Thursday, July 30, 2015

Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood

Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood, edited by Pep Pentangeli
No month stated, 2015  Deicide Press

It’s a good time to be a fan of men's adventure magazines. Over the past few years anthologies of actual men’s mag stories have been published; previously the only books out there focused on the lurid covers and interior art, usually ignoring the stories entirely.

But that’s finally changing. Bob Deis at has published Weasels Ripped My Flesh! and the Walter Kaylin-focused He-Men, Bag Men, & Nymphos, and someone by the awesome name of Pep Pentangeli (any relation to Frankie Five Angels?) has published three anthologies, this being the most recent of them.

All men’s mag fans owe Pentangeli a debt of gratitude, for he has focused on “the sweats,” aka the sleazy and sick men’s mags that focused on torture, violence, and eroticism…usually all three at once. These were the mags that featured covers with busty, half-nude women being tortured in innovative ways by lecherous Nazi sadists. And these are the mags that go for big bucks today – likely because the originals were either thrown away or ripped to shreds by mothers who caught their sons with them, back in the day.

And speaking of eras, Pentangeli only appears interested in the genre up to the mid-‘60s; the stories collected within Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood are mostly all from 1963, as you can see in this cheapjack photo I took of the table of contents (which also shows author/artist attributions for each story, as well as which magazines the stories originally appeared in):

The book is a feast for the eyes, printed on glossy paper, with the original black and white splash pages for each story faithfully reproduced. I’ve seen some online complaints that this book and the previous two Pentangeli anthologies feature b&w artwork, but this is true of the original magazines. However, as with the previous two anthologies, Pentangeli does include a color section in the back of the book, featuring reproductions of the garish cover art of several sweat mags. Thumbing through the book is a great experience, transporting you back to a long-forgotten era.

An interesting point is that, while they’re all very lurid and exploitative, none of the stories here are truly pornographic or overly explicit. The copious sex scenes are all in the “fade to black” mold, or at the very least are quite vague when it comes to the juicy details. And yet, these stories still bridle with a dangerous air, even in today’s era – likely because they’re just so unabashedly “un-P.C.” In our modern watered-down era, these savage, bloody tales, in which women are constantly abused and ravished, in which square-jawed, white American men are the constant and only heroes, still pack a punch, perhaps even more of a punch than they did when they were brand new.

I have all three of Pentangeli’s books but started with this most recent one due to the amount of Nazi She-Devil stories in it; as should be obvious, I friggin’ love Nazi She-Devil stories. And the ones in this book are great – in fact, Pentangeli has scored a major victory because all of the stories in this anthology are pretty good, which is really a major coup. I’m sure I’m not the only person to be unsatisfied with many of the sweat mag stories I’ve read, many of which often fail to live up to the lurid artwork or the crazy title. That’s not true here. All of these stories are sick little works of art.

As you can see from the table of contents photo, this book features 35 stories. Here are reviews of most of them, with a little more detail about the Nazi She-Devil stories:

“I Was A Call-Girl’s Boy Friend” – August 1961, and our narrator is hired to figure out where corruption is stemming from in NYC. He picks up a whore named Lucy, who “joy-pops” cocaine. Next night she takes him “behind the Bearded Curtain,” ie the second floor of her bordello, where everyone lays around smoking high-grade grass. Turns out the main importer is her boss, Menotti. But our narrator falls in love with Lucy, who snidely asks, “What do you think you are, my boyfriend?” He slowly realizes he does think of himself as so.

It ends with the narrator and Menotti in a fight, during which Menotti suffers a heart attack; Lucy kicks his pills out of his hand so that he dies. Then she gets in a shootout with a few guards, allowing the narrator to escape! Now he’s on the run, hoping for the day he can evade the syndicate’s wrath and return to Lucy, “to claim my right as her boyfriend.” Goofy but fun, with a nice hardboiled vibe. 

“Cool Broads, Hot Rods!” – This one’s about a “new breed” of teenaged hot-rodders, or as a cop in a “Midwestern city” says they should be called, “Hell-rodders!” Taking on a pseudo-factual approach, as if it were an article in a real magazine, the story’s all about the latest rash of teenaged atrocities. We’re informed of such Hell-rodder practices as “choo-choo,” in which they race trains (usually dying in spectacular crashes), or also “Trail 2,” in which they speed through city traffic without brakes.

And after all of these events there will be a “post-race sex-party.” Indeed, these coke-sniffing teens sometimes have sex while racing, usually dying in spectacular crashes. “If no plan is put into action – and put into action immediately – then more and more lives are gone to be taken by the deadly highway ‘games’ and ‘tests.’ The Hell-rodders will live up to their name – and turn our thruways, highways and city streets into blood-drenched, corpse-littered hells!”

“I Was Eaten Down To The Bone” – The narrator tells us how he and his buddy went on a long-planned trip to Polynesia in 1951. Buying a sloop, they plied around the paradisiacal islands. Vague mentions of how they enjoyed the local native gals. But the narrator’s buddy wanted to visit a remote island one day, and so they went, meeting up with a local chief who bridled at the French Jesuit rule and spoke in a strange hipster patois.

Drunk on the man’s local brew ani, our heroes were so out of it that they walked the wrong way back to the sloop and ended up sleeping on an atoll – only to awake into hell, being eaten alive by white ants, ie “cannibal ants.” The author goes to town here, with horror fiction descriptions of the ants eating them down to the bone, the narrator’s buddy losing his head and arms. The narrator himself loses both hands and most of his legs. The end! I related to this one because ten years ago I was attacked by about twenty fire ants; like an idiot I was walking barefoot in my yard one night. My right foot swelled up to the size of a football!

“Nude Virgins For The Serpent Of Lust” – It’s 1669 and beautiful, blonde, Norweigan Hortense Cerlabaud acts as the Goddess of Set in “the jungle citadel of Iztopolopo,” in Ecaudor. This pseudo-factual piece reports the story of how Hortense went from being a bloodthirsty pirate wench to ruling over the natives; her boyfriend, the depraved Chevalier, worked a white slavery angle into the scheme, with Hortense tossing the women who refused to have sex with her to the massive anaconda in a pit below her citadel.

“A Soft White Throat For The Devil’s Hangman” – This first-person narrative is a bit longer than most of the others in the collection, and it’s pretty entertaining “Nazi Horror” that the sweats excelled in. Our hero relates how he became involved with the French resistance near Limoge in ’44, after his plane was shot down. Hiding in the attic of beautiful resistance fighter Simone, he soon finds himself living the dream life: “My adventure was the kind that recruiting posters are made of.” The two engage in a months-long affair, our hero helping out the cause while engaging Simone in undescribed sexual shenanigans up in the attic.

But when the sadists of the Das Reich Division show up, aka “the chief interrogators of the Panzer Division,” things go to hell – these bastards enjoy stripping down young French women, beating and raping them, and then hanging them. Unspurprisingly, they capture Simone. Going in disguised as a German soldier along with his French companion Henrique, our hero watches as Simone is tied to a chair and strangled a bit – the act illustrated by Norm Eastman’s artwork – before he swoops in and carries her off to safety.

“The Orgiastic Gates Of Hell” – It’s 1945 and our narrator is a prisoner on an island off Singapore controlled by “the Japs.” His two fellow prisoners are Fran McKendrick, a gorgeous redhead chemist who is only kept from being raped and killed due to her work in the island’s rubber plantation lab, where she turns out latex for the Japanese war effort, and another woman, Maya, “the Malay girl, beautiful as a bird, with tiny upturned breasts that trembled when she walked.” This story’s unusual because it’s more about the horrific torture of the male protagonist rather than of the women.

When the fat major who runs the prison hears on the radio that Japan has surrendered, he goes nuts – he bashes our hero’s balls with his boots, grinding into them, and then he chops one of his eyeballs out! As the major takes away the two women to hurl them into a watery abyss, our hero staggers to his feet, picks up a samurai sword, and Pulp Fiction style gains his bloody revenge, gutting the fat major. After a “spell of surgery” he awakens to find the two women waiting worshipfully at the foot of his bed…

“Prison Break Massacre From Chawcagee Hell Hole” – It’s 1960 and the narrator is a former soldier who has worked as a guard at the titular women’s prison since 1953. The story opens with an unforgettable image: a gang of gorgeous female prisoners running half-nude through the darkened woods, their leader a stunning blonde wielding a machete, the severed head of the prison’s sadistic matron cradled in her arm.

Backtrack to the beginning, which has it that the matron, a “bull” with the body of a “tank,” would demand lesbian favors from the female prisoners. When one of them, the gorgeous blonde, rebuffed her, it led to a prisonbreak, in which the narrator was unwittingly caught up. The story ends with all of the culprits dead save for the narrator, whose story no one believes; he ends his tale begging someone to believe him, as they’re planning to hang him!

“A Crypt Of Agony For The Screaming Beauties Of Belgium” – Another longish piece of Nazi Horror written in third-person. Going for a slow-burn approach, it also doesn’t begin at the ending, like most every other men’s mag story does. Instead we meet young Beatrix, a Belgian resistance fighter, as she’s riding her bike to the nearby college, where she plans to secretly broadcast news of British victory in the air.

But the Gestapo closes down the college and takes all the girls captive, in vengeance for a raid some Belgian fighters made the previous night on Nazi forces. Beatrix is taken to a furnace-heated crypt in which women are stripped to undergarments and chained up, roasted over a fire. She watches as one girl is tortured, then the eunuch sadist in charge jams a hot poker into Beatrix’s belly – right before his head explodes, Beatrix’s hotstuff rebel boyfriend showing up at the last moment to save the day.

