Monday, June 4, 2018

Hood Of Death (aka Nick Carter: Killmaster #34)


Hood Of Death, by Nick Carter
No month stated, 1968  Award Books

This was the second Nick Carter: Killmaster novel courtesy the series ghostwriter officially designated “William Rohde,” who per my long-winded notes in The Judas Spy might have really been a writer named Al Hine, or maybe even a collaboration of Al Hine and the real Rohde. I guess we’ll never know, but really it’s nothing to get upset about – as ever this author(s) churns out an incredibly slow-moving tale, though at least it’s more exciting at times than The Judas Spy was.

There isn’t much reference to that previous installment, and indeed Hood Of Death features a memorable, somewhat thrilling opening that, while it doesn’t really pan out to much, is still more gripping than anything in The Judas Spy. We meet Nick Carter as he’s deep undercover, posing as young executive swinger Jerry Deming; he’s been in DC for the past six weeks, trying to uncover who is behind some mysterious VIP deaths. By his side in his fancy sportscar is the ultra-hot Ruth Moto, a busty Eurasian babe stated as being one of the most attractive women Nick’s ever met. But he sees a car following him.

The scene has tension and a hardboiled vibe, and given that William Rohde wrote hardboiled books in the ‘50s, it makes me wonder if these novels truly were collaborations, Rohde handling this sort of stuff and Hine delivering the more laid back, padded stuff – which unfortunately makes up most of Hood Of Death. At any rate Nick gets Ruth back to his country home outside DC, has her nude and in bed, and then is “surprised” by the goons who followed them. All along there is extra suspense in that Nick is uncertain how involved Ruth is in all this; did she know they were being followed, or is she just as surprised as “Jerry” is?

But there’s no killing for the Killmaster; he gets loose and scopes out the goons, trying to come off as a tough customer in a strange subplot that’s never explained. The idea is he’s trying to get a job with these guys, or find out who their boss is, or something, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Neither does his time with Ruth; the thugs, who take off after robbing the place, have killed the mood. But we do get a bit of genre-mandatory exploitation, in particular when it comes to Ruth’s breastesses, in a manner similar to the ultra-goofy stuff in The Judas Spy:

Her body was firm and flawless, her breasts high-riding twins with the nipples high-centered like redball signals – beware explosives. Her skin was flawless from brow to pink enameled toes, her pubic hair was an exciting bib of soft blackness.

Humorously enough, Ruth basically disappears after this, abruptly replaced by another busty Chinese babe, Jeanyee, who is even hotter than Ruth. Ruth isn’t alone in being unduly set up before her abrupt removal from the text; “Rohde” also has a knack for informing us about all these new gadgets Nick has…and then never having him use them! It’s almost hilarious, in a way – for example we learn Nick has liquor bottles in the wet bar that are really explosives, or how with a tug on a chandelier cord a tommy gun will fall from its hidden crevice into his hands, or how there’s even hidden weapons compartments in his car. None of this stuff is used. But perhaps the coolest bit is the revelation that Nick’s customary Luger has a three-inch barrel and a transparent “butt plate,” so Nick can see exactly how many bullets are in the clip.

A recurring bit from the previous book is that Nick’s boss Hawk is a lot more active in Rohde’s Killmaster; whereas most of the other ghostwriters have Hawk behind his desk at AXE HQ, never leaving it, Rohde has the dude choppering around on an AXE helicopter like Nick’s errand boy. There’s also a different vibe between the two; here Hawk and Nick joke and banter back and forth and come off more like the hero and his elderly sidekick. But Hawk is adamant that something nefarious is going on; each of the dead VIPs was seen with a Asian babe, and we readers do soon learn that Ruth and Jeanyee are indeed part of the plot, yet another of the many insidious plans of Mr. Judas, Nick’s archenemy in these early volumes.

