Justin Perry: The Assassin #3: Born To Kill, by John D. Revere
October, 1984 Pinnacle Books
I needed some weirdness in my life, so I decided it was finally time to get back to Justin Perry: The Assassin. And if anything Hal “John D. Revere” Bennett turns in an installment just as flat-out weird as the others, with the added bonus that in this one we get to see an 8 year-old Justin Perry screw a chicken!! Even crazier: the sequence is masterfully written, insofar as it plumbs into our protagonist’s twisted psyche!
It seems something was going on behind the scenes at Pinnacle; this volume was published a full year after the previous one, and this time it carries the short-lived “Pinnacle Crossfire” label. However the events take place in October of 1983, which leads me to believe that the manuscript was held from publication for whatever reason…either soon-to-collapse Pinnacle was struggling to stay afloat and didn’t have the resources to funnel into this strange series, or they just didn’t want to deal with it and thus put it off as long as possible.
It becomes more and more apparent to me that Bennett really had something up his sleeve with Justin Perry: The Assassin, particularly in how each book plants seeds for the final volume. In fact something jumped out at me this time and I’ve got a hunch I’m right…Justin Perry, as we’ll recall, reports to the “Old Man,” chief of the CIA’s Special Assignments Division. In other words, “SAD,” though Bennett never refers to it as such. And Justin’s recurring enemy throughout the series is SADIF, aka The “Sons And Daughters In Freedom,” a more twisted version of SPECTRE. But as we discover in the final volume, SADIF is just a cover for the Halley Society, which hopes to take over the world with the passing of Halley’s Comet in ’86, using Justin’s, uh, seed to impregnate their women through the millennia. Justin learns his entire life has been a lie – he’s been groomed from birth for this special destiny, and the Old Man himself is the “Grand Halley” who has orchestrated the grooming. So anyway, here’s what just occurred to me: perhaps “SADIF” really stands for “Special Assignments Division Is Fake,” or “False.” Possibly yet another clue Bennett has been planting from the first volume.
Another thing that quickly becomes apparent is that with Born To Kill Bennett is doing a riff on the James Bond film Dr. No (yes, the film and not the original novel). We’ve got a Jamaica setting, a native sidekick for Bond, a SPECTRE-like evil organization, a duplicitous but of course ultra-sexy villainess, and a plot that hinges on a US space launch. The only thing lacking is the colorful main villain, but Justin himself is so whacked-out that we don’t really need one…I mean folks this is a guy who screws a girl and then tosses her to a bunch of sharks, later musing over the fact that he’s “still hard” as he thinks of her body being ripped apart. And he’s the hero!!
If our protagonist is messed up, the so-called plot is even worse. Bennett jumps all over the place in this one, to the extent that Justin himself sits around and mulls over what the “real” threat is he’s supposed to be stopping. We get our first indication of this straight off the bat – not to mention a healthy reminder of how weird and lurid this series is – when in the opening pages a young opera usher in Germany gets so excited via his sexual fantasies that he rushes off to the restroom to jerk off! And just as he is “shooting his milk into the sink” he hears a scream out in the theater…to find a German government official has been beheaded in his private box. The first thirty pages continue this trend, with various government officials around Europe and the UK getting their heads cut off in mysterious circumstances, the killer or killers never apprehended.
When we finally meet him, Justin’s in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, checking out the “exquisite English breasts” of Dr. Janice Madison, a British specialist in chickens and other fowls who has been called here to help Justin on his latest case. Plus sleep with him a bunch – this installment is noteworthy in that the sex scenes are not only more explicit, but for once they are not focused on Justin having sex with unattractive women, as previous volumes have been. Justin needs Janice’s expertise due to the rash of chicken attacks which have recently occurred here in Jamaica, with another happening in Florida – perhaps not-so-coincidentally, not very far from Cape Canaveral. The Old Man is worried that all this might have something to do with the Challenger launch, coming up the next week.