“Blast Out Of Hell With The She-Beast Of Ploesti” – The first Nazi She-Devil in the book is also one of the best I’ve ever read. Martha Zent, female commander of Stalag 606 in Romania, “the sadistic Nazi bitch…beauteous assassin of 133 American and British plane guys,” is trying to escape her camp as it’s being bombed when we meet her, our narrator holding a gun to her back. He’s only been here for a few weeks, but he’s seen the lady’s sadism. She enjoys stripping down to her underwear and parading before the male prisoners. “First they made love to her, then she killed them.” Here’s the splash page – is it just me or does the dude look like Adrien Brody??

Stalag 606 we’re informed is “noted for its unspeakale depravity and oversexed guards. All Nazi SS women.” Save for the chief commander, Paul Koch (brother, we’re informed, of the infamous Ilse Koch), “a hermaphrodite maniac who not only devised the system of making lampshades of human skin, but also, as a matter of policy, executed at least three prisoners a day – one with every meal.” The sick imaginations of these sweats authors is a joy to behold – on his first day at the stalag our narrator watches in shock as a prisoner is gutted and Martha orders three other prisoners to piss on his dying form! When they refuse they’re gutted by bayonets wielded by “blonde and bosomy” Nazi She-Devils.

Our narrator isn’t one of the lucky hundreds who gets to pleasure Martha Zent, though she comes on strong to him as a ploy when the Americans strike; instead he blows away Koch and then shoots Martha in the face – “I pulled the trigger till the gun clicked empty.”

“Hideous Secrets Of Hitler’s Mad Doctor Of Agony” – Another longish tale of “Nazi Horror,” courtesy Jim McDonald, who was very prolific in the sweats. Like “A Crypt Of Agony” above, this one’s in third-person and takes its time, but it’s even better – and it’s definitely more twisted. Norm Eastman’s art shows lovely young women being frozen by Nazi sadists, and that’s exactly the tale McDonald delivers. Odette, a pretty young Maquis (ie French rebel), is captured by the “traveling circus” of Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician, who now goes about France capturing women for his sick medical experiments.

He takes Odette to a building with a freezing-cold vault in which other pretty young French girls are encased in blocks of ice. For spurning the obese freak’s advances, Odette will suffer the slowest of deaths, forced to watch as one of the girls is frozen in a block of ice. McDonald excelled at torture-porn, thus this story is quite unsettling as the poor girl is crushed to death by the pressure. Odette’s turn comes up, but she’s saved, just like the heroine in “Crypt Of Agony,” by the last-second appearance of her commando Maquis boyfriend.

“Writhe, My Lovely, In The Tent Of Torture” – It’s Cairo, 1957, and a gorgeous, well-built young Frenchwoman named Suzanne is our main protagonist for this long if slightly tepid slice of Nazi Horror, which is also written in third-person. An orphan of the war, Suzanne now makes her living as as a sort of bar girl at the Kit Kat Club, overseen by a lecherous Arab. Suzanne pines for a handsome American named Gary Larkin whom she bedded down with a few weeks before; Larkin is consumed with vengeance, hunting around Africa for Kurt Eisle, a Nazi fiend who tortured Larkin in the war and killed Larkin’s girlfriend through some vile torture.

But Larkin’s gone now, and besides the Arab is pushing Suzanne to become friendly with a VIP at the club – who of course turns out to be none other than Eisle. He drugs her and takes her away to a tent in the middle of the desert, where he strips her down and plays a massive spider over her, taunting her with horrifying death. Then he burns her feet with a flaming brand, all to find out what she knows about Larkin. But then the man himself appears, unsurprisingly, blowing Eisle and his Neo-Nazi goons away with a submachine gun and making off with Suzanne…we’re informed the two go on to spend a full two days in Larkin’s bedroom.

“Torture Of 1,000 Cuts” – This one’s unusual in that it’s set in the early days of the Vietnam War. It’s also told in convoluted fashion, the entire first half nothing but backstory. It is however redolent with gore; our narrator informs us how two escaped Vietcong mutilated a few Vietnamese soldiers in their escape from the narrator’s US Army base. But the two cong are themselves horribly killed, as a monstrous-sized Asian dude tracks them down, bashing one’s brains out with his bare hands and then crushing the other’s head into a pulp, again with his hands. The author gives copious detail of the juicy brain matter and gore.

This monstrous dude proclaims himself a “samurai wrestler” and has the strength of ten men. He hangs out on the base for a while, but then disappears – turns out it was all a ruse, and he’s really a Japanese Communist, dedicated to killing Americans for the loss of his wife in WWII. He captures the pretty nurses at the base and vows to slice them all up with the titular thousand cuts, but our plucky narrator chases after him and engages him in a brawl, drowning the heavier man in a lake. 

“Fettered Nudes For The Monster’s Collar Of Agony” – Another pseudo-history piece, this one takes place in 15th century Spain and is about Lucrezia Mantua, a sadistic beauty who rides into battle with her lover, rebel leader Ugo Sorcate: “Clad in black armor, scarlet velvet and leopard skin, her shimmering auburn hair cascading about her shoulders like living flames, Lucrezia Mantua was the incarnation of the warrior female…” Does she also have sapphic tendencies and enjoy stripping down nubile young women and torturing them? You bet!

The majority of the tale is given over to Lucrezia’s torturing of the wife and daughters of the Viceroy, ie the Spanish ruler who has just been defeated by Lucrezia and Ugo in battle. While Ugo wears pantaloons and a mask, Lucrezia wears a revealing costume of black satin; they put the Viceroy’s wife in a garrotte and laugh as she slowly dies. The two daughters follow. We learn that Lucrezia was born in Naples, and her parents killed during the Spanish invasion, which was led by the Viceroy. We’re further informed that Ugo eventually became enamored with a teenaged girl, who compelled him to have Lucrezia condemed to death for being a witch.

“Secret Nude Weapons Of St. Belvedere” – June of 1944, and our narrator is in a rifle company that’s just come into St. Belvedere, a small town in France. The German tanks must come through here and it’s up to his company to stop them, but the only problem is the squad with their anti-tank weaponry is two days away. The townspeople rally to the cause, in particular four beautiful young women; their leader, a knockout named Marie Delmot, claims that she and her fellow women have “secret weapons” to stop the Germans long enough for the weaponry to arrive. Grabbing her own breasts, she proclaims, “These are our secret weapons!”

The four head on over to the nearby town in which the Germans are camped out, and from here the story switches into third person. The girls invite themselves into German lines for a party and soon whore themselves out to the entire regiment, four lines of men standing outside each door. But their treachery is soon discovered, and the German commander has the women, still nude, tied to the front of their tanks! Now as the German tanks invade St. Belvedere the Americans are unable to employ their just-arrived anti-tank weapons lest they kill the women.

But it’s back to first person now, and our narrator tells us how he figures out that when the tank commanders open up their hatchways to look out at the destruction they’ve caused, he can drop a grenade right down in there with them. The Germans all killed, Marie and her three friends declare another party – this one for the Americans, who split right up into four lines and wait their turns… 

“The Ordeal At Jap Camp Agony” – This longish, third-person piece is like a “Yellow Peril” variant of the Nazi She-Devil subgenre. But as is typical with these Japanese-themed tales, the women are a lot more sadistic and lack the pulpish charm of their Nazi She-Devil counterparts. Rather, the evil Japanese women, at least in the sweat mag stories like this I’ve read, are just plain scary. It’s Formosa, January of 1945, and an American B-24 is shot down.  The crew of ten is taken prisoner, led to Akasaki Prison Camp, which is overseen by female guards.

In control of the camp is a busty Japanese beauty named Okatsu. She and her fellow guards, particularly her two junior commanders, despise the Americans. This is proved posthaste as Okatsu cuts out the tongue of a crewman who dares to speak to her out of turn. Okatsu and her second in command, Yuka, run roughshod over the men of their camp over the next months, gutting them, jabbing out their eyes with their thumbs, the works.  Sgt. Richard Moss gradually becomes the hero of the captured crew; the other male prisoners are bedraggled by constant starvation and horrible treatment.

Thus it’s Moss and friends who get to play horsey as Okatsu and Yuka hop on their backs and whip at each other, tearing up their human mounts with the barbs on their boots. Finally Moss can take no more and storms into Okatsu’s room, planning to “sexually assault” her, but finds himself unable to do it, such is his hatred for the woman (meanwhile he’s already gotten lucky – even here in this hellhole – with a geisha conscripted into duty at the prison). He beats Okatsu instead, after which he’s taken into custody and thrown into a pit filled with leeches. But just then news arrives at camp that Japan has surrendered; Okatsu and her sister guards walk off, and later we’re informed they each commit ritual suicide.

“Blood-Soaked Queen Of Buchenwald” – Technically a Nazi She-Devil tale, this one’s about Gerta Holland, a hot tramp who is really more so just a prostitute, but one that caters to SS sadists; so it’s a fine line, you see. Indeed, the tale opens with Gerta laughing as rabid dogs tear apart a prisoner in the camp. Gerta is mistress of an SS bigwig at Buchenwald concentration camp, but when he’s sent to the front lines she’s cast adrift, seeking a new sugar daddy. A new SS goon named Ludwig uses her but quickly grows sick of her – after all, he says, there’s a love camp just down the road, where nubile German gals are throwing themselves at SS men for free! But Ludwig comes up with a money-making scheme for Gerta: she can prostitute herself to the prisoners!

