Monday, February 16, 2015

Killinger #2: The Rainbow/Seagreen Case

Killinger #2: The Rainbow/Seagreen Case, by P.K. Palmer
January, 1974  Pinnacle Books

The second and final installment of the Killinger series is an exercise in tedium, author P.K. Palmer doling out a slow-moving tale that’s rife with repetition. It seems clear though that Palmer, who passed away before publication, intended Killinger to be a sort of Travis McGhee for the Pinnacle line; Pinnacle editor Andy Ettinger is even namedropped in the narrative.  But Palmer forgot to make his tale compelling.

More damningly, The Rainbow/Seagreen Case is almost a direct lift of the previous volume. Once again we are presented with a slow-burn tale which occurs over a few days, with our hero Jedediah Killinger the Third, marine adjustor extraordinnaire, not doing much of anything as he slowly goes about his latest case. And just like last time there are a few busty and bodacious babes around to distract him while he tries to deal with wealthy opponents who scheme behind the scenes. Also like last time, there’s a paucity of thrills and sex, though again the ample ladies are amply described.

But the biggest drag which returns from the previous volume is P.K. Palmer’s frustrating, measured style, in which he constantly stalls forward momentum with his penchant for overwriting. Sequences are repeated over and over again from multiple perspectives, and not in some interesting Rashomon way; no, we’ll just read as Killinger does something, and then read four or more sections in which various foreign agents watch as Killinger does what we just read about him doing. Seriously, the actual content of this 244-page book would only take up about 90 pages. The rest is tedious over-description about menial details…details we’ve already read about several times.

Anyway, picking up “about a year” after the events of The Turquoise/Yellow Case, this volume has 41-year-old Killinger (who we’re informed was a Lt. Col. in the Marines) investigating the crash of a privately-owned B-25 in the Pacific ocean, outside of Santa Barbara. The plane was insured for eleven million dollars, and Killinger, who lives on his fashionable Chinese junk in nearby Oxnard, is hired at great page-length by Marcel Renard, the same Paris-based insurance executive who hired Killinger last time.

Filthy rich “little old lady” L.G. Browne owned the crashed plane and is calling in the insurance policy; Killinger’s job is to ensure against fraud. Browne has dispatched her fussy, dowdy, virginal assistant, Audrey White, to Killinger’s junk; Audrey, who turns out to be Browne’s granddaughter, dresses in old-fashioned clothing from the turn of the century and treats everyone with disdain. She also has different-colored eyes, just like her grandmother, one “soft violet” and the other “icy blue.” This dual-eye color schtick is itself a rerun from The Turquoise/Yellow Case. As I said, this entire book is just a retread of what came before.

Audrey immediately runs afoul of Marjorie, Killinger’s mini-skirt wearing secretary who first came to work for him in the previous volume. Audrey clearly doesn’t like the young lady because she’s black, which elicits a blowout between the two. After making Audrey apologize, Killinger does a repeat of the unfunny “say ‘prunes’” deal from the previous book, ie when Marjorie’s lips pucker when saying “prunes” he sweeps in to kiss her. But after this Marjorie, as well as Killinger’s various other houseboat guests, are removed from the narrative, all of them taking off for a week of surfing in Santa Barbara.

But Killinger instantly suspects something is afoot here. Something appears to have been on the crashed plane, something Browne wanted destroyed. We know it is a “sea green” piece of pipe, because super-hot and super-stacked Marja-Liisa Kikkonen, a “six-foot Viking queen from Finland,” also referred to quite often as a “tigress” and an “Amazon,” happens to find this piece of pipe while scuba diving in the Pacific. With her “wonderously full breasts” and “tawny-gold hair to her waist,” Marja is hot stuff indeed, and is an assistant professor at the University of Santa Barbara.

Marja, despite the “Finland” mention, actually turns out to be from Wisconsin. But she’s still pretty damn exotic, even keeping a pet Cheetah in her posh home. But this strange piece of metal causes trouble for her; she takes it to the chem lab of the university, asking a friend there to run tests on it, to see what it is – the only thing about it is that “AJB” is stamped on it, along with a string of numbers. Instead this sets off an endless “comedic” bit where various foreign agents, both Chinese and Russian, along with CIA, arrive on the scene to find out where this metal was found.

Because, as it labriously turns out, “AJB” is a private military contractor, and this tail piece is part of some experimental MacGuffin L.G. Browne, a board director of the company, funded. However it was apparently a bust, and Browne schemed to destroy it entirely. But the Red Chinese, headed up by Peter Tsai (who poses as a left-leaning professor at Marja’s college), as well as the KGB, headed up by Peter Wegendorff, are looking for the rest of the gizmo. There’s also Marc and Juno, a pair of CIA agents; Juno, as you’d guess, is a smokin’ hot, auburn-tressed beauty with a body nearly the equal of Marja’s.

