Thursday, October 4, 2018

Chopper Cop #3: Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert

Chopper Cop #3: Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert, by Paul Ross
No month stated, 1975  Popular Library

I didn’t realize this third and final volume of Chopper Cop came out three years after the previous volume. Surely it didn’t take producer Lyle Kenyon Engel that long to come up with a replacement for Dan Streib, whose work sucked so royally in the first two volumes – in fact I’m certain it’s Streib’s half-assery that caused this series’s short life, as otherwise Chopper Cop has a strong concept: dopesmoking anti-establishment cop handling counterculture cases on his custom chopper.

But anyway there was a gap of three years between installments, and finally the phenominally-titled Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert appeared. According to Hawk’s Authors’ Pseudonyms, it was the product of two authors: Bill Amidon and Nat Freedland. Info is scant on the two; Amidon published a novel, in hardcover only, titled Charge… (Bobbs-Merrill, 1971), apparently about the early ‘60s hippie movement, and Freedland was a reporter, mostly remembered today for having written a 1966 article on Marvel Comics that caused a schism between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In 1972 he published The Occult Explosion, an overview of the various fringe beliefs of the day; the book got its own soundtrack LP, which is collectible today due to a segment with notorious Church of Satan figurehead Anton LaVey.

I’m curious how these two authors came together for the final Chopper Cop novel, and how they even went about writing it – I’m betting they traded off on chapters, as each chapter ends on a quick cliffhanger, one that’s generally wrapped up just as quickly at the start of the next chapter. My hunch is the writers were having fun with each other – “Let’s see how you get our hero out of this one!” and the like. There’s also a disparity in how the trashier stuff is written; one writer keeps all the sex completely off page, whereas the other gets down and dirty and doesn’t leave one sleazy stone unturned. Otherwise the book seems to be of a piece, and I bet I only noticed this because going in I was aware that it had been written by two authors.

Anyway, we learn late in the novel that it’s one year after the first volume; hero Terry Bunker, who is given a bit more of a background this time, still sports longish hair and thick sideburns, and still tools around California on his blue Rickman chopper at the behest of the famous but never-named Governor, for whom Terry acts as the chief handler of all cases concerning the counterculture movement. Otherwise Terry’s boss is Chief Raymond Haggard, who is much more accepting of Terry here, and in fact the two have a friendly working relationship. Actually Freedland and Amidon cut out the needless “other cops hate Terry” stuff that became so annoying in Streib’s books. 

Another element they introduce is that Terry throughout is actually referred to as “The Chopper Cop,” which I though was both stupid and cool at the same time. These authors, or one of them at least, have also actually ridden a motorcycle before, or at least read up on them, as Terry’s chopper for once is an integral piece of the story. In fact when we meet him he’s busy testing out a new auto shotgun device he’s had created for his Rickman; it’s hidden in a “fake bedroll” at the back of the bike, and with a few quick adjustments Terry can affix it to the handlebar and blast away. He actually uses it in the novel, but not to actually shoot anyone – sadly, one thing the authors do keep from the Streib installments is a curious reluctance to provide much violence. Terry in fact doesn’t shoot a single person, though the novel does end with him smashing someone in half with the Rickman.

The authors, apparently having used Valley Of Death as their guide, have also retained Streib’s bizarre decision to make Chopper Cop a mystery series. I still suspect that Engel was “inspired” by The Blood Circus when he came up with this series; I mean that one novel is more “Chopper Cop” than all three of these volumes put together. But anyway Engel might’ve had a grand concept, but – and this is by Engel’s own admission, as I wrote in my review of the first volume – he got a shitty author for it, and for whatever reason Streib wrote something more along the lines of a Gothic mystery. Well, Amidon and Freedland continue the trend, with Terry trying to figure out who plans to sabotage the upcoming Monster Boogie concert, to be held in the Mojave Desert. It must be said though that these authors turn in a novel much more entertaining than either of Streib’s.