In what is the most darkly comic story in the collection (and likely also in the poorest taste), Gerta now services prisoners in the basement of the crematorium; the author (this being another third-person story, by the way) informing us how the fires rage during the day, immolating prisoners, but at night Gerta lies down in the eerie darkness and waits for her clients. And the prisoners beat and kill each other to find money to pay her; Ludwig knows that prisoners can always find a way to smuggle in money. Things go along swimmingly until Patton’s forces arrive, and in the mass exodus Gerta meets her just end – run to ground by the same rabid dogs she found so delightfully vicious in the opening of the story.

“Trapped By The Nazis’ Kissing She-Devil Of Agony” – This is the best Nazi She-Devil tale I’ve yet had the pleasure to read, and due to that it’s my favorite story in the book. It’s a work of sleazy art. Our narrator is an American soldier who is captured in 1943 and, since he’s half Jewish, the Nazis send him to Aschenwald concentration camp, in Germany. Here he gets his first glimpse of the Nazi She-Devil who runs the place:

I saw the red leather whip she gripped in her black-gloved hand. She wore polished jackboots and black jodhpurs that molded her powerfully-curved hips like rubber…Inga Hein was as sadistic a bitch as ever cracked a whip for the glory of Der Fuhrer.  She was one of Adolf Hitlers favorite officers of the SS-Totenkopfverbande Madel (Womens Deaths-Head SS Units), a distinction she undoubtedly owed to her singularly German predilection for flogging human beings to death.

Beautiful Inga, “the Blonde Bitch of Aschenwald,” with her “incredible, upthrusting breasts,” lives in a palatial room with a “Hollywood bed,” attended by Angel, her “pert little lesbian maid.” After nude massages courtesy Angel, Inga likes to put on “sheer, Paris-made lingerie…tight black jodhpurs, stiletto-heeled boots, and a smartly tailored SS jacket lined with leopard skin” and entertain male guests. Our narrator is one such guest. He’s tossed scraps of food by the merciless woman; he’s so starved he drops to his knees as ordered and scoops the morsels off the floor. All as illustrated in the awesome splashpage:

The story is filled with sadism, full-on torture porn as various POWs are beaten and whipped to death in brutal ways, all for Inga’s enjoyment. The narrator himself is frequently beaten by her, in between lots of taunting. One evening Inga strips and offers herself to him, but he snatches her gun, puts it in her face, and pulls the trigger. It jams. “Again,” Inga demands, getting off on it. He pulls the trigger again, but the gun jams again, so he punches her, and this gets her off even more – cue a vague but sleazy sex scene, with our narrator beating Inga during the act.

Afterwards he’s her “love slave,” chained up in her private quarters and used by Inga whenever she wills it.  Months later the US Army liberates the camp. The freed prisoners drown the male camp commander in the latrine while the narrator chases down Inga.  He beats her to a pulp and then hangs her from the fence that surrounds the camp, fashioning a noose out of the barbed wire. He smokes one of her cigarettes as he watches her die, realizing that Inga was right all along: sometimes there is joy in the suffering of another.

“Fantastic Lust Plot Of The Nazi Harlot Spy” – One of the longer stories in the book, this third-person tale with an awesome title is only a Nazi She-Devil yarn by default. It’s the end of the war in Europe and Else Streit, beautiful young “personal prostitute” of Stauffer, a high-ranking general in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, is planning her escape route. The Russians are on the outskirts of Berlin and time is limited. After a bit of vague lovin’ with Stauffer, Else, who enjoys the obese lecher’s obvious fear, waits until the big man is asleep and roots through his secret office, looking for some intel to sell to the Reds as barter for safety. But Stauffer finds her and Else blows him away with his “Lugar.” Else is not a Nazi She-Devil – she isn’t even a Nazi, just a hooker – but she has the same kind of sadistic streak.

After getting a ride from a horny young chaffeur she’s allowed to screw her before (so as to ensure his loyalty), she blows him away, too. But the story turns out to be the sweat mag variant of an O. Henry morality story – after giving herself to the Red commander in Berlin, Else is slapped around and called a whore; the intel she stole is already known to the Russians, because Stauffer gave it to them: he was an undercover agent! Hence his promises to Else that he was her only chance of escape were true. The story has a memorable if bleak ending where our heroine gets her comeuppance – tossed into a house filled with lust-crazed Russian soldiers, whom we’re told will carry out Stauffer’s dying promise: “You deserve the Reds. They will grind you into mincemeat.”

“Blood Beast Of The Third Reich” – The author claims to have been a Luftwaffe pilot who came down with “a mild case of TB” and was thus removed from air duties. Due to his skill with the camera he was soon given a plush new assignment – cameraman for Herman Goering’s porno films! It all starts in 1936, before the war, and the narrator informs us it lasts on until 1940 as Goering’s film crew travels around Germany and newly-conquered territory, scoping out hot chicks for porno flicks. 

Goering demands realism and when he takes the porn into darker realms of torture he gets attractive female prisoners from the camps. Vague details of a lesbian shoot, another with a German dude and two women, and another strange bit where Goering himself appears in a film where he screws three generations of women – a grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter!!  We’re informed that the “actors” were always dipped in acid afterwards, so there could be no survivors to tell of it. This is one of those stories where you can tell the author was chortling to himself as he wrote it:

American readers may be interested to know that we used many American men and women in our films. Some of them were excellent in their parts, so good that they would have undoubtedly become Hollywood stars if we hadn’t been under the unfortunate necessity of liquefying them in acid.

I remember one girl, from California I believe… She was a delightful creature. After Goering finished with her – in this case he personally went through a bondage-rape scene with her – we all made use of her fine figure and soft, yielding flesh. She was a very interesting girl. We permitted her to live an extra forty-eight hours and then, because she had been so sweet to have around, we knocked her unconscious before plunging her into the acid, instead of dropping her in alive and fully awake as was customary.

The fun and games come to an end with the official start of WWII, and our narrator – who informs us he himself occasionally stepped before the cameras, to “act” with some newly-captured maiden in yet another of Goering’s films – has to say goodbye to the movie life. As for what happened to Goering’s stock of porn, the narrator has no idea.

“Torture Trap Of The Nympho Schoolgirls” – This goofy piece of teensploitation is narrated by a “hygeine” teacher who is taken captive, along with a history teacher and a school cheerleader, by a sadistic pack of sweater-and-skirt wearing teen girls. But these “ponytail punks” are vicious. One evening at school our protagonist hears a girl screaming, only to find a half-nude cheerleader strung up to the school gate, the beginning of a letter “B” carved on her chest. Her name is Doris and she claims the cut was made by Millie, mad-dog boss of a group of tough girls; Doris hooked up with Millie’s old boyfriend, and Millie got vengeance by starting to carve “Busted” on her chest – only the narrator showed up in time to stop it.

Instead of telling Doris to call the cops, the narrator tells her to forget about it!! Soon enough Millie and gang swoops in for more revenge, tying the two teachers up in a room, stripping them, whipping them. They strip Doris and go to work on her, finishing out the word “Busted.” But one of the gals gets horny over the scene and implores the narrator to take her; she drops her .38 and he gets the upper hand. When Millie tries to run, he body tackles her, smashing her head into the marble floor! Not dead, but suffering from a severe concussion, Millie is sent with the rest of her gang to the state pen for three to five years.

“Screaming Virgins For The Nazi Rites Of Agony” – The final story in the collection is another piece of Nazi Horror, which really is what these sweat mags were known for. Like most other such tales it opens with an unfortunate young woman, Gerta, being thrown into a dungeon. Her “crime” is that she dismissed the advances of a game-legged Nazi lech named Heinrich Brauer. But what she doesn’t know is that Brauer is one of Hitler’s favorite people, a sadist who puts on pagan-themed occult shows of bondage, torture, and murder for a Nazi elite audience. Gerta is stripped to lingerie and chained in a small amphitheater, to watch as six tall, nude, oil-covered blondes carry out another attractive young woman. This one they tie to a bed, and soon Brauer appears, with a ceremonial blade; he carves up the girl for the audiences’ delight. Now it’s Gerta’s turn.

From here it’s a history lesson, as we’re informed how Brauer came from nothing in 1923 to being Hitler’s go-to guy for pagan-bondage-torture scenes, eventually opening up a “health club” in Munich that was really just a Nazi bordello. Brauer, we’re told, disappeared after the war – and this is one of the few torture/horror stories in the book in which the female, Gerta, is not saved at the last moment by her commando boyfriend/invading Americans/some other lucky twist of fate; she dies, just like “thousands of other women.”

Monday, July 27, 2015


Scorpio, by Steve Lawson
July, 1975  Pyramid Books

Scorpio is society’s speedballing revenge on an age of outrages, a lethal era when our world, rigid with fear, is engorged with blood. He is the first shot in an assassination of the unspeakable…

              -- from the hyperbolic back cover

Yet another obscure crime fiction paperback copyright book producer Lyle Kenyon Engel, Scorpio was the first and only appearance of its titiluar protagonist, Lt. Edd Scorpio, a Los Angeles-based homicide/narcotics cop very much in the Bullitt mode. According to Hawk’s Authors’ Psuedonyms, “Steve Lawson” was in reality Robert H. Turner.