Though frustratingly, we’re never given definite word on this – Nick and Hawk suspect that “Bormann” is behind the plot, and as veteran Killmaster readers know, Martin Bormann and Mr. Judas are one and the same. Except in the installments where they aren’t. It depends on the ghostwriter, really, and is probably best not to be thought about. But we never see the man himself, and instead Nick spends the majority of the narrative pretending to be Jerry Deming as part of his belabored ruse to uncover and stop the plot. It’s just kind of boring, and the inordinate padding makes it especially hard to get through.

Jeanyee becomes Nick’s bedmate early on; Ruth disappears for unstated reasons and basically insists “Jerry” go out with Jeanyee. Rohde doesn’t spare much detail but we do get the memorable note that Jeanyee is a contortionist, bending herself in such means that Killmaster finds himself greatly “inspired” mere moments after the previous climactic event. As mentioned Jeanyee is part of the plot, but what exactly her controllers expect to get out of “Jerry” is never spelled out…it’s implied late in the game that they see in him an avenue to oil exploitation, given the fact Jerry Deming is presented to them as an oil executive. Hell, we barely learn anything about the guy running the operation, an Asian dude who poses as Ruth Moto’s father.

Action is sporadic and almost outline-esque. There’s a part midway through where Ruth and Jeanyee and the other sluts are sent to Pennsylvania to rope in more executives via this convoluted sex-scheme, and Nick poses as an elderly, heavyset guy, his paunch really hiding a bunch of gadgets and weapons. It escalates into a running action scene in which Nick guns down tons of thugs, but it’s all along the lines of Nick running the dark and shooting and hoping he’s hit someone. Again it has more of a hardboiled vibe, which makes me suspect “Rohde” might’ve been a collaboration of two writers. (Also, like last time, we get references to an off-page AXE agent named “Bill Rohde.”) Here Nick does use some of his fancy gadgets, including some grenade-type explosives.

The titular device is a strangulation hood or somesuch with posion vapor or gas in it that Jeanyee slips on Nick’s head as he’s flying a plane upon their escape – Nick has forced Jeanyee to escape with him, showing her way too much compassion for a kickass agent dubbed “Killmaster.” Apparently the “hood of death” is concealed on the persons of these Asian whores, the size of a pill, but inflates to hood size for easy slipping on the victim’s head. Nick as we know can hold his breath for several minutes, then when Jeanyee slips off the hood he casually talks to her about this mess she’s gotten herself in, blowing her mind that he’s still alive. Nick kind of comes off as dumb, persisting in his mistaken belief that Jeanyee can be redeemed, or will change sides; instead, she opens the window of the plane and jumps out!

But otherwise it’s really slow going. Another action scene later on has Nick gunning down more thugs on a boat; this part has a memorable bit where he watches the Asian babes “practicing” on some lucky thug. Here Judas might appear – Nick sees a guy with bandages covering his face, and the implication is that this might be Bormann, who as we know is always having some plastic surgery done on his face. But he’s never seen again and the quick wrapup has Nick posing again as Jerry Deming and meeting Ruth Moto’s “dad” to go over some oil dealings – and by the way Nick and Ruth finally do the deed, but we’re informed of this almost in passing, which is pretty humorous given how much buildup the event was given at the beginning of the book.

Nick of course smashes the ring, the climax playing out in another quick and bloodless action scene. Just as with Jeanyee he tries to bring Ruth over from the dark side, but fails spectacularly – though again it’s the gal taking matters into her own hands. And that’s that – the “Baumann Ring” is crushed, the perpetrators all dead, but “Baumann,” aka “Bormann” perhaps, is still out there. Anyway I found this one really boring, livened up only by the bizarro bits of Nick Carter backstory the author(s) sprinkled throughout, like for example that Nick’s dad was a famous character actor.

1 comment:

andydecker said...

I absolutely love the Carter covers of this period. This unique pop-art influenced style may not be suited to pulp spy fiction. But it lend a bit of class to some dull novels. Also it was a particular style not seen again. Does anybody know who the artist was?