Chopper Cop #3: Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert, by Paul Ross
No month stated, 1975 Popular Library
I didn’t realize this third and final volume of Chopper Cop came out three years after the previous volume. Surely it didn’t take producer Lyle Kenyon Engel that long to come up with a replacement for Dan Streib, whose work sucked so royally in the first two volumes – in fact I’m certain it’s Streib’s half-assery that caused this series’s short life, as otherwise Chopper Cop has a strong concept: dopesmoking anti-establishment cop handling counterculture cases on his custom chopper.
But anyway there was a gap of three years between installments, and finally the phenominally-titled Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert appeared. According to Hawk’s Authors’ Pseudonyms, it was the product of two authors: Bill Amidon and Nat Freedland. Info is scant on the two; Amidon published a novel, in hardcover only, titled Charge… (Bobbs-Merrill, 1971), apparently about the early ‘60s hippie movement, and Freedland was a reporter, mostly remembered today for having written a 1966 article on Marvel Comics that caused a schism between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In 1972 he published The Occult Explosion, an overview of the various fringe beliefs of the day; the book got its own soundtrack LP, which is collectible today due to a segment with notorious Church of Satan figurehead Anton LaVey.
I’m curious how these two authors came together for the final Chopper Cop novel, and how they even went about writing it – I’m betting they traded off on chapters, as each chapter ends on a quick cliffhanger, one that’s generally wrapped up just as quickly at the start of the next chapter. My hunch is the writers were having fun with each other – “Let’s see how you get our hero out of this one!” and the like. There’s also a disparity in how the trashier stuff is written; one writer keeps all the sex completely off page, whereas the other gets down and dirty and doesn’t leave one sleazy stone unturned. Otherwise the book seems to be of a piece, and I bet I only noticed this because going in I was aware that it had been written by two authors.
Anyway, we learn late in the novel that it’s one year after the first volume; hero Terry Bunker, who is given a bit more of a background this time, still sports longish hair and thick sideburns, and still tools around California on his blue Rickman chopper at the behest of the famous but never-named Governor, for whom Terry acts as the chief handler of all cases concerning the counterculture movement. Otherwise Terry’s boss is Chief Raymond Haggard, who is much more accepting of Terry here, and in fact the two have a friendly working relationship. Actually Freedland and Amidon cut out the needless “other cops hate Terry” stuff that became so annoying in Streib’s books.
Another element they introduce is that Terry throughout is actually referred to as “The Chopper Cop,” which I though was both stupid and cool at the same time. These authors, or one of them at least, have also actually ridden a motorcycle before, or at least read up on them, as Terry’s chopper for once is an integral piece of the story. In fact when we meet him he’s busy testing out a new auto shotgun device he’s had created for his Rickman; it’s hidden in a “fake bedroll” at the back of the bike, and with a few quick adjustments Terry can affix it to the handlebar and blast away. He actually uses it in the novel, but not to actually shoot anyone – sadly, one thing the authors do keep from the Streib installments is a curious reluctance to provide much violence. Terry in fact doesn’t shoot a single person, though the novel does end with him smashing someone in half with the Rickman.
The authors, apparently having used Valley Of Death as their guide, have also retained Streib’s bizarre decision to make Chopper Cop a mystery series. I still suspect that Engel was “inspired” by The Blood Circus when he came up with this series; I mean that one novel is more “Chopper Cop” than all three of these volumes put together. But anyway Engel might’ve had a grand concept, but – and this is by Engel’s own admission, as I wrote in my review of the first volume – he got a shitty author for it, and for whatever reason Streib wrote something more along the lines of a Gothic mystery. Well, Amidon and Freedland continue the trend, with Terry trying to figure out who plans to sabotage the upcoming Monster Boogie concert, to be held in the Mojave Desert. It must be said though that these authors turn in a novel much more entertaining than either of Streib’s.
For one, you can see how these authors melded their interests: there’s a red herring subplot about a Process-style Satanic cult, which could come straight out of The Occult Explosion, and there’s a strong grasp of the dopesmoking hippie movement that no doubt recalls Amidon’s novel, which I might get around to reading someday (I’m just more of a “late ‘60s” guy than “early ‘60s”). While they follow Streib’s mystery template, they do offer a little more action, and more importantly Terry Bunker doesn’t come off like a wuss. He doesn’t pine over some lost love – though we do learn one of the things which set him on the path from ‘Nam vet hippie student activist(!) to “Chopper Cop” was the OD death of his girlfriend, Ginny. This comes from Streib’s background setup, but whereas Streib’s version of Terry still pines and mopes over this, these authors have him briefly reflect on her and then get back to banging the latest chick – and Terry gets lucky pretty often this time.
Anyway a mad bomber is threatening the upcoming Monster Boogie, a one-night event which will feature the top rock acts of the day; someone’s sending threats to the management, and as the novel opens he or she sabotages a press event, nearly frying right-wing newscaster Grady Frazier. The Governor is alerted, and he calls in his one-and-only Chopper Cop, Terry Bunker. As we’ll recall, Terry’s the youngest lieutenant in LAPD history and serves in the State Department of Criminal Investigation, meaning he can cross over county lines and keep his authority. The authors try to keep to this with Terry shuttling around the state; he sees action in Los Angeles, San Francisco (where he has an expensive home, bought for him in gratitude by Thackery Caldwell from Valley Of Death), and the Mojave.