This is one of those instances in which Engel clearly had a different story in mind than what his author delivered. The cover art and back cover copy make Scorpio sound like a blitzkrieg of violence and cop thrills, but Turner instead turns in a sloooow-moving tale that becomes almost an endurance test to read. The book’s only 190 pages, with the typical small print of almost all Engel productions, but it reads like it’s around 300 pages due to the glacier pace. Not to mention Turner’s fussy, convoluted writing style.

Turner was the last editor on the Spider magazine and reportedly rewrote the vast majority of longtime writer Norvell Page’s final manuscripts; in his 1970 autobiography Some Of My Best Friends Are Writers But I Wouldn’t Want My Daughter To Marry One, Turner supposedly dismisses Page’s writing as “typical pulp stuff” without merit. (I’m sure I read this in Robert Sampson’s Spider, but having recently gotten Turner’s autobio via InterLibrary Loan, I couldn’t find the quote anywhere in the book...the dude didn’t even include an index!)  The irony here is that Page’s writing, judging from the Spider novels I’ve read, is leaps and bounds above Turner’s. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Hawk’s Pseudonyms I would’ve sworn Scorpio was written by William Crawford. It reads almost exactly like his work, with the forward momentum constantly stalled by pointless digressions and diversions.

Anyway, Scorpio is in his early 40s and now works almost in a freelance fashion, a specialist who helps out the LAPD on tough cases. He drives a ’68 Jag that has a phone in it and even has his own secretary, a black lady who talks in ‘50s slang. He carries a Cobra .38 revolver and has curly black hair, and you might as well just go ahead and envision ‘70s-era Elliott Gould in the movie that plays in your mind. In backstory that isn’t delivered until midway through, we learn that Scorpio was an orphan, left as a baby outside of a oprhanage with the name “Edd” (sp) on a note on his blankets. A government employee, heavy into astrology, calcuated that the baby must’ve been born under the sign of Scorpio, so that became Edd’s last name.

Scorpio has an ex-wife and two teenaged kids. He has a casual sex thing going with a half-Japanese gal his age named Mugsie; in one of the novel’s many, many backstories we learn that Mugsie is a widow, her husband killed in a freak train wreck. Scorpio’s got friends all over the place, in particular a retired pro football player turned private eye named Al Poularis. This guy is working on a case for wealthy socialite Madeline Stewart-Brooke, whose suicide opens the novel; ravaged by her heroin addiction, the lady has blown her brains out, leaving a note that she hopes her seventeen year-old daughter won’t fall pray to the same troubles.

Only, we quickly learn that the daughter is also dead, of a heroin OD. This turns out to be the real cause of Madeline Stewart-Brooke’s death; the gunshot to the head was delivered by her heroin contact, who showed up to discover the famous woman dead and panicked, hoping to distract the cops into thinking she’d shot herself. Later the heroin contact too will be rubbed out, with more and more underworld lowlifes meeting violent ends. And all of them knew Stewart-Brooke or her daughter, and all of them are dying before they can talk to Edd Scorpio, who is now actively working the case.

Here’s the thing about Scorpio: it reads a lot like a private eye novel. You almost wonder why Al Poularis wasn’t the main protagonist. As for Scorpio himself, what with his car phone and his black secretary and the way he works solo, it’s almost like you’re reading a Mannix novelization. There’s no cop stuff like you’d expect, with random shootouts or car chases; rather, Scorpio just gets on the Stewart-Brooke case and chases leads, leads which ultimately lead him to a blackmailing scheme – again, all of it just like something you’d read in a private eye novel.

Something you do have to admire about these ‘70s crime novels is how lurid they can be, with incidental details that just drip with sleaze. Like the heroin supplier who likes to have sex with heavyset women who have mannish features, or the motel owner who jerks off over the nude corpse of a young woman…! Turner co-wrote three of the Mafia: Operation books for Lyle Kenyon Engel, each of them brimming with sleaze; he brings a bit of that here, but having read Scorpio I’d have to guess Turner’s cowriter on those books, Allan Nixon, was the one who must’ve been responsible for the good stuff.

Because honestly, Scorpio just sort of drags on and on. And like the Narc or Headhunters books, Scorpio is yet another cop protagonist who comes off like a minor character in his own novel; most of the text is given over to the sundry lowlifes who peddle heroin in LA, in particular the leader of the pack, a black-Hispanic named Jesus Martinez. A muscle-bound lothario with yellow eyes, Martinez is as cold-blooded as you can get. It gradually develops that he boffed both Madeline Stewart-Brooke and her teenaged daughter, having it all secretly photographed so he could later blackmail them.

Martinez did this for a big cash payoff, which he intends to use to buy in on the Mafia’s heroin business, promoting himself as like a district supervisor or somesuch. Meanwhile Scorpio just goes round and round, asking questions, reflecting on past cases. He doesn’t even pull his gun until the climax of the book, and even then he doesn’t kill anyone. Turner delivers a few sex scenes here and there, to make up I guess for the paucity of action, but even these lack the outrageous lurid quotient of his Mafia: Operation work. In truth, the whole thing’s just sort of listless.

As mentioned, the actual “A plot” only comes and goes, with Turner constantly stalling the momentum with digressions and detours. Anytime a character is introduced, no matter how minor he or she might be, we’ll get a few pages of background history about them. Again, exactly like you’d read in one of William Crawford’s books. But periodically Turner will return to the main plot, like when Scorpio’s footballer-turned-P.I. buddy Poularis is almost beaten to death, and later when Scorpio, right after having a face-to-face meeting with Martinez, loses his Jag to a carbomb, which instead blows up the mechanic who was trying to fix the car for him. 

Like a later listless cop novel, Hellfire, Scorpio emerges from its doldrums in the final stretch with a Hollywood-escque climax. Martinez, on the run, tracks down Inez, a gorgeous young woman who sings at his nightclub, and abducts her, the lovely lady having offered to blab about her boss’s nefarious doings. But Inez is staying with Mugsie, Scorpio’s gal. This makes the reader expect something bad is going to happen to Mugsie, but Martinez just knocks her out and runs away – strange, given how ruthless the guy’s been presented to us, killing off scads of people and even, in another backstory, a female narc, raping her and then murdering her before she climaxes.

Martinez absconds to the Lower East Side home in which he was born and there rapes Inez, discovering after the fact that the lady was a virgin. But then Martinez goes nuts; due to a childhood injury he got while skateboarding(?!), he periodically suffers migraines and blackouts, usually coming out of them in an altered mental state. So in the final pages he goes into this childlike mentality and is about to paint up Inez’s face, when Scorpio shows up; cue a bareknuckle brawl between the two, with Scorpio quickly losing his gun and having to resort to his fists and feet to bring the bigger man down.

And Scorpio’s a by-the-rules cop; instead of blowing the scumbag away, like the reader would want, he instead cuffs him and calls in the precinct. (Luckily Martinez does us the favor of doing away with himself.) The case successfully closed, Scorpio is presented with a replacement ’68 Jag, bought for him by Mugsie, Inez, Poularis, and even his eternally pissed-off chief, who just got back from vacation.

This gives the impression that our hero is being set up for more adventures in another installment, but this was not to be, and whether by accident or design this was the one and only apparance of Lt. Edd Scorpio. So I guess he must’ve successfully assassinated the unspeakable.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Assassin #1: Manhattan Massacre

The Assassin #1: Manhattan Massacre, by Peter McCurtin
November, 1973  Dell Books

Here it is, the veritable ur-text of the Marksman series. Peter McCurtin wrote the three-volume Assassin series for Dell Books while he was writing (and editing) the Marksman series for Belmont Tower. The protagonists of these two series, despite their different names, were actually one and the same.

As I mentioned in my review of The Marksman #6, Marksman hero Philip Magellan is the same person as Assassin hero Robert Briganti. There are even installments of The Marksman that play out on elements introduced in this first volume of The Assassin, for example #7: Slaughterhouse, another McCurtin novel, which has Magellan working with the son of carnival owner Wild Bill Brady – a character mentioned in Manhattan Massacre as the man who taught young Briganti how to shoot.

But one thing missing in all those Marksman installments is Magellan’s origin story. That’s because it’s here, in the first volume of The Assassin. Interestingly, Manahattan Massacre was published after several of those Marksman novels, which would appear to confirm my theory that Belmont Tower got their product out a hell of a lot faster than the more “respectable” publishers. At any rate McCurtin pulled the same thing Nelson DeMille did with his Ryker series, where he changed his character’s name to Keller and moved over to Manor Books.  (The irony here being that DeMille likely did this because he got pissed at McCurtin, his editor, who used DeMille’s name for Ryker #3, which was really by Len Levinson.)

Anyway, Manhattan Massacre opens with the transcript of a senate committee hearing in which various government reps, including members of the FBI and CIA, discuss the recent events of September, 1972. Robert Briganti is the focus of their discussion; born in 1935, growing up in New Orleans, Briganti became a master sharpshooter in the Wild Bill Brady carnival, going on to become a salesman of military surplus, particularly in South America. In this capacity he did odd jobs for the CIA. Then ten years ago Briganti quit this life, moved to Connecticut, and opened a sporting goods store there.

Then one night Crazy Joe Coraldi, a good-looking and well-known Mafioso (who was jailed as a teen on “two convictions of sodomy,” by the way), showed up in Briganti’s store and demanded that Briganti get him some heavy-duty weaponry. Briganti told him to go to hell. Then when Briganti’s wife of ten years, Nancy, picked him up after work, their 9 year-old son Michael along for the ride, a car with New York tags sped by and opened fire on them. Nancy and Michael died on the scene. Briganti recuperated in the hospital and slipped out from under his police guard. Then he declared war on Coraldi.

