TNT #4: The Devil's Claw, by Doug Masters
September, 1985 Charter Books
(French publication, 1978)
The Devil's Claw was 4th in the TNT series both here and in France, where it was titled Huit Petits Hommes Rouges ( aka Eight Little Red Men, cover below).
This time Tony Nicholas Twin has more of a personal connection with the mission at hand: while on vacation in the Caribbean with his mentally-retarded daughter October and his "assistant" Clare, freezing temperatures suddenly overtake the sunny locale, to such an extent that a married couple also vactioning with the Twin family dies in the horrific conditions. Unbeknownst to Twin similar freak weather has sown havoc about the world in three different locations. Determined to find out what caused the death of his two friends, Twin deposits October and Clare back Ireland and heads for Germany, where one of these freak weather attacks occurred.
At the same time, Arnold Benedict, Twin's archenemy/boss, has been employed by a wealthy sheik to find out what said sheik's similarly-wealthy cousin/enemy has been up to. Turns out this man is the culprit behind the weather-attacks; from his home base in a fictional village named Al-Wardi in Saudi Arabia he commands a team of young, idealistic scientists (each named after a Peanuts character) who have created the devices which are screwing with the weather. He also employs a team of 8 dwarves, former circus acrobats who like to slice up people with their razors (shades of Black Samurai 6: The Warlock) . Oh, and they're lead by a dwarf named Puffy, who likes to hunt stray cats and eat their guts. And they're all eunuch Muslims!
Benedict of course uses Twin to take out this global threat (he doesn't like it that Twin is already trying to do so; Benedict only wants Twin to do things because Benedict has ordered him to!). So Benedict has Clare kidnapped...and sold to a harem, one operated by a six-foot-plus lesbian named Ingrid Katt who works for our evil sheik. With the stalwart Dawlish (seen in previous volumes) at his side, Twin heads for Al-Wardi. All of the action takes place here, particularly in the "dead zone" which surrounds Al-Wardi and in which the villains have built "The Devil's Claws" (plural, unlike the title) which have caused the weather-destruction: a sequence of machinery which lurks inside an underground fortress in the middle of the desert.
The Devil's Claw by far has more sex than any previous TNT novel. Twin has sex with a whopping 80 women in this book -- one of them the afore-mentioned titanic lesbian Ingrid, the other 79 (!) the members of the harem...each of whom Twin couples with back-to-back...and each of whom he does over again immediately thereafter! Wilt Chamberlain could've taken lessons from this guy.
The harem-sex is rendered in the usual anasceptic style of previous TNT sex scenes; despite the lurid nature of these novels, they're usually written (or perhaps I should say translated) in a non-lurid tone. (Ie, the narrative never focuses on the graphic nature.) However the scene with Ingrid is deliciously over-the-top, as Twin both seduces and extracts information from the gorgeous Nordic blonde who "has never known a man."
The villains in The Devil's Claw sow more destruction than any previous villains, apparently flooding entire cities and blowing places off the map in the finale, but strangely the narrative skirts over this. That being said the villains are particularly loathesome in this book, especially the annoying Peanuts-named scientists. But as usual the denouement is skirted over; these novels never really deliver the hero-versus-villain scene which is required of the genre. Instead Twin, the enigmatic cipher who is pretty much inhuman, stalks his prey and tears them apart "off-screen" without breaking a sweat. Dawlish comes across as a much more vibrant character, insisting that all of his enemies are "Russians," even if they were born and bred in Saudi Arabia.
This novel's a bit different than previous volumes in that there's no death-maze Twin must navigate through. He does infiltrate the Al-Wardi palace (where he comes upon the harem), and the climax features him and Clare trying to escape the flooding underground complex, but there are no bizarre mazes of death such as in previous installments.
All told, despite the herculean sex scenes and the malicious villains, The Devil's Claw left me a little cold. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the three previous volumes -- but it's still miles beyond the typical men's adventure novel. Here's the cover for the original French edition of the book, Huit Petits Hommes Rouges: