Thursday, April 24, 2014

Justin Perry: The Assassin #1

Justin Perry: The Assassin #1, by John D. Revere
February, 1983  Pinnacle Books

With a first volume nearly as weird as the final one was, the Justin Perry series gets off to an expectedly-unsettling start, detailing the origin story of our unibrowed, curly-haired, sexually demented hero, who as we’ll recall is a top assassin for the CIA who gets off on killing people. This is surely one of the more unusual men’s adventure series to ever be published, which means of course that I like it.

As with the final installment, this one is heavy on the literary stuff, the word painting and the descriptive flourishes, and short on the action, thus belying Hal Bennett's (aka “John D. Revere”) literary background. In fact, Bennett isn’t at all concerned with the action aspects of men’s adventure fiction, still finding a way to focus on the psycho-sexual elements even when Justin gets into fights. Plus he could care less about realistic weapons description and the like. For example, Justin’s favored gun is a .38 revolver, which somehow not only has a safety, but can also be equipped with a silencer!

But as mentioned this first novel details Justin’s origin story. The book in fact opens with many pages of background detail, as Justin talks to an old man in Germany and flashes back to three years earlier, before he became “Justin Perry,” CIA assassin. We learn that his name was originally Roger Johnson, and he was a 31 year-old colonel in the Air Force, married for 11 years to a ravishing lady named Bambi; together they had a ten year-old son, also named Roger. This background gets a lot of fleshing out through the novel, with Bennett building up several long-simmer mysteries about what happened to Roger in Vietnam, how exactly his best friend died there, and who exactly Justin’s friend Bob Dante is.

All that’s the flashback; the central plot of Justin Perry #1 has our freakish “hero” in Germany, where he’s been summoned by the elderly Dr. Aaron Henkel, a Holocaust survivor who has a strange story to tell.  Henkel relays a horrible story of how his family and friends were killed by the Nazis during the war. Henkel describes how his longtime best friend, Heydrich Kroll, was also a prisoner at Belsen, and was publically strangled by the Nazis as an example to the other prisoners. But now, over 40 years later, Henkel has discovered that Kroll is still alive, going about under an assumed name and living in another part of Germany, and that Kroll was a Nazi collaborator.

Now Henkel, through Justin’s handler “The Old Man,” has contacted Justin Perry so as to offer him the job of assassinating Wilhelm Kappelheimer, aka Heydrich Kroll. I should mention that throughout Henkel’s long story, Justin has either been flashing back to his own past or checking out the hot blonde at the table behind him. We all remember how sex-obessed Justin Perry is, don’t we? And the woman only serves to encourage him, casting salacious looks at him with her “slut-green eyes.” (I admit, I never knew that green eyes denoted sluttishness, but I’ll be sure to keep it in mind!)

The lady asks Justin back to her hotel, where they go right at it. But she has a sadomasochistic streak, begging Justin to slap her and etc. It’s obviously a trap – and to his credit Justin himself knows this – but it gets even weirder when, right as he’s climaxing, Justin sees a knife-wielding attacker leap from the shadows. As Justin pulls away from the girl the assassin accidentally stabs the woman in the chest, and she gets off on it, jamming the knife deeper into herself as she orgasms and dies! Meanwhile Justin, upset over the fact that he’s spilled most of his seed on the carpet(!), merely clubs the now-frantic assassin in the head and ties him up, leaving the hotel room.

I still say this series was begun with the ending already in Bennett’s mind; as we’ll recall, #5: Stud Service featured the revelation that Justin Perry had been chosen by the Halley Society as a stud whose sperm would be cryogenically preserved to sow several generations of descendants. That book was filled with the importance of sperm in general and Justin’s in particular; this first installment too features that theme, with Justin thinking it’s “such a fucking waste” that his seed dribbles onto the floor as he pulls out of the woman immediately after orgasming, so as to fend off the attacker. Of course, this could all be moreso indication of Bennett’s own foibles, but given the revelations of the final volume it just seems like well-planned foreshadowing.

The twisted stuff dispensed with (for now), Bennett delivers yet more literary-heavy backstory, with a long sequence set three years before in which “Colonel Roger Johnson” lost both his wife, his parents, and his son on one crazy day. Actually all of them died except for the kid, who was reduced to a catatonic wreck, now ensconced in an upscale sanitarium in New York. Justin’s wife, a government systems analyst, was gunned down on the streets of Washington, D.C., immediately after discovering that the many recent “computer glitches” which almost started a nuclear war were in fact intentionally set to go off. This discovery lead to not only her murder, but the eradication of Justin’s entire family, and was the incentive which caused him to become a CIA assassin.