For one, you can see how these authors melded their interests: there’s a red herring subplot about a Process-style Satanic cult, which could come straight out of The Occult Explosion, and there’s a strong grasp of the dopesmoking hippie movement that no doubt recalls Amidon’s novel, which I might get around to reading someday (I’m just more of a “late ‘60s” guy than “early ‘60s”). While they follow Streib’s mystery template, they do offer a little more action, and more importantly Terry Bunker doesn’t come off like a wuss. He doesn’t pine over some lost love – though we do learn one of the things which set him on the path from ‘Nam vet hippie student activist(!) to “Chopper Cop” was the OD death of his girlfriend, Ginny. This comes from Streib’s background setup, but whereas Streib’s version of Terry still pines and mopes over this, these authors have him briefly reflect on her and then get back to banging the latest chick – and Terry gets lucky pretty often this time.

Anyway a mad bomber is threatening the upcoming Monster Boogie, a one-night event which will feature the top rock acts of the day; someone’s sending threats to the management, and as the novel opens he or she sabotages a press event, nearly frying right-wing newscaster Grady Frazier. The Governor is alerted, and he calls in his one-and-only Chopper Cop, Terry Bunker. As we’ll recall, Terry’s the youngest lieutenant in LAPD history and serves in the State Department of Criminal Investigation, meaning he can cross over county lines and keep his authority. The authors try to keep to this with Terry shuttling around the state; he sees action in Los Angeles, San Francisco (where he has an expensive home, bought for him in gratitude by Thackery Caldwell from Valley Of Death), and the Mojave.

Terry is put in charge of security for the concert, which is coming up in three weeks. He checks out the acts, hanging around a bit with show headliners Chrome Lightning, “the American Rolling Stones.” He gets on most with their biker keyboard player, but there’s also superstar Jack Byrd, the handsome singer-guitarist, and “spaced out” Happy Watson, aka “the Ringo Starr of Chrome Lightning.” Here we see Terry not only smoke a couple joints but also snort some coke, but he draws the line at heroin, as we see later on when he gets down and dirty with Janis Joplin-clone Mona Drake, “sort of homely but ballsy” singer for Braincandy. There’s also a Grand Funk-esque hard rock trio, but the authors don’t make much mention of the other two Monster Boogie acts. Chrome Lightning gets the brunt of the mad bomber’s threats, and one of the leads has Terry checking out the local Satanic cult of sexy brunette Princess Diana – a cool scene with a nice lurid element, what with the “black magic orgy” going on at the time, but as mentioned a total red herring so far as the plot goes.

Let’s get to the sleaze, shall we? While hanging out with Chrome Lightning in their LA warehouse studio, Terry takes an 18 year-old groupie up on her offer and repairs to one of the apartments – quick cut to the next chapter, with not one detail given. This repeats throughout; we’re informed Terry pays frequent visits to some actress girlfriend who remains off-page for the duration, and late in the book Terry even scores with a pair of jailbat at Monster Boogie who just swear they’re 18 (after debating it for a hot second Terry says to hell with it and crawls into their tent). In each case this particular author will cut straightaway to the next scene. However the other author has no qualms with sleaze, as we see when Terry spends the night with Mona Drake: “Without any further discussion [Terry] forced her legs apart with his hips and drove his shaft to the root up her vaginal canal.” This after Mona has delivered one of the greatest lines in pulp fiction: When Terry tells her he’s conducting a police investigation, Mona responds, “You can come upstairs and investigate my pussy.”

Mona, a “perverted lesbian junkie” per yet another mad bomber threat, pretty much steals the novel. She carries around a “truly deluxe heroin kit” and seems dead set on a suicide trip. That’s no doubt supposed to be her on the cover, as she hitches a few rides on Terry’s chopper. She’s also the closest we get to a leading female character in the novel. A memorable sequence has a would-be sniper almost taking the two out after their boisterous banging in the loft of Terry’s house, which leads to a barely-clothed Terry chasing after the sniper on his Rickman. But Terry’s not wearing any shoes, so the authors really play up on the hell his foot goes through while trying to keep the bike from spinning out, etc. However he kind of gets over it pretty quick; a day or two in the hospital and then a cast for the foot, and after that the injury is seldom mentioned.