I was under the incorrect assumption that The Assassin books were written in first-person. This is only true for the opening chapter, in which the senate committee plays one of the reel-to-reel tapes Briganti has sent them. In an interesting angle McCurtin didn’t keep when he changed Briganti to Magellan, Briganti records his thoughts onto audio tape and mails the tapes off to the FBI and to ABC. While this schtick didn’t make the transition to the Marksman books, it does at least explain why Magellan is so well-known to the general public, as Briganti’s tapes make for a media sensation.

McCurtin’s writing here is also different than in the Marksman books, and also another indication of the difference in quality between a Belmont Tower book and a Dell book. Honestly, some of McCurtin’s Marksman novels are awful, like Slaughterhouse. But he takes his time here, turning in a book as well-written as his first installment for the similar (and also McCurtin-created and edited) Sharpshooter series, The Killing Machine. Actually, McCurtin’s style here seems very influenced by the Parker books, with terse, no-fat description and dialog.

Another line of demarcation between Belmont Tower and Dell is page length. Manhattan Massacre is much too long for its own good, coming in at 192 pages of small print; much longer than McCurtin’s Marksman novels. This has the unfortunate effect that, while being better written, the Assassin novels come off as more slow moving than the Marksman books, with McCurtin quite clearly struggling to meet his unwieldy word count. This is mostly accomplished through Briganti’s cynical ruminations. 

Briganti is also like Parker in how he’s so cold and methodical. Rather than grieving and raging over the loss of his family, Briganti instead finds himself in this subzero sort of calm. He can’t even get worked up about it, and fakes wild anger only when trying to psych out various mobsters. But he’s more vicious than Parker ever would be, killing people even when he promises them he won’t. He figures he’ll even kill a cop if one gets in his way, and when he sneaks back into his old military surplus company to steal various weapons, he could give a shit that his actions will have dire repercussions for his old work buddies.

McCurtin as always delivers good action scenes. They aren’t very bloody – McCurtin doesn’t much play up the gore in any of his books I’ve read – but they’re very tense. Briganti’s first real score is Fallaci, Coraldi’s top guard who runs a porno theater in Brooklyn. Briganti ends up beating him nearly to death with his bare hands, the one and only time he lets his anger break his otherwise placid surface. He finishes the guy off with a few kicks to the temple, which is pretty brutal. Next he takes out the guys who made the hit on his family, Al and Rio, twin brothers who supposedly look like Frank “The Riddler” Gorshin!!

McCurtin delivers a bit of sex as well, with Briganti realizing he needs an outlet other than violence. The lucky lady turns out to be a bar whore, and Briganti goes back to her place for a little vaguely-described shenanigans. This leads to another action scene, where some hitmen try to get the drop on Briganti. But they’re just “punks,” hired goons who are no match for our merciless hero. And Brigani is smart, too; realizing that no matter how many fleabag hotels he hides in the cops or Mafia will eventually find him, he rents a furnished office in a ratty building on 907 Broadway. He knows no one would ever think to look for him in a business office.

Coraldi’s in hiding somewhere in New York, due to his war with rival mob boss Carlo Gambelli. Briganti gets in touch with the latter, who sends Briganti in the direction of a Harlem preacher named Joshua Moon, who now goes by the name Brother Mwalimu. Figuring to hell with coincidence, McCurtin has it that Briganti and Moon know each other, as Moon was also in the Wild Bill Brady carnival and indeed Briganti saved his ass from being lynched, back in 1948. But now Moon preaches to the Black Power movement, and McCurtin again page-fills with a looong sermon courtesy “Brother Mwalimu,” who tells us that Columbus was black, Abe Lincoln was a Jew who hated blacks, and John Wilkes Booth was not only a hero, but black, too!

Despite the coincedental nature of it all, the Briganti/Moon relationship is interesting and well handled, with Moon now a coke fiend who wonders why Briganti saved him all those years ago. Moon informs Briganti that Joe Coraldi is hiding in a closed police precinct in Harlem, but Briganti discovers later that it’s a trap – Carlo Gambelli’s plan is for Briganti to kill Coraldi, and then for Moon’s Black Power comrades to take out Briganti. Now, armed with a grenade launcher, a Stoner 63 machine gun, and an Uzi, Briganti ventures into Harlem to even the score.

The climactic firefight is very similar to what one would read in The Marksman, with Briganti dishing out most of the death via grenade and then mopping up what few survivors remain with his machine guns. Even Coraldi’s demise is perfunctory, but this goes well with Briganti’s now-robotic persona; he realizes he’s just going through the motions, and has now become a veritable human Terminator. Actually this also jibes well with the whole “Briganti = Magellan” deal, as Briganti thinks to himself a few times that “Robert Briganti” died with his family.

McCurtin only wrote two more Assassin novels, though obviously the Marksman books went on for much longer. I’m curious what caused the move over to Belmont Tower. Either Dell took too long to publish McCurtin’s manuscripts or maybe he just got a better deal at BT, though I doubt it; they were apparently notorious for never paying their authors. Or maybe Dell just gave McCurtin his walking papers, as that publisher really didn’t get too involved with the men’s adventure genre, and indeed The Assassin is the only men’s adventure series from Dell that I can think of at the moment. 

Anyway, I really enjoyed Manhattan Massacre, even though it was a bit too sluggish at times. But McCurtin’s polished-but-pulpish prose was almost masterful in how it captured the right vibe, and like I said the book came off as more entertaining and memorable than any the McCurtin Marksman novels I’ve read yet.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Murder Business

The Murder Business, by Peter C. Herring
No month stated, 1976  Major Books

I read about this one in Bill Pronzini’s Son Of Gun In Cheek, where it was featured as an “Alternative Classic” or something. Pronzini was a bit merciless on it, as I recall, but in the expectedly humorous way; nevertheless, it sounded so unusual that I intended to read it someday.

Pronizini’s comments on the book’s clunky writing are on point, but the plot of The Murder Business is actually pretty interesting: basically, “What if James Bond worked for SPECTRE?” While this isn’t a spy thriller by any means, it is sort of similar in that our “hero” is an assassin who works for a shadowy consortium with designs on global domination. However instead of a bald dude with a cat it’s a group of ten men who have secretly been pulling international strings since WWII.

As for our “hero,” he’s a total psychopath: Michael, a good looking young British dude who began killing as a kid and quickly learned that he enjoyed it. And I mean “enjoy” in the sexual sense, as Michael my friends actually orgasms when he murders! His favored instrument is just as kinky, a six-inch blade which he mails to himself overnight before he goes on missions, thus bypassing aiport security. (Why the dude couldn’t just buy a new knife wherever he goes is never explained.)

Michael is the chief assassin of The Board, ie those aforementioned ten men. He’s worked in this capacity for a few years, and is very good at what he does. However as we meet him Michael is in a bit of a pickle: he might be falling in love with a British girl named Jenny. They met a few months ago and have been seriously dating; Michael even rushes to her after the novel’s opening murder, leading into one of the novel’s few (and not very explicit) sex scenes.

Our depraved hero is sent from London to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas, all within a few days, on his next assignment. Here he knifes another powerful man, one who apparently works for a sort of anti-Board. In a sadly-underdeveloped plot we are informed that the Board, despite its power, has an equally-powerful enemy. But Michael is too far down the totem pole to care, and instead gets off royally on this latest hit, in which he discovers that his target is having sex with a hooker. Michael’s never killed someone while they were doing it, and he has a major orgasm as he knifes them.

So as you can see, The Murder Business definitely has a sleazy vibe going for it. But here’s the major problem with it, at least so far as I’m concerned. It’s just too damn overwritten. Practically every single thing Michael does is described. The dude can’t open a window without like two sentences detailing the act; no matter how menial the event or the action, the author overdescribes it. It becomes very ponderous and makes the book, which is only 176 pages (of pretty small print, though), take seemingly forever to read.

I have no idea who Peter C. Herring is/was, but judging from the Catalog Of Copyright Entries this was really the author’s name; in other words, “Herring” apparently wasn’t a house name or pseudonym. I’d gather Pronzini’s statements on Major Books is correct in this case – Pronzini in the two Gun In Cheek books particularly takes Major to task for publishing manuscripts that were rejected everywhere else. The hell of it is The Murder Business has the potential to be good, but it’s undermined by the overwriting and the mid-novel plot switch.

Sadly, Herring jettisons the entire “sick assassin” angle and goes for more of a “hunted man” storyline. That mysterious “anti-Board” has targeted everyone, and while on vacation in the south of France with Jenny Michael is ambushed. He manages to kill his attacker, and Jenny witnesses it – cue a rivalry that will go on until the end of the book, with Jenny now hating Michael, whom she screams is a murderer. Strangely though, the dude was just saving his own life, not to mention Jenny’s, so her vehement reaction is puzzling. But her hatred of Michael comes and goes, and besides the two are now on the run together.

Anyway from here Michael spends the rest of the novel rushing from one place to another, all while various assassins come after him. We see no more of The Board and only find out major plot details through phone calls, like when Michael calls his contact at one point and is casually informed that all ten members of The Board have been killed! It’s so anticlimactic as to be hilarious. I mean, you want to read this “evil James Bond” story but instead you read endless patches of description of the English countryside as Michael, Jenny, and a fellow Board employee named Henri hide in the rural home of Jenny’s aunt.