The reader will of course understand that “ruggedly virile” Killinger is going to bang both these broads, and sure enough he does, even if it takes practically the entire novel. And, again, author P.K. Palmer is a total prude when it comes to the sex, fading instantly to black, even though he has no qualms with going on and on about “wonderously full breasts” and whatnot. But anyway, Killinger himself eventually gets wind of this whole AJB business; that is, once he’s had a number of confrontations with L.G. Browne.

The cantankerous billionaire, who lives in seclusion, reveals that she had an affair with Killinger’s grandfather, calling him a pirate. She also says that she should’ve been his wife, but Killinger the First instead married “a no-good squaw.” She further reveals that the “squaw’s” mother was “part Negro,” having been sired by a “runaway slave.” Killinger is not only aware of this, but proud: “The blood of a brave black man is in my veins,” he says. Palmer tries to build up more “comedy” with this constant banter between Killinger and Browne, but like everything else in the novel it soon grates on the reader’s nerves.

The novel is given over to endless parts where Peter Tsai’s men and Wegendorff’s men monitor Marja or Killinger from afar, reporting back to their superiors – over and over again we read as these spies report back on the exact same info. Throughout The Rainbow/Seagreen Case, you will read the same material again and again. But anyway these spies want to know where Marja found that AJB pipe. Soon Killinger himself shows up at Marja’s doorstep, lead there due to her recent call to AJB HQ.

Here we get one of the few action scenes, as Killinger busts out his “karate quick” moves to take out a pair of studly guys who are actually undercover agents for the Chinese and the Russians. He and Marja have instant chemistry, Killinger escorting her back to his junk in his cherry red ’57 Chevy and making her a big meal, with the understanding that they’re about to have some hot sex. Once again we get tons of detail about Killinger’s teak-made Chinese junk, especially the constantly-mentioned lattice work with all of the sexual depictions on it.

But as mentioned when the two finally get down to it, Palmer cuts straight to the next day. He’s all tease, more content to dole out inconsequential bits of fluff and padding to fill the unwieldy word count. Look, the book is so deadening that I’ll just cut to the chase – Marja found the AJB piece because it was in a channel of fresh water in the sea. There are seven underground lakes that flow into the sea, and Marja is unsure which is the one that spat out the AJB piece. But one of the seven will have the wrest of the wreckage hidden within it.

So, at great friggin’ length, Killinger devises a method of uncovering which lake it is – he will drop all seven colors of the spectrum, ie the “rainbow” of the title, into each lake. So, yellow for one lake, blue for another, etc. It takes at least 30 pages to explain this, not to mention all of the many, many pages devoted to the various CIA, KGB, and Red Chinese spies who watch Killinger from afar and report back to their superiors. People, it’s so mind-boggingly overwritten as to be nauseating. It’s just so boring.

Palmer introduces yet another character to Killinger’s list of companions: Doc Kinneally, a black helicopter pilot who is also apparently a chemist or something. He comes up with the rainbow dyes for Killinger, and there follows a few scenes where he flies Killinger and Marja over the lake as they drop the dye, getting shot at from hidden enemy agents. Palmer has no understanding of suspense or tension, as Killinger et al continuosly fly back to the same lake, despite the hidden snipers afoot. Oh, but we learn that Marja becomes “sexually excited” by it all.

Speaking of Marja, Palmer ushers her out of the text in the final quarter, with some hastily-explained reason that she has to give a conference in Connecticut(?). Killinger escorts her to the airport and returns to his junk…only to find yet another busty bombshell waiting for him. This is auburn-haired Juno, CIA agent who doesn’t even waste time with preliminaries; she screws Killinger straight away, though again it’s another “cut to the next chapter” copout from Palmer. So now, through Juno, the CIA is basically monitoring Killinger as he waits the three days until the dye will filter through to the underwater channel, and he’ll be able to know which lake hides AJB.

The finale features some tepid action, with Killinger again blithely swimming around the same area in which he’s been shot at several times, “surprise” attacked by scuba-outfitted Red Chinese and Russians. Killinger actually kills one of them, gutting the dude with his knife; Killinger’s first and only kill in the series. Meanwhile Juno, a cipher stand-in for Marja, waits anxiously on a boat (rented from “Andy Ettinger’s Boat Sales”) for Killinger to return to the surface. And Doc gets shot but he’ll be okay.

So, L.G. Browne’s fraud uncovered – something about the AJB being a device she funded which turned out to be a bust, so she planned to crash it into the sea and then collect on the insurance to pay back her loss – the old woman’s hauled off to prison. Juno returns to wherever it is that hot CIA agents go, and Killinger ends the novel (which occurs over a single weekend) with yet another female conquest – none other than Audrey White, who apropos of nothing has flowered (likely just due to Killinger’s rugged virility) from a virginal shut-in to a hot-stuff mama who announces to Killinger that she’s about to have sex with him. The end.

Overall, a terrible, terrible book, filled with constant stalling and repetition. But whereas the first volume at least had a goofy, ‘70s charm going for it, this one squanders all promise through its deadening style. In other words, good riddance Jedediah Killinger the Third.

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