne warriors – and ultimately he too is caught once again.
The novel does build up to a nice climax, with Mark dishing out bloody payback to Ali Hassan and American traitor Arnold Merritt; but since the Penetrator didn’t get laid by Sheila, Roberts delivers this out-of-nowhere 11th hour reveal that Sheila has a sister, even sexier(!), who works as a model in New York. Oklahoma Firefight ends with the Penetrator about to live up to his title with this particular Ms. Gorse – though per series norm he’s already fretting over his next mission.
Overall this one was okay, a passable time-killer, but I’m hoping the series picks up eventually. It’s never a good sign when the parts I most enjoyed were Roberts’s various diatribes – all of which, mind you, were about things that are sadly as prevalent as ever (the leftist bias of the news, the anti-US bias of the United Nations, etc). Unless of course you’re a fan of those things.