Herring delivers action scenes here and there, but as the novel progresses the sick and sadistic vibe is replaced by more of a standard action vibe. Michael in fact goes on to using pistols, his kinky murder-orgasm penchant completely forgotten. Speaking of which the violence isn’t too graphic, though some of the pictures Herring paints are particularly gruesome. But there’s just this blasé air that permeates everything, neutering any impact the book might otherwise make. Another big problem is that neither Michael nor Jenny are very likable characters.

There’s a bit more interest at the very end, where Jenny, driven to a total loathing of Michael now – guess what happens to poor old “auntie” after she and Michael try to hide in her home? – plans to sell out our sick bastard of a hero. But this development too goes nowhere. In fact Herring does his best to tear everything down, and not just the whole “Board” angle: Michael too is disfigured, his face ripped to shreds by a shotgun-blasted windshield. And Herring seems unwilling or unable to end the tale, with the final fifteen or so pages comprised of a half-dead Michael just sort of wandering around the streets of London.

It’s been a few years since I read Son Of Gun In Cheek, so I can’t remember what all Pronzini had to say about The Murder Business. I’ll have to check out the book again to see. I have to say though that the book isn’t terrible. I mean it’s not the worst book I’ve reviewed on this blog. But there’s just something ponderous and sort of detached about it, and the mid-narrative detour from the opening sadism is unfortunate.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Overload #2: The Wrath

Overload #2: The Wrath, by Bob Ham
July, 1989  Bantam Books

You have to give Bantam Books credit: they tried to give the men’s adventure genre a shot in the arm as it was dying, releasing a few new series in the late ‘80s. Overload was one of them, and went on to run for a surprising twelve volumes. The concept of this series was aptly summed up by Zwolf: “gun-totin’ truckers.”

Seriously, if Overload was a movie it would probably feature Meatloaf in a role. But author Bob Ham – a real name, not a pseudonym – is very serious here. And Bantam is fully committed as well; the back of the book even features an ad for Overdrive Magaine, “the Professional Journal for Successful Trucking.” But the author and publisher must’ve tapped a nerve, as this series went on a lot longer than you’d expect.

I’m missing the first volume, Personal War, but ironically enough someone emailed me just before I started reading this second volume, telling me that the first book was “the most homoerotic thing ever.” Well friends, that vibe is also apparent in The Wrath, which features long scenes of our heroes, Marc Lee and Carl Browne, driving around in a truck and discussing their feelings. Oh, and they apparently live together.

Lee and Browne are often referred to as “the Delta Warriors” by Ham, given that they’re both in Delta Force – the toughest bastards in the outfit, of course. Lee’s the son of a Dallas truck company owner and Browne’s the muscular black guy. The first volume apparently detailed the battle between the Lee family company Leeco and the mafia warriors of a New York capo named Segalini. In the climax of it Marc Lee’s father ended up in a coma (he’s now in a hospital in Dallas, under heavy security) and the Segalinis ended up dead.

But as The Wrath opens, we are informed that Segalini’s son survived. This is Bruno Segalini, who is now confined to a wheelchair, his achilles tendons having been severed by Lee and Browne in the first book! Apparently the “Delta Warriors” thought they killed Bruno in the climax of that book, but he escaped; now, assisted by his muscular henchman Ceps (as in “Biceps”), Segalini plots the utter destruction of Leeco. To do this he has retained the services of B.D., aka “Bad Dude,” a ‘Nam psychopath biker who leads a sadistic gang of bikers called Lobo.

It’s all very B-movie, but Ham peppers the book with acronyms and brandnames, proving to us that he’s done his research. If paramedics show up on a scene, for example, we’ll get long detail on what exactly it is they’ll do to save a life. If there’s a bomb to be disarmed, he’ll tell us how it’s done, step by step. He also wants to tell us all about then-current communications technology, as well as technical details of the various firearms employed. And yet this is a book that contains lines of dialog like, “I have to make a choice to either be in the trucking business or stay in Delta Force.”

Ham also goes for a cinematic feel, with constant cutting to and fro. We’ll have Lee and Browne in Dallas, trying to deal with a sudden fire at the Leeco headquarters, and then we’ll jump over to B.D., who cuts a swathe of sadism through the Smoky Mountains. Then we’ll cut over to Bruno Segalini, who sits in a house in Myrtle Beach and trades inane “my vengeance will be sweet” banter with Ceps. Then later we’ll cut over to Jill, Marc Lee’s girlfriend, who sits in the hospital with Marc’s comatose father and tells him about her dreams(!?).

But despite this attempt to goose the narrative with a cinematic feel, The Wrath instead comes off as rather sluggish. It’s not helped by Ham’s tendency to overdescribe. For example the opening conflagration at the Leeco HQ goes on way too long, with some mystery fire starting on the premises before the bomb squad shows up. He also has too many characters in play, and has to keep going back to them lest we forget about them: Segalini and Ceps are about as immaterial to the plot as you can get, thus the constant cutovers to them are a bit trying.

Oh, and meanwhile Lee and Browne are being ordered back on duty; turns out there’s some action down in Central America and their squad has been ordered to move in. But Lee and Browne ignore the summons, thus officially going AWOL. Strangely, their Delta Force commander is aware of their vigilante activities in the first book, however he draws the line when they don’t report for duty! This ultimately builds up a storyline which will continue in the next volume, as Lee and Browne manage to get themselves in the sights of the federal government thanks to their private warfaring.

The stuff with B.D. and his gang is probably the highlight of the book. In fact he provides the brunt of the novel’s action, and is also the titular “Wrath,” a name he acquired back in ‘Nam. B.D. personally wants to kill Lee and Browne, as their activities in the first book resulted in the death of the man who provided B.D. with his cocaine. Now he and his Lobos run amok in the Smoky Mountains, getting in occasional fights with truckers. There’s a goofy, endless subplot where they kill one trucker in revenge for the death of a fallen Lobo and then later get in a running fight with more truckers.

While the violence in The Wrath isn’t excessive (and nor is the sex), there is a sadistic vibe. The novel opens with the capture of a Leeco trucker, who is strung up in the Lobo camp and slowly tortured. At one point parts of his flesh are sliced off and eaten. But he does get laid at least – this courtesy Rapture, the dirty blonde mama of the bikers. Rapture mostly drives the van that follows the Lobo’s Harleys and as the novel progresses she becomes more and more disenfranchised with B.D. due to his penchant for cruelty.

Lee and Browne really don’t get active until well over halfway through, when they decide to take the war to Segalini. Ham is one of those authors who doesn’t mind shoehorning stuff in to meet his word count or to add a little action, like for example a totally irrelevant part where some woman drives into a lake as Lee and Browne are passing by, and the two men dive in to save her. This whole section is such a waste of the reader’s time as to be hilarious, but it does meet the likely goal of adding about twenty pages to the book.

After a couple failed hits in various diners, Lee and Browne survive unscathed and get word from their cop contact back in Dallas that B.D. is somewhere in the Smoky Mountains. Despite pages and pages of buildup, Ham delivers a bit of an anticlimax. The Lobos have M-60s and LAW rocket launchers, but our two heroes manage to get the lockdown on them, barrelling through camp and firing machine guns out of their big rig. Then B.D. and Lee get in a knockdown, dragout fight – but neither of them dies.

Then Segalini and Ceps show up and are basically killed in a paragraph, even though Ham has spent so much time making the reader savor the moment that they’ll die. Instead, they’re merely shot and then their car is blown up. When will these men’s adventure writers learn that we readers want to see the main villains sliced, diced, and gutted?? B.D.’s fate is a little better, if unbelievable; we’re to believe that one of his gang is actually an undercover FBI agent and has been going along with his barbarism all this time so as to gather evidence. But now it’s payback time!

As mentioned, Lee and Browne come under attack by the Feds by novel’s end, and it looks like it will be off to the slammer for them – transporting highly-illegal weapons across state lines, engaging in open warfare, and going AWOL from the army. My suspicion though is that in the next novel they’ll instead get hired to work for the government as, well…gun-totin’ truckers.

I’ve got a few more volumes of Overload, so eventually I’ll find out.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Men's Mag Roundup: Blood Duels and Death Wish Patrols

Like the previous Male Annual I read, Male Annual 14 (1972) is chock full of stories, most of them retitled reprints of earlier Male, Stag, and For Men Only stories and articles. This particular issue is interesting because most of the material in it is from 1970, when the art/photography in men’s mags had become slightly more risque, but nowhere as exploitative as it would become in just a few short years.

“A Bullet For The Enforcer” by W.J. Saber is the reason I tracked down this issue. The magazine’s misleading cover blurb had me expecting a Godfather ripoff, or at least a lurid Mafia novella; instead, the story turns out to be a retitled reprint of “Hit Man For the Aiport Heist Mob,” which appeared in the September 1970 issue of Stag. Earl Norem’s awesome splash page is retained for this Male Annual reprint, with only the title being changed. Here’s a screengrab of the original version:

With opening dialog of “Come on, spike me harder. Nail me to the mattress,” you know a different era has dawned in the world of men’s adventure mags, and the ensuing sex scene is fairly explicit (though again not as explicit as such tales would be within a year or two). But this is how “A Bullet For The Enforcer” begins, and it follows the same template as every single other men’s adventure mag story I’ve read: we open on a sex or action scene (or both), before cutting back “three months ago” for the looong buildup, before meeting back up with the opening section and then hurrying through the rest of the tale for a rushed finish.