Terry is put in charge of security for the concert, which is coming up in three weeks. He checks out the acts, hanging around a bit with show headliners Chrome Lightning, “the American Rolling Stones.” He gets on most with their biker keyboard player, but there’s also superstar Jack Byrd, the handsome singer-guitarist, and “spaced out” Happy Watson, aka “the Ringo Starr of Chrome Lightning.” Here we see Terry not only smoke a couple joints but also snort some coke, but he draws the line at heroin, as we see later on when he gets down and dirty with Janis Joplin-clone Mona Drake, “sort of homely but ballsy” singer for Braincandy. There’s also a Grand Funk-esque hard rock trio, but the authors don’t make much mention of the other two Monster Boogie acts. Chrome Lightning gets the brunt of the mad bomber’s threats, and one of the leads has Terry checking out the local Satanic cult of sexy brunette Princess Diana – a cool scene with a nice lurid element, what with the “black magic orgy” going on at the time, but as mentioned a total red herring so far as the plot goes.
Let’s get to the sleaze, shall we? While hanging out with Chrome Lightning in their LA warehouse studio, Terry takes an 18 year-old groupie up on her offer and repairs to one of the apartments – quick cut to the next chapter, with not one detail given. This repeats throughout; we’re informed Terry pays frequent visits to some actress girlfriend who remains off-page for the duration, and late in the book Terry even scores with a pair of jailbat at Monster Boogie who just swear they’re 18 (after debating it for a hot second Terry says to hell with it and crawls into their tent). In each case this particular author will cut straightaway to the next scene. However the other author has no qualms with sleaze, as we see when Terry spends the night with Mona Drake: “Without any further discussion [Terry] forced her legs apart with his hips and drove his shaft to the root up her vaginal canal.” This after Mona has delivered one of the greatest lines in pulp fiction: When Terry tells her he’s conducting a police investigation, Mona responds, “You can come upstairs and investigate my pussy.”
Mona, a “perverted lesbian junkie” per yet another mad bomber threat, pretty much steals the novel. She carries around a “truly deluxe heroin kit” and seems dead set on a suicide trip. That’s no doubt supposed to be her on the cover, as she hitches a few rides on Terry’s chopper. She’s also the closest we get to a leading female character in the novel. A memorable sequence has a would-be sniper almost taking the two out after their boisterous banging in the loft of Terry’s house, which leads to a barely-clothed Terry chasing after the sniper on his Rickman. But Terry’s not wearing any shoes, so the authors really play up on the hell his foot goes through while trying to keep the bike from spinning out, etc. However he kind of gets over it pretty quick; a day or two in the hospital and then a cast for the foot, and after that the injury is seldom mentioned.
But once again Terry’s only up against a single foe, so really there isn’t too much action throughout. It’s usually of the lame cliffhanger variety, like one chapter ends with Terry about to get in a through-down fight with a bunch of outlaw bikers, but then the next chapter opens and we learn Terry’s old friends of sorts with the leader of the gang. It’s lame stuff like this that makes me suspect the novel was the product of a pair of authors playing “gotcha!” with one another. I mean this particular chapter ends with a crazed biker springing out of nowhere and hurling a dagger at Terry – then the next chapter opens and the dagger lands harmlessly at Terry’s feet and the biker starts laughing.
Another middling action scene has Terry almost run off the road by a truckful of redneck hunters. This bit, clearly inspired by Easy Rider, has Terry almost getting killed, so he whips out his auto shotgun and takes out the truck, but doesn’t kill anyone. In fact he ensures they’re arrested and vows to show up at the trial. Same goes for the finale, where Terry finally figures out who’s behind the Monster Boogie threats – but he’s too late, as the guy has already taken out a flame thrower(!) and is shooting flames over the audience. Here the authors actually work in the whole “Chopper Cop” setup, with Terry pulling a stunt jump to take out the terrorist before he can kill anyone.
As a result, Terry’s in a coma for a few days, and wakes up in the hospital with a broken leg, broken ribs, and etc. Plus his Rickman’s been totalled, but the Chrome Lightning guys have given him “a blank check at the Pinky Stevens motorcyle custom shop” to get the chopper of his dreams. We also get the interesting tidbit that Terry plans to start using “disguises” on the job now; this after the Governor wonders if Terry should retire, as given his heroic jump in front of 500,000 people at Monster Boogie Terry’s become the most famous undercover cop in the world. So clearly the authors planned more installments, perhaps having Terry adopt a variety of disguises as he worked the counterculture scene.
Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert ends with a goofy tribute to the Chopper Cop himself, as we learn the Monster Boogie headliners have recorded a song in his honor:
The disc was a silly but toe-tapping ditty with Jack Byrd and Mona Drake harmonizing a duet on simple lyrics about an impossible superstud detective who made love to all the ladies and caught all the baddest crooks. The title was, “We Can Dig the Groovy Pig.”
It's this sort of playful spirit the men’s adventure genre needs, and it’s a shame the authors didn’t have a chance to deliver more entries of Chopper Cop. It would be nice to know the story behind its cancellation – if Popular Library was willing to wait 3 years to bring out another volume, I wonder why they decided against publishing more?