The Smuggler #1, by Paul Petersen
September, 1974 Pocket Books
The cover says "The Smugglers," but this is really volume #1 of the Smuggler series by Paul Petersen, onetime Musketeer and former child star on The Donna Reed Show. In 1974 Petersen made a deal with Pocket Books -- he churned out this 7-volume series for $75,000. However a tiny note on the copyright page states that a guy named David Oliphant helped out with the writing chores "on this and all succeeding volumes of the series," so I wonder if this was a Tekwar sort of thing -- ie, how that series was released under William Shatner's name, even though he himself didn't provide the actual writing.
The Smuggler is Eric Saveman, all-American guy who just happens to smuggle dope. This novel appears to be set in 1969, so there's a sort of majestic, countercultural air to it, flying marijuana up from Mexico in unchartered airplanes. Saveman's a college grad who served in 'Nam and now lives in opulence with two gorgeous and blonde twins, M'Liz and M'Lady (!). I had high hopes (so to speak) that this series would feature a dopefiend protagonist, but unfortunately Saveman himself abstains from drugs. Actually this makes sense, as dope and violence just don't mix...they're an impossible combination, as Bill Hicks explains 5 minutes into this clip.
Saveman's ritzy life is upended when he discovers that his father, Doc Saveman, got involved with some jewel-smuggling (smuggling appears to be a family tradition) back in WWII, and now Doc's the last surviving member of the circle: save for one other, a shadowy man long assumed dead, who apparently has killed off the remaining members of the circle in order to get the jewels for himself. And now this shadowy man is coming for Doc. It all reminded me of that episode of The Simpsons where Bart helped Grandpa find the lost cache of Nazi gold before Burns could get to it.
This first volume comes off more like an introduction to the series. Nothing much really happens; there's hardly any sex or violence. I mean, Saveman lives with two gorgeous twins who appear to worship him, but Petersen does little to exploit this. And what else are men's adventure novels but exploitation? The writing's also a bit clunky at times, and the majority of the characters -- particularly Saveman's smuggling pals -- are indistinguishable from one another.
At any rate The Smuggler #1 exists mostly to show us how Eric Saveman becomes the superspy of later volumes; imagine Johnny Depp's character from Blow meets James Bond and you'll have the tone of ensuing volumes in the series, which I plan to review as I read.