Monday, January 20, 2014

Jason Striker #3: The Bamboo Bloodbath

Jason Striker #3: The Bamboo Bloodbath, by Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes
December, 1974  Berkley Medallion Books

For once sticking to just one plot (for the most part at least), this third volume of the Jason Striker series is another fun and lurid blast of bell-bottom fury. As expected though it jumps all over the place, featuring a hyena-masked villain, kung-fu fights apleny, an arbitrary trip to a drug-rehab center, and even a cameo by Fidel Castro!!

Picking up a month or two after the previous volume, The Bamboo Bloodbath (the title has nothing to do with the story, by the way) sees our lunkheaded hero Jason Striker slowly moving on after the death of his fiance, who was murdered by the Kill-13 addicted Kali cult in the final pages of Mistress Of Death. At any rate Striker’s main focus right now is preparing his team for a judo competition that’s coming up in Cuba, and per tradition the novel opens with Striker “running the line” as he takes on his entire class in a demonstration bout.

This series is very soap-operatic in feel, and this element soon rears its head with the reappearance of gorgeous blonde Thera Drummond, last seen in #1: Kiai!. Thera’s in a panic, as her father, famous millionaire Johnson Drummond, is in danger – turns out a kung-fu vandal known as “The Hyena” is going around threatening millionaires to give him their money, or else he kills them! And the Hyena’s record is pretty impressive, as he’s never been caught or even seen, and he always holds true on his word, killing his prey no matter how hard they try to hide or protect themselves. And if they go to the police or etc, it’s instant death.

Thera, now 18 and even more ravishing, as our narrator Striker often reminds us, is convinced that Striker is her father’s only hope against the Hyena. So off they go to the Drummond mansion, where Striker goes about fortifying the place, as today is the last day of the allotted time the Hyena gave Drummond to pay – if Drummond doesn’t deliver the cash to the designated dropoff point, the Hyena will show up after midnight and kill him.

I’ve mentioned before how stupid Jason Striker is when it comes to anything except the martial arts, and The Bamboo Bloodbath features one of the best indications of this yet; when barricading the mansion doors, Striker realizes he should have a weapon and thus sends Thera back to his dojo to get his pair of nunchucks(!). Striker then continues to make the mansion into a fortress, and not until hours later does he realize that not only should Thera be back by now, but also that he’s blocked off all the mansion’s doors and thus she can’t even get in!

Before this though the soap opera sparks really fly, with Thera again coming on strong to Striker and Striker finally giving it to her – that is, after Ilunga, the black kung-fu mistress of Mistress Of Death, shows up to ask a favor of Striker. Here the authors give us some soapy melodrama, with the two women getting in an actual kung-fu fight due to their jealousy over Striker (Ilunga lusting after him even though he’s white). Ilunga, who finds herself attracted to the “blonde goddess” Thera, actually grabs hold of Thera’s crotch in a submission/pleasure hold, and Striker stands watching oblviously, having no idea what special technique Ilunga’s using! Like I said, he’s a dolt.

Also funny is how Striker (and therefore the authors themselves) go to pains to explain every little detail about inconsequential things…like if Striker needs a match for something, the authors will inform us why Striker has a matchbook in his pocket, when of course goody two-shoes Striker doesn’t smoke. It’s this over-explaining that makes Striker’s idiotic moves all the more apparent, and thus lends the series an unintentionally humorous vein; Striker comes off like a pompous halfwit.

Ilunga goes her way, leaving Striker and Thera to continue with their plans for shagging. But as usual the authors provide an immediate fade to black when the sex scene occurs. Luckily they don’t shy from describing the violence. When the Hyena’s minions attack in the night, Anthony and Fuentes deliver a very good action sequence, one that retains the violent nature of other fights in this series, with the goons employing clawed weapons and the like. The fight with the Hyena himself is even better, mostly because the guy appears to have walked out of an issue of Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu; short and muscular, the man wears a rubber hyena mask, and also keeps an actual hyena with him, to aid in his attacks.