But once again Terry’s only up against a single foe, so really there isn’t too much action throughout. It’s usually of the lame cliffhanger variety, like one chapter ends with Terry about to get in a through-down fight with a bunch of outlaw bikers, but then the next chapter opens and we learn Terry’s old friends of sorts with the leader of the gang. It’s lame stuff like this that makes me suspect the novel was the product of a pair of authors playing “gotcha!” with one another. I mean this particular chapter ends with a crazed biker springing out of nowhere and hurling a dagger at Terry – then the next chapter opens and the dagger lands harmlessly at Terry’s feet and the biker starts laughing.

Another middling action scene has Terry almost run off the road by a truckful of redneck hunters. This bit, clearly inspired by Easy Rider, has Terry almost getting killed, so he whips out his auto shotgun and takes out the truck, but doesn’t kill anyone. In fact he ensures they’re arrested and vows to show up at the trial. Same goes for the finale, where Terry finally figures out who’s behind the Monster Boogie threats – but he’s too late, as the guy has already taken out a flame thrower(!) and is shooting flames over the audience. Here the authors actually work in the whole “Chopper Cop” setup, with Terry pulling a stunt jump to take out the terrorist before he can kill anyone.

As a result, Terry’s in a coma for a few days, and wakes up in the hospital with a broken leg, broken ribs, and etc. Plus his Rickman’s been totalled, but the Chrome Lightning guys have given him “a blank check at the Pinky Stevens motorcyle custom shop” to get the chopper of his dreams. We also get the interesting tidbit that Terry plans to start using “disguises” on the job now; this after the Governor wonders if Terry should retire, as given his heroic jump in front of 500,000 people at Monster Boogie Terry’s become the most famous undercover cop in the world. So clearly the authors planned more installments, perhaps having Terry adopt a variety of disguises as he worked the counterculture scene.

Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert ends with a goofy tribute to the Chopper Cop himself, as we learn the Monster Boogie headliners have recorded a song in his honor:

The disc was a silly but toe-tapping ditty with Jack Byrd and Mona Drake harmonizing a duet on simple lyrics about an impossible superstud detective who made love to all the ladies and caught all the baddest crooks. The title was, “We Can Dig the Groovy Pig.”

It's this sort of playful spirit the men’s adventure genre needs, and it’s a shame the authors didn’t have a chance to deliver more entries of Chopper Cop. It would be nice to know the story behind its cancellation – if Popular Library was willing to wait 3 years to bring out another volume, I wonder why they decided against publishing more?


Marty McKee said...

Somehow, the title is accurate. What a book. What a series.

Zwolf said...

A semi-forgotten band called Raging Slab put out an album called "Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert," which always made me happy since I thought *nobody* else had ever heard of this book at the time. Raging Slab was supposed to be huge, kind of a "Metallica but with slide guitars" thing. They were good but I don't think they were quite heavy enough to catch on with the metal scene they were being marketed toward.

Anyway, yeah, always liked the Chopper Cop books, even though they're flawed by not having quite enough action. Oddly, that seemed to be the track a lot of the "hippie hero" books that came out wanted to take, emphasizing the mystery aspect over action. Like the Crockett series by Brad Lang, about a "young hip long-haired private detective." I only read the first one (so far) and it was actually really good, but it was a little light on the action. Maybe they were trying to straddle the nobody-really-knew-what-to-do-with-it-at-the-time action series market with the mystery market.

Guy Callaway said...

Greatest Book Title Ever.

Joe Kenney said...

Wow, comments from Marty AND Zwolf on the same review! Both you guys inspired me to start my own blog, so that's cool to see you both commenting here. Zwolf, never heard of Raging Slab, thanks for that note. And I've never picked up the Crockett books, but I've read your writeups of them several times. Chopper Cop could've been great, though. I've got more biker cash-ins I need to get to, but the one I never did get was that "one-armed biker out for vengeance" you reviewed years ago...I think it was published by Holloway House? I recall that one being too pricey so I bitterly said "to hell with it."

And Guy, thanks for your comment, too, and I definitely agree! It came to me kinda late that the title's actually a phrase, not just the concert's name, as in the villain wants to "dynamite" the "Monster Boogie" concert. All along I thought "Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert" WAS the name of the concert...