Justin’s certain the chicken attacks, random European beheadings, and space shuttle thing are all connected, though certainly some of them are red herrings. In the meantime Janice Madison is blown up by a bazooka on her way to the airport, and then a Jamaican cop tries to kill Justin. He’s yet another undercover SADIF operative, and fellow CIA agent Lucas Waugh shows up just in time to see Justin kill the man – who by the way has a somewhat feminine form and shrieks “sexually” as Justin strangles him, just so we don’t forget for one hot second how deeply perverted this series is.
Very much a Fleming sort of character, Lucas Waugh is a black Jew a la Sammy Davis Jr, one who has his own harem in the Bahamas, but quickly rents some time at the local cathouse so he and Justin can engage in a days-long orgy while discussing this latest caper. Also throughout there is a lot of focus placed on sperm – “I’m filled with come” is a recurring phrase, believe it or not, from both Justin and Lucas – which is doubtless yet another uh, seed-planting for the revelations of the final volume, where Justin’s sperm is so important to the Halley freaks that they bottle it up for preservation through the ages. Personally though if I was hanging out with guys who randomly announced they were “full of come,” I’d think it was high time to get myself some new friends.
Meanwhile, a blonde babe in a sports car takes pot shots at Justin, and he mulls over this a bit, then heads on to Florida; he’s decided that the space shuttle factor is the true threat, with the chicken attacks a sort of bizarre diversion. And speaking of bizarre, folks…well, we get a random flashback where eight year-old Justin Perry decides one day, apropos of nothing, to “screw a chicken.” This he does, and the chicken promptly dies as soon as Justin inserts himself. I stand by what I wrote above – this entire sequence is masterfully done, despite how sick it is, and it is yet another indication of Bennett’s strengths as a writer. For we read as an increasingly-uncomfortable Justin, who at this time is staying on the farm of his grandparents, is served chicken and dumplings that very night, and he’s of course frantic that this is the very same chicken he just fucked to death.
And Justin’s mom has just shown up to take him back home, openly cavorting with her studly chaffeur; Justin sees them rubbing legs beneath the dinner table. Then months later Justin, back home now, is woken by his mother in the middle of the night; she happily tells him she knows how that poor chicken died, and what’s more if Justin tells anyone that she’s sleeping with her chaffeur, she’ll tell Justin’s dad about the chicken incident. Weird scenes inside the goldmine, folks!! And as we learned in the first volume – and are briefly reminded here again – Justin’s mom (and dad) were secretly members of SADIF. Again, practically every single person Justin knows is a secret member of this organization, only adding to the general head-fuckery of the series.
And yet this chicken-screwing is itself a repeating motif of the series; I mean not the chicken stuff itself, but how some bizarre, ghoulish thing in Justin’s childhood will be trolled out as an augmentation of the main plot. Last time it was weird stuff about a bunch of massacred cows; this time it’s a screwed-to-death chicken. Which is to say it’s all very thematic, but “thematic” in a way that would send an AP professor screaming in panic – that a writer as gifted as Hal Bennett would write shit as sick as all this is kind of funny. I mean I think it’s pretty incredible he even decided to wade into the murky waters of the men’s adventure genre…let alone the fact that his stuff is even more outrageous than the stuff that less-“skilled” but equally-weird writers like Russell Smith or Joseph Rosenberger churned out. (Anyone who could follow that sentence gets a no-prize; I sort of lost it myself halfway through.)
This “literary” bent is further displayed in another seemingly-arbitrary bit; first Justin, with no reason why initially offered to the reader, decides to stop in a male stripper club near Cape Canaveral. Here he muses over the housewives who pack the place and gawk at a couple men onstage with “infant-sized” units; Bennett goes off on a pages-long diatribe on what happened to the American female, and how the Kennedy era unleashed their sexual inhibitions, given their rampant fantasies about JFK. I mean it’s all like something out of, I don’t know, John Updike or whatever, the last thing you’d expect in a book titled “Born To Kill” with a cover illustration of the main character shooting a black guy in the back.