But again, all this stuff is playing out in Justin’s mind as he continues on with the Henkel job – the blonde and the would-be assassin were sent by Heydrich Kroll, something Justin is now certain of, given that the blonde turns out to be the much-younger wife of “Wilhelm Kappelheimer.” Flying on the dead woman’s ticket to Madrid, Justin finds himself on a plane filled with priests and nuns. And guess what, moments after arriving in Madrid he is knocked out and taken captive by those same priests and nuns, who turn out to be members of a SPECTRE-like organization of evil.

Here follows more sickly weird stuff where Justin is chained up while a bunch of nude and ugly women cavort around him, half-heartedly licking and sucking him in one of the strangest forms of “torture” you’ll ever read about. And meanwhile a nude Heydrich Kroll watches all while his simperingly gay chaffeur sits beneath him, licking his feet! Oh, and Justin’s pal Bob Dante is here, also tied up and being “pleasured” by these unattractive women; Dante informs Justin that these freaks are minions of SADIF (the Sons And Daughters In Freedom), a worldwide conspiracy with its roots in Nazi Germany.

The problem with Justin Perry #1 is that it’s just overwritten and ultimately dull. The belabored flashbacks hamper things, and Justin comes off like a fool – I mean, he gets picked up by some random chick while his wife is being murdered on the streets of DC, and Justin never once suspects her of anything. In fact we’re informed that this woman, Julie Greer, has in the past few years become the only person Justin trusts! However the “surprise” reveal of her membership in SADIF is so anticlimatically handled that you wish Bennett hadn’t even brought it up. For that matter, Bennett treads a very campish line here; throughout the novel, anytime a character is exposed as an agent of SADIF, he or she immediately becomes the cliched Bond-esque villain, spouting insane rhetoric and acting cartoonishly evil.

The novel limps to a close with Justin flying back and forth from the Bahamas to Madrid, desperately trying to deliver a document to SADIF in the allotted time, or else his son dies. Here we see that practically everyone Justin has ever met or known is secretly in SADIF, including Henkel, and oh, the dead sadomasochistic chick has a twin sister who’s just as beautiful and is also into getting beaten up during sex, something Justin discovers during an “interrogation” on an airplane. Clad in a skin-tight black commando outfit just like the one he wears on the series covers, Justin and a comrade storm the SADIF headquarters in Madrid in one of the more anticlimatic finales ever, Justin armed with something called a “Magnum .57 automatic pistol.” Bennett doesn’t do very well with the action scene, as ever focused more on the psycho-sexual aspects.

As expected, the book’s tone is just damn weird, both homoerotic and homophobic at the same time; Justin we’ll recall becomes sexually excited when killing, and throughout the novel he’s afraid men are about to hit on him (and they do, several times, including his pal back in ‘Nam, who hilariously enough hits on Justin seconds before he’s blown up by the VC). The few sex scenes are explicit, but moreso in a literary style, but still very weird. As Zwolf points out in his great review, one also can’t help but wonder over how all the women Justin meets want to get beaten up while having sex.

Justin Perry #1 builds to a happy ending, with Justin reunited with his son, his wife being avenged, and the current SADIF plot prevented. However judging from future volumes Justin will tangle with them again, SADIF becoming the recurring villains of the series. Strange, then, that they weren’t even featured in #5: Stud Service, in which the Halley Society was outed as Justin’s main enemy. Also, I don’t recall Justin’s son being mentioned in that final volume.

Anyway, while it wasn’t as twistedly enjoyable as Stud Service, Justin Perry #1 still had enough weird stuff going for it, even if most of it was obscured by the heavy-handed prose and psychological probing.


Grant said...

"Slut-green eyes" - it makes about as much sense as "blonde bimbo" (which isn't very much sense).

Trever Palmer said...

This one has my curiosity piqued (which killed the proverbial cat).

Brian Drake said...

After the "Community" episode where a character froze his sperm and handed sealed containers of it to his friends, I cannot help but laugh at that part of your description. Perhaps the writers of the show read the series?