Trawling the depths of forgotten fiction, films, and beyond, with yer pal, Joe Kenney
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Depth Force #3: Bloody Seas
Depth Force #3: Bloody Seas, by Irving A. Greenfield
April, 1985 Zebra Books
Irving Greenfield started publishing novels in the 1960s; it appears he came closest to fame in the ‘70s, with a slew of trash fiction novels that featured some pretty hot and heavy sex scenes – I have two of them, 1972’s The Sexplorer and 1973’s The Pleasure Hunters, and cursory glances through them would indicate they’re pretty damn explicit and sleazy.
But in the ‘80s through the early ‘90s Greenfield apparently spent most of his time on the longrunning but now forgotten Depth Force series, which debuted in 1984 and ran for a staggering 16 volumes, plus one Super Depth Force. The series is about a top-secret, CIA-operated submarine (the Shark) as it battles against the Soviets, and seems to be influenced by Tom Clancy, only with more of a pulp fiction bent. But since naval fiction has never been my thing, I never looked into the series.
Then one day I came across a handful of Depth Force novels at a used bookstore, and cursory glances through them indicated that they were pretty damn explicit and sleazy! The books seemed to alternate between naval jargon and super-graphic sex scenes – some of them quite arbitrary, which is just how I like them. Needless to say, I bought them all. This third volume is the earliest one I have, which is unfortunate, because it would appear that the Depth Force series is a lot like Doomsday Warrior – if you’ve missed the previous volume, you’re shit out of luck.
Bloody Seas opens immediately after the events of the second volume (apparently the Shark engaged a Russian vessel during an underwater storm for a large cache of gold). Greenfield throws us right in, never once telling us who these characters or or what they’re doing. For that matter, it isn’t until page 215 that we learn that this series takes place in the “future” year of 1997! But at any rate our hero is Captain Jack Boxer, a bearded, 35 year-old ladies man who is devoted to his ship and men, and who is propositioned by practically every woman he meets. Seriously, there are moments in the novel where a woman he’s just met will bluntly inform Boxer that she intends to have sex with him.
There are a lot of sailors on the Shark, and Greenfield introduces the majority of them into the text, but for the most part doesn’t remind us who they are or what they do. I guess this would make for a great, seamless read if you caught the previous two volumes, but for a first-timer like myself it was a little overwhelming. But here’s the thing – Greenfield has such a steady command of narrative that you keep on reading. You can tell the guy had many novels under his belt by the time he got to Bloody Seas, as Greenfield keeps the action moving with lots of dialog and soap opera-type plot developments. In fact, of all the men’s adventure novels I’ve yet read, this one comes the closest to being the literary equivalent of a soap opera – no doubt due to Greenfield’s earlier days as a trash fiction author.
The book opens immediately after the events of the previous volume; the Shark leaves the scene of battle only to engage immediately in another, as a few Russian subs come after it. I found this action sequence boring as it’s just an endless sequence of Boxer relaying orders on the Shark’s bridge, his subordinates repeating his orders, and then reporting back on the ensuing damage done to the other ships. But then, that’s naval military fiction, I guess. But I miss the more personal nature of the average men’s adventure novel action sequence. Greenfield does provide a more traditional action moment, though, when Boxer, on some yacht or something (again a pickup from the previous installment with absolutely no setup material to let us know who these people on the yacht are), is attacked by pirates who are coming after the gold he got in the previous book.
Once the Shark has returned to the US, Greenfield continues with the soap opera feel; there is no more action until the very final pages of the book. Instead the focus is upon Boxer’s harried personal life; he has a casual sex thing going with Tracy, a nymphomaniacal reporter who apparently hooked up with Boxer in the previous book and is doing a feature on the Shark, despite its top secret status. Greenfield also hops over to Russia to detail the similarly soap opera-esque life of Borodin, Boxer’s Russian counterpart. The two men are not only identical but also respect one another, and Greenfield hammers it home how alike they are to the point where it’s as if we are reading the same storyline for both men.
But suddenly it’s “months later” and Boxer, removed from command of the Shark while his superiors research the gold-recovery fiasco of the previous volume, has fallen in love with Kathy Tyson, whom he plans to marry! Then Tracy returns to the fray, informing Boxer that she’s discovered Kathy is really a CIA agent, sent here by Kincade (commander of the CIA and Boxer’s boss) to monitor Boxer. Cue even more soap opera stuff as Boxer throws a tantrum and kicks Kathy out, followed by more tantrum-throwing as Boxer confronts Kincade. Greenfield even works in an arbitrary sequence in which Boxer’s father is dying – and to continue with the soap opera feel, as his father’s dying Boxer meets a sexy black nurse (Louise) whom he starts up a fling with.
The sex scenes, as mentioned, are pretty explicit, though to be sure Greenfield doesn’t go into as much detail in this volume as he does in some of the others I’ve perused. There seems to be a determined focus on oral sex, and this is also the first novel I’ve read that contains the word “bunghole” in a sex scene. Meanwhile Boxer falls in love with Louise, despite the racial insensitivy of his fellow Navy men…again, the whole book is basically just a melodrama, frameworked around a bit of naval warfare stuff. There’s even a scene where Boxer beats up some drunk in a bar who assumes that Louise is a hooker.
What little “action” that occurs during this stretch is mostly handled off-camera. Greenfield not only shows an ease with offing major characters but he also does so quite sadistically – for example Tracy, the reporter who does the story on the Shark. After finding out that Tracy informed Boxer that Kathy was a spy, Kincade, clearly a mean son of a bitch, orders that Tracy be taken care of – and we learn, some pages later, that she’s been raped and murdered! Boxer handles the news pretty much emotionlessly, and Greenfield really digs in the knife with all these characters coming out of the woodwork and informing Boxer that Tracy loved him and even said he was the best she ever had(!), etc.
The back cover has it that the plot of Bloody Seas is about the Shark venturing into Russian waters to exfiltrate a group of spies. This plot actually doesn’t show up until the final pages of the book, as Boxer is called back onto command status and takes over the Shark. During the rescue of the spies Borodin again appears, commanding the Russian version of the Shark (named the Sea Savage), and we have another mostly-boring naval battle between the two. There’s a bit of gunplay stuff though as Redfern, apparently the commander of the ground troop squad of the Shark, disembarks the sub and takes on some Russian commandos, but for the most part Greenfield glides through the action scenes with little violence or gore.
True to form, the novel ends with this climatic action scene, leaving the implication clear that the next volume will pick up immediately afterward. Luckily, the fourth volume is one of the handful I have, so I’ll be able to at least get a grasp of the continuity-heavy basis of the Depth Force series. While I can’t say Bloody Seas was great, it did flow very well, mostly due to Greenfield’s assured command of the craft…not to mention the goofy, Harold Robbins-esque sex scenes.
Posted by Joe Kenney at 6:30 AM
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I recently managed to find a copy of the first book in the series. All I have to say is that around the same time they were publishing Richard P. Henrick's submarine fiction with 'generic' covers and I think they put the good art on the wrong books.
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