Faber is a new men’s mag writer for me, but his prose is of a piece with everything else I’ve read in this particular genre, with that polished, professional feel. I have to say though the dude isn’t much for scene changes, or maybe that’s just lame editorial work afoot; seriously, we’ll change scenes, locations, and even times without a line space or anything. It gets to be a little confusing at first, but otherwise Faber has that firm command you’d expect of a men’s mag writer, doling out a tale about an antihero who is very much in the Parker mold.

Only this guy, Carl Strand, is a lot meaner than Parker ever was. As noted Strand’s getting busy as the tale begins, boffing a buxom blonde stewardess in a hotel room. But he hears hit men sneaking in, and knows the “stew” has set him up. So the dude punches her out just before she climaxes, gets the jump on the hit men, shoots them point blank in the head…and then shoots the stewardess point blank in the head! This is how our “hero” is introduced to us, and it isn’t for several pages that we learn the girl set him up, and thus “deserved to die.”

Strand is a former ‘Nam Special Forces badass with a penchant for judo. He’s recently been imprisoned for beating to death some dude he loaned money to. Strand’s knack is for heisting the heisters; originally just a regular crook, he moved on to robbing criminals. A team of government officials in some unstated city need a certain specialist; airport cargo in their city is being looted and heisted, and they have no leads. It appears to be an independent syndicate at work. What they need is a professional criminal who can infiltrate the syndicate. They settle upon Strand and offer him the job. But first he has to break out of prison in a belabored sequence.

Strand’s contact is “The Controller,” who answers Strand’s calls from a payphone and hooks him up with cash, clothes, a gun (Strand’s choice of weaponry is a snub nosed .32 revolver), and whatever else he needs. Strand follows leads and ends up in a “swinger’s apartment” that’s filled with, you guessed it, horny stews. That’s just how it goes in the world of men’s mags and I for one am not complaining. Strand gets laid asap by a petite-but-busty brunette named Janice who does him, I’m not kidding, like five seconds after they meet. She just shows up at his door, asks for a drink, and offers herself while she’s reclining on a barstool. Once again, the ensuing sex scene isn’t as vague as it would be in the earlier decades of this particular genre.

Janice is a stewardess and Strand uses her to test out his own heisting scheme, coming away with a bunch of gems. When he tries to make off with them on his own, the Controller gives him a call – eyes are watching Strand from everywhere. So instead he uses the gems to broker a deal with Dryden, a fence who apparently works for the mysterious air cargo heisters. These guys, in the form of a boss named Robinson, eventually make contact with Strand. But when he rubs some of the higher-ups the wrong way, they send some hit men after him – cue the opening sequence, in which Strand’s getting lucky with another stewardess, this one a blonde who is one of the heisters, unlike Janice.

Both the hit men as well as the blonde stew dead, Strand moves in for the big score. He talks Robinson into hitting the airport bank. Meanwhile the Controller will be sending in cops in gas masks, to compensate for the knockout gas Strand will be using on the bank. All of this, as you can see, as shown in Earl Norem’s splash page, which actually turns out to illustrate the final few paragraphs of the story. And true to the men’s mag template, the finale is rushed, with the crooks hitting the bank and the cops hitting the crooks, and Strand himself gets blown away by Robinson, living only long enough to tell the Controller that it’s better this way – he doesn’t want to go back to prison.

“Traitors Die Slow” by Grant Freeling is not only another “smash book bonus,” but it’s also another retitled reprint. It was originally published as “They Crippled Hitler’s D-Day Defenses” and appeared in the September 1970 For Men Only, and I reviewed it here.

The longest story in the book is “My Blood Duel with the Texas Cycle Brutes,” which is “as told to Mark Petersen,” aka the guy who wrote it. Labelled as a “true extralength,” it really is a novella, and follows the same template as “Bullet For The Enforcer;” opening en media res, to a long flashback, to a hurried-off finale. The story is officially credited to Quint Lake, who relays the story in first person, however the majority of the story is courtesy another character: Virginia Carley, a smokin’-hot blonde who shows up nude on Quint’s Arizona ranch one afternoon, having driven there on a stolen Harley chopper.

After recuperating for a few days, Virginia is well enough to tell Quint her story, which makes up for most of the narrative. She’s in her early 20s and was born and raised in some nowhere section of Texas. Bored with life, she was happy one day when the Devil’s Disciples showed up, “the most vicious cycle gang ever to roar down the highways of the Southwest.” Led by Killer Joe, an “All-American type” who wears a WWI German helmet with a spike and leads a group of leather-clad psychopaths, the gang offers Virginia a chance to escape her humdrum life.

Becoming Killer Joe’s woman, she aids and abetts them in their theivery; they like to steal wallets from motorists and knock over gas stations. But in some town in Arizona Killer Joe finds a place that fixes up and sells hot cars, and he decides to knock it off. So they send in Virginia as the honeytrap; she goes home with the owner and Killer Joe busts in just before the naughtiness begins, threatening the dude for the twenty thousand Joe knows he has. But the owner swears the money’s gone and says Virginia stole it. So the Devil’s Disciples string her up and begin beating her, Killer Joe using a belt and another dude stabbing out cigarettes on her skin.

This is where we came in, as Virginia manages to escape, beaten and fully nude. She slices the tires of all the bikes save for Killer Joe’s and takes off on it, eventually ending up in the home of our hero, a young ‘Nam vet with a fondness for guns who has, would you believe it, managed to fall in love with Virginia over these few days he’s tended to her. Cue a super-vague sex scene that is very much like those in earlier men’s mag stories, just immediately cutting to black. Dammit! But anyway our narrator is a dolt. Virginia has begged him to tell no one of her presence. So what does he do after she’s been with him for a month? He decides to surprise her by fixing up that wrecked chopper of hers…you know, the one she stole from Killer Joe.

Sure enough, our dumbass hero is out smoking his “last cigarette of the day” one evening when he’s knocked out by a biker. He wakes up to find himself tied up and Virginia, once again, nude and being tortured. Killer Joe and pals are back and they want that twenty thousand. Our hero manages to free his bonds through sheer strength and takes out Killer Joe and a few henchmen in the strangest way possible: putting bullets in small holes in his wooden firing range and slamming rocks into them, which causes the cartridges to explode and hit the bikers!

The strangest thing about “Blood Duel” is that Virginia’s role in the theft of the twenty thousand is never explained. After killing off Killer Joe et al and rounding up the other bikers, Quint discovers that the blonde is gone, running away without even bothering to see if he’s okay. A month or so later he receives a letter from her, saying that she misses him, loves him, and if he wants her she’s waiting for him at some hotel – she knows she has a lot of explaining to do. And Quint figures to himself, well, if she does actually have that twenty thousand bucks, then he’ll suggest she invest it in some steers for an old rancher he knows…! The end!

“My Body For The Taking” by Michael Sarris is labelled as “Daring Fiction” but it’s about as tepid as you can get – it’s a short tale about a dude on a bus ride to Connecticut who meets up with some hot chick who offers him a job at her uncle’s amusement park. He fixes a few lights and whatnot and then one night she’s waiting for him on one of the rides – cue a vague sex scene. The end.

“Captured by Assam’s Amazon She Devils” harkens back to the glory days of men’s adventure mag pulps, most likely because it’s by an old master of the craft: Emile Schurmacher. This tale isn’t as long as those in editor Noah Sarlat’s days of the early ‘60s, but it packs an entertaining adventure tale in its otherwise brief length. Even though it sports a not-fooling-anyone “as told to” credit, the tale is straight-up fiction, written in third person. Schurmacher has a sure hand of the genre and indeed makes you realize how the older men’s mags stories were generally better, particularly in the Diamond line of publications.

Anyway, it’s 1970 and ruggedly virile anthropologist Bill Kudner is on the Assam-Burma border, searching for the wreckage of a DC-3 that crashed in this area back in 1949. There were nine “white women” on board, nurses all, and no one knows if anyone survived the crash. However tales have leaked out of savage-looking white women running around in the jungle; in other words amazons. So Kudner’s looking for them, only for his sherpa guide to get killed by his cowardly followers, none of whom want to go into the supposedly-haunted valley in which the amazons, referred to by the natives as “Miguri,” apparently reside.

Kudner is captured posthaste by a group of white jungle women, all of them of course smoking hot, in particular a “lithe blonde” named Nadja. Their leader is a bit older and thus evil, per the reasoning of men’s mag logic; her name is Temeh, and she orders Kudner put in a cage. But Nadja has the hots for Kudner and comes to his cage that night, after giving him a meal for his virility. Cue an off-page sex scene which apparently goes on all night. Nadja has limited English and informs Kudner that she is the daughter of one of the nurses on that crashed plane, the wreckage of which sits nearby. Her mother and the other nurses are dead, as are the men of the village, all of them killed in a war with a rival tribe.

The usual stuff happens; Kudner is left alone during the day, only to receive nightly conjugal visits courtesy Nadja. But his presence sows dissent in the tribe and Nadja and another hot amazon named Pantho get in mortal combat over him. Temeh breaks up the fun and orders the two women to kill Kudner; with him out of the picture harmony can return to the camp. But Nadja breaks Kudner out and the two make their escape into Burma, where we are informed they eventually get married in a Buddhist temple. This was a fun story, filled with that adventure-fiction vibe of the old pulps, with very good writing.  I have a few Schurmacher books and look forward to reading them.  

Speaking of the later years of the men’s mags, this August 1976 issue of For Men Only is a sterling example. The sleaze runs rampant, with full-color, full-frontal shots of a variety of ‘70s chicks with feathered hair. The letters to the editor and various features are all about sex and foreplay and how to pick up chicks and etc. The stories are greatly reduced, with none of the “true extralength” yarns you would get in the earlier days, and even those few stories which are here are more so presented as actual articles like you’d read in Playboy.