Striker actually repels the Hyena, who escapes into the night, and we’re informed that, once defeated, the Hyena backs down and never again threatens the person who has foiled him. Pretty convenient! Striker still wants to kill the bastard, though, and swears vengeance…but wait, he’s gotta keep training his team for that upcoming judo tournament in Cuba! Meanwhile the authors break over to a third-person section with Ilunga, where we not only learn that she’s hot and heavy over Striker, but also that she’s also been trying various means to kick her Kill-13 addiction.

The favor she asked of Striker, it turns out, was for Striker to look after Ilunga’s kid brother Danny. Caught up in the black power movement, Danny’s now run afoul of a very violent faction calling itself Blakrev (Coincidence Alert: Blakrev turns out to work for the Hyena, who is white!) and needs a place to stay. Striker, too busy with the upcoming tournament to babysit, tells Ilunga to take the kid to Mustapha, the Muhammad Ali-esque boxer last seen in the Martial Open tournament back in the first volume. But Mustapha turns out to be a member of Blakrev, and he sends the boy right back to the Hyena, who proceeds to brainwash him!

The free-flowing plotlines of earlier books returns as first we get a superfluous scene in which Striker visits a shady rehab center for teens, to see how they work, and then we move on to Cuba, where the authors document the tournament matches in what comes off as a miniature retread of the Martial Open event in Kiai!. Things pick up once Striker’s team is defeated and he’s on his way back to the States; attacked by drug runners who turn out to be working for the Hyena, Striker is reunited with Ilunga, who has come here under the Hyena’s orders – the secret Blakrev leader thinking he has her under his power, using her Kill-13 addiction against her.

The authors take us on a journey across Cuba as the pair try to escape the Cuban soldiers who are now chasing them. Striker’s a regular Alex Jason when it comes to “ki,” and he uses the mystic martial power to help Ilunga kick her habit – that, and they screw a whole lot. In a sequence reminiscent of John Eagle Expeditor #8, Striker informs us how he and Ilunga take every chance they can to have sex in the countryside as they attempt to elude their pursuers. But again these scenes are relegated to, “We made love again,” or etc. Come to think of it, Anthony and Fuentes are the only men’s adventure authors I know of who don’t objectify their female characters; we will be informed that Striker’s women have beauty and grace, but never do the authors dwell on their breasts or whatnot.

But Striker and Ilunga are captured nonetheless, and Fidel friggin’ Castro shows up, treating the pair to a private audience. Castro, due to reasons of his own, wants the Hyena’s drug-smuggling business destroyed, but he doesn’t want to get involved. So he offers Striker and Ilunga a boat, tells them where he thinks the Hyena’s secret headquarters are in the Florida Everglades, and sends them on their way. The authors make Castro a rather genial sort of fellow, by the way, even offering Striker a Cuban cigar – and Striker takes it, though of course he has to remind us ad naseum how filthy a habit smoking is and etc.

The climax of The Bamboo Bloodbath plays out in the Everglades, with Striker and Ilunga plying their way by boat to the Hyena’s secret stronghold…and only once here in the swamps does Striker realize that they don’t know where in fact the stronghold even is! I’ve said it a hundred times, Jason Striker is a dolt. But thanks to the sudden appearance of inside man Musapha, who turns out to be a regular Lando Calrisian, the trio are able to infiltrate the Hyena’s stronghold – though here once again Striker nearly blows it, brushing his leg against the sensor-rigged wall as he tries to jump over it.

The final battle is suitably climatic, but not nearly as thrilling or bloody as the one in the previous volume. Striker and the Hyena face off again, and here we learn that the Hyena is in reality some well-known senator or government person of some sort…in truth the whole “Hyena” bit is too contrived as we’re to believe he’s an extortionist, a superb martial artist, a seasoned brainwasher, a wealthy drug smuggler, a Black Power leader (despite being white), and a famous government dignitary!

Still though, the Jason Striker series is such a wallop of bell-bottom fury that you can’t really complain. And it looks like in the next volume the ninjas last seen back in the first volume will return.


russell1200 said...

Piers Anthony is pretty famous. Did Roberto Fuentes ever do anything else?

Joe Kenney said...

That's a good question...according to those Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu articles, Fuentes was Anthony's judo instructor. I'd guess Anthony wrote all of the books himself, with Fuentes collaborating on ideas, particularly on the blow-by-blow judo fights.