But then it gets even more bizarre, as top male stripper Garth Durant waltzes out, showing off his massive wang; he dances for the feverish women and ejaculates on them for the, uh, climax. Eventually we’ll learn Justin hasn’t just randomly stopped in here; the stripper is the nephew of the lady who was killed by chickens here in Florida. Justin interviews the dude in the very shed in which the lady was killed – and the chickens surround them and go in for the kill. They’re mutant chickens, baby – as big as dogs and rabid as Cujo. This time Bennett appears to have finally bothered researching guns, so that Justin’s earlier revolver (you know, the one with a safety and a silencer) is gone, replaced by a nifty 9mm auto; with it he blows away a couple mutant chickens.
The cover art is again faithful to the events (and yes, Justin does shoot a black man in the back at one point), with Justin finding a Jamaican guy with a bazooka lurking behind the shed, about to shoot at the Challenger as it launches! There with him is the mysterious blonde who shot at Justin back in Jamaica; turns out her nickname is “Tillie the Turd,” despite which she’s one of the most attractive women Justin’s ever seen, and he can’t wait “to get his dick up inside her” before he kills her…and kill her he will, because the Old Man has issued specific orders on this mission: no SADIF prisoners.
Justin drugs and interrogates Tillie and Durant on a yacht surrounded by sharks in a sequence which almost casually demonstrates the sleazy sadism of the series (and hero). Increasingly turned on by Tillie as he questions her – and Tillie increasingly turned on as well – Justin ends up screwing her to get her to talk: she reveals SADIF’s true plan. All the other stuff has been distraction; SADIF really is using gene-manipulation chicanery to breed prepubescent assassins! They even have women that give birth to litters of ‘em, and a fast-growth serum results in junior-aged killers in a matter of weeks. Cold and emotionless, but with innocent faces, they will be SADIF’s new secret weapon, and were already employed in Europe, where they decapitated all those government officials. So Justin learns all this during sex, after which Tillie screams “I love you!,” Justin says, “I’m sorry,” and then he tosses her still-orgasming(!) body into the ocean:
The sharks tore into her like she was raw garbage. Justin turned away from the stern, feeling quite strange. The sharks were eating his sperm too.
Well, at least he’d told her he was sorry.
But Justin isn’t all “screw ‘em and chum ‘em” this time around…Bennett tries, and pretty much fails, to develop a romantic element with Janice Madison…who by the way urns out to have been a fake, the real Janice’s corpse having been discovered at Heathrow. And also this fake Janice with her “exquisite English breasts” didn’t die in that bazooka attack…turns out there was no female corpse in the car wreckage. The problem is, we only meet “Janice” before she exits the narrative, and she doesn’t return until the very end (where she is of course revealed to be a SADIF agent, I mean who would be surprised?). Thus the occasional soul-plumbing bit from Justin on his feelings toward her come off a bit lame. However we do get some choice lines in these soul-plumbing bits, such as: “But what had [Janice] gotten out of him of him except an awful lot of dick and enormous quantities of sperm? And what had he gotten out of her, except for probably some of the best pussy he’d had in recent memory?”
At any rate, the finale is a rushed action scene in which Justin and Lucas, both wearing form-fitting black combat suits (a recurring series element is that Justin wears such a suit, a la the cover, in the climax), stage an assault on a remote jungle hospital in Jamaica. Here Bennett delivers one of his customary uneventful action sequences, with Justin gunning down a few random guards while Lucas does all the heavy lifting, planting bombs and etc. Instead the big finale is given over to the fake Janice, who turns out to be the head of this bizarre bioscience affair in which protoplasmic things are grown into human children. Bennett even cops out of his own suspence, with Justin struggling with the fact that he’ll have to kill Janice, but then lamely having “fate” intervene thanks to a stray bullet.
Overall though I found Born To Kill pretty entertaining, with the caveat that it doesn’t have much action, it features way too much random pontificating, and also it’s just twisted to the core. I mean folks this is a men’s adventure novel in which the hero fucks a chicken. That alone says pretty much all there is to say about Justin Perry: The Assassin. There is nothing stranger than this series in the entire men’s adventure genre…so you’re either on the bus or you aren’t.