“Sex Lives of Female Private Eyes” by Sam Phillips is one of those “factual” articles which, instead of being a narrative, is instead quick interviews with a few ladies who are willing to go all the way for a case. There’s hardly any explicit detail at all, and it’s basically just a bunch of dialog from (fictional?) women. However, the artwork this baby is graced with is phenomenal. Someone should’ve colored it and put it on the cover of some paperback novel about a female private eye; it would’ve been perfect for HatchettFernanda, or better yet one of the Jana Blake books:

“Mercenaries – Soldiers of Fortune or Hired Killers?” by Robert Joe Stout also goes for the pseudo-factual approach, coming off as a sort of interview with Gregory Lyday, an Irish mercenary who recounts his tale of going from the army to working as a soldier of fortune in Greece and Tel Aviv. But our fictional mercenary is more focused on sex, telling us about the awesome blowjobs he’d get from a whore in Tel Aviv. Again, nothing overly graphic, but the focus on sex is an indication of the changing times in the genre. As for the action material, it’s threadbare, with “Lyday” more intent on telling us about how he’d blow up stuff.

“The Man with the 10-Inch Magic Wand” purports to be an interview with Dave Gregory, a well-endowed commercial artist in New York; the “interview” is credited to T.J. Roberts. Mr. Gregory tells us about his various sexual exploits, from appearing in a porno “for the fun of it” to taking bets to heat up notoriously-frosty women.

“Death Wish Patrol That Nailed A Rapist” is the reason I sought this mag out; it’s written by Roland Empey, which is a pseudonym for well-regarded veteran men’s mag writer Walter Kaylin. Tapping into the Death Wish craze, this one’s summed up entirely in its title. A dude named George Wheeler, who lives an idyllic life with his family in Pleasant Valley, goes to some unnamed “big city” once a month for work. There he stays in a sleazy hotel, gets drunk, and then goes out and savagely rapes a woman. He’s raped seven women in just as many months, and the locals have had enough of this shit.

Kaylin doesn’t go for the exploitation, really, with the assaults obviously focusing more on the horrors perpetrated on the unfortunate women. One thing that holds “Death Wish” back is its too-short length. It’s several pages long but could stand to be fleshed out more, as the street toughs who band together to take down the mystery rapist are a bit vague to the reader. I’ve often wondered why guys like Kaylin didn’t expand their stories into novel length; the ‘70s were the time for paperback fiction, the more lurid the better, and something like “Death Wish Patrol” could’ve made for easy paperback fodder.

The locals use their smarts to figure out that these rapes are happening once a month, and decide an out-of-towner is behind them. The cops meanwhile have more pressing concerns, given that the rapes are occurring in a sleazy part of “the big city.” So it’s up to the local toughs, who band together and eventually get the lockdown on Wheeler. There’s no action, really, no Charles Bronson-style fighting or violence; the patrol just finds Wheeler after his latest assault and chases him down, capturing him on a rooftop and beating him, then tying him up and briefly lowering him over the building as a sign to all potential rapists. After which Wheeler is arrested and hauled away.

Here’s Bruce Minney’s art for the story, which illustrates the final scene:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chopper Cop #1: Valley Of Death

Chopper Cop #1: Valley Of Death, by Paul Ross
No month stated, 1972  Popular Library

Yet another men’s adventure series produced by Lyle Kenyon Engel and his BCI outfit, Chopper Cop attempted to meld the vibe of Easy Rider with the tough cop genre. It ran for three volumes and, at least judging from this first volume, wasn’t very successful in its attempt.

According to Hawk’s Authors’ Pseudonyms, Chopper Cop was the work of three writers: Dan Streib, who wrote the first two volumes, Valley Of Death and The Hitchhike Killer, and the writing team of Bill Amidon and Nat Freedland, who collaborated on the third volume, the awesomely-titled Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert.*

The series protagonist is Terry Bunker, 26 years old and described as “craggy, but handsome.” Formerly a lieutenant (the youngest police lieutenant in the country, we’re informed), he was spotted by California’s “colorful” governor, who retained Terry to be his own personal go-to guy. Now Terry is an agent for the State Department of Criminal Investigation, and gets his missions directly from the governor, though he reports to Chief Haggard of the Sacramento police. Terry has “longish” hair and drives a chopper – a “Rickman frame with a 659 Triumph engine” – and gets a lot of grief for his appearance.

But anyone expecting “Hell’s Angel turned cop” will be disappointed. Terry Bunker is just a regular action series-type cop and there’s nothing to differentiate him from the genre norm. Other that is than his chopper, which really doesn’t factor into this particular story much, anyway. Rather, we’re informed that most cops just don’t get along with Terry because of his long hair and his casual threads, like jeans and a “turtlenecked sweater.” What a rebel! If anything I’d say this is another indication where the book’s producer wanted something much different than what the author delivered.

Because here’s the thing about Terry Bunker – he’s kind of a wimp. Throughout the novel he’s constantly afraid; there are innumerable scenes of him taking deep breaths to steady himself and to remember his “training.” He’s also kind of womanly, as just as often as he’s afraid he’s lonely…! There are many parts where he’ll wish someone else was with him, as he feels so alone. I mean what the hell kind of a shit-kicking men’s adventure protagonist is this? And when he does get in fights he’s usually just ducking and shooting and hoping he doesn’t kill anyone. For that matter even his weapon of choice is blasé; it’s just a standard police-issue revolver.

In a 1981 interview with Will Murray, which was published in Paperback Parade #2 (1986), Lyle Kenyon Engel had this to say about Streib:

Dan Streib, oh God, Dan Streib I see is with Chet Cunningham. I knew Dan, I used him on another series, and then I stopped using him because he wasn’t any good.

Engel mentions Streib being “with” Cunningham because the two authors collaborated on a volume of Nick Carter: Killmaster titled Night Of The Avenger. Engel’s reference to “another series” he used Streib for must be Chopper Cop, because after this Streib was on his own, publishing under various house names for different publishers, like the Death Squad and Kill Squad books. And while Engel’s off-hand criticism might sound harsh, I can’t say I disagree with him.

What’s interesting though is that Valley Of Death presents Streib as filtered through the editing/producing of Engel. The writing here is a little more polished than that in the Kill Squad or Death Squad books, ie the ones Streib did without Engel. But it seems pretty clear that Engel envisioned Chopper Cop as being more about the concept he’d come up with, whereas Streib turned in a rather standard mystery novel, one graced with a lackluster protagonist at that.

In fact, parts of Valley Of Death are like a Gothic novel, except instead of a virginal heroine we have a “craggy, but handsome” long-haired cop for a protagonist. And at 207 pages of big print, the book at least moves at a snappy pace. This caper has Terry investigating a “hippie sex cult” that operates out of Death Valley; three beautiful young Californian women, each of them members of wealthy families who became members of the cult, have committed suicide in unusual ways. But now, a few weeks later, their parents are receiving ghostly phone calls from their deceased daughters, asking for half a million dollars so they can be “resurrected.”

The Gothic stuff mostly plays out in the palatial home of Annette Caldwell’s parents; one of the three suicides, Annette apparently jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, her suicidal act witnessed by a random motorist. But the beautiful young girl’s ghost seems to haunt the home; during his brief stay there Terry sees a ghostly female form rushing from various scenes, hears her playing an organ in the house, and he even kisses her in a strange sequence. Meanwhile Terry’s being constantly propositioned by Penny, Annette’s equally-pretty but virginal 19 year-old sister, who is a fellow biking enthusiast.

There isn’t much action to be found. After a few ghostly visits Terry heads over to San Clemente, where another of the “dead” girls has returned. This leads to a scene where Terry goes out into a desert cemetery in the middle of the night for the money drop off, but it leads to an assassination attempt, culminating in a quick motorcycle chase. But really Terry’s chopper knack isn’t much highlighted by Streib. You get the impression that Engel came up with this cool idea and handed it off to a dude who didn’t know what to do with it.

The cover proclaims a “hippie cult of sex and death” but it must’ve sat out on the actual book, as the cult here is lead by a dude named Arnold Van Doren who appears maybe a page or two and doesn’t offer much. The “sex and death” angle is woefully underplayed, the farthest it gets being a sort of orgy ceremony Terry and Penny walk in on in the middle of the desert, but Terry flashes his badge and the hippies disperse. But the whole cult deal is really just a snow-job, as Valley Of Death is more about a typical blackmailing scheme.

The climax returns to the Gothic tones, playing out in an old mansion somewhere in Death Valley. Here Terry, once again alone (and afraid), sneaks up on the big house in the middle of the night, only to be frightened by an organ that plays in the otherwise-deserted place. (Turns out to be a player piano.) Streib has used female villains in his other books I’ve read, and he does so here too, though you’ll see her “surprise reveal” coming a mile away. But she’s not a bloodthirsty villainess, and the finale, tying in to the womanly feel mentioned above, features the poor girl crying on her father’s shoulder!

Valley Of Death is not an auspicious beginning for the Chopper Cop series; action is minimal and sex and violence are nonexistent.  Let’s hope that Streib’s next one is better. Failing that there’s always the third volume, which should be better if for no other reason than it’s not by Streib.

*Lyle Kenyon Engel also produced another book credited to “Paul Ross” which was not associated with the Chopper Cop series. It was titled The Assassin (1974, Manor Books) and was one of those standalone BCI crime paperbacks; it was written by William Crawford.