Drew Salzen said...

Raging Slab were great - just too out of step with the time they were really active. I think I read somewhere that their slide guitar player died from cancer a few years back. A female slide player in a boogie band - not what you'd expect in the late eighties, and all the better for that. Never read the book - would like to, now! Zwolf is a man of distinct taste - I've been by his blog, and distinct is the word. I like a man who believes in eclecticism.

Incidentally, some top stuff lately on the scurrilous rock book front. Serious books about the importance of popular music in cultural paradigmatic shifts are all very well, but the truth is I really want to know what kind of drugs rock star 'X' took, and why the fifth album was so shite compared to albums four and six... especially as I wasted too much cash on that mint copy on ebay, etc...

Zwolf said...

Hmmm, can't remember which was the one-armed biker book... might've been "The Scarred Man" by Basil Heatter? It's been so long since I even looked at my review I can't recall details. Yeah, a lot of those old biker books are getting pricey. I tried to get a few of the British "Chopper" books but those tend to be really steep. I did find one affordable one, but the rest are out there. And the volumes of Easyrider's Best Biker Fiction are crazy now, even though when I bought 'em you could still find them for a quarter. I have one of those on my working-my-way-through-it pile, reviewing it story by story, but I only pick it up once in a while because a lot of the stories tend to be surprisingly LONG and a lot of the time nothing really happens, just some guy gets drunk, puts up with some comically-obnoxious friends, thinks "life sure is crazy!" and then gets another beer. Not real plot-heavy, most of 'em. I wish Outlaw Biker had put out a similar book... their stories tended to be more violent, like "The Great Pimp Hunt of '69" or whatever, which were reported to be true but you knew they weren't because there's no statute of limitations on some of the things the writer bragged about...

Joe Kenney said...

Drew -- Great to hear from you. I agree, Zwolf's blog is tops. Too bad it's been like a hundred years since he did a post! And glad you enjoy the rock books. I like to read the same type as you do. Currently reading "Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child of the Aquarian Age" by David Henderson, perhaps better known under its paperback title, "'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky." I read that version many years ago, didn't realize at the time it was an abridgement of the original hardcover, which is what I'm reading now. The book is massive! But it's just want I want, a mytho-poetic study of the greatest figure in rock history, with various flights of fancy. I know it's criticized for that reason today, but hell -- I don't wanna read a book about what color socks Jimi wore to such and such recording session on such and such a date. I wanna read a book about what Jimi was, a friggin' Voodoo Child of the Aquarian Age!! (And I'm sure you're very familiar with Lester Bangs's "Death Will Be Your Santa Claus!")

Zwolf -- I just did a deep dive on your blog and at length found the book: "The Bike Bastards," by George Warren. And it's a Brandon book, not Holloway, so I goofed on that. Hard to believe I forgot a title like that! I tried to find a copy at one point but gave up. Now, "The Scarred Man" I do have, again thanks to your review, but haven't read it yet. I also have the paperback tie-in for the biker chicksploitation movie "The Hellcats," but haven't read that either...actually the movie might've been based on the book, not sure. All I know is it's a THICK book, much longer than you'd expect.

Oh, and I think through your comments or somewhere else I found out about that Easy Rider fiction anthology, and spent considerable time seeking out the first volume, which had the stories by that one guy who was considered the best of them all (can't recall his name...I think the story's about a zombie or something?)...found a UK seller that had it for cheap...only for the book to finally arrive...and disover that THEIR version of "Best of EasyRider" was really just a repackaged edition of OUR Volume 3! In other words it wasn't what I was seeking, so once again I said "to hell with it," a recurring refrain with each passing year.

And finally, 10 or 11 years ago I picked up a collection of 3 of those UK biker novels...all had "Angels" in the title, can't recall right now. They were all from the '70s but the anthology was from the '90s. I tried to read the first one but bailed. It was okay and all, but for me biker novels MUST be set in the United States...I mean it's infinitely more cooler to have a bunch of bikers tearing across the Mojave on their Harleys, as compared to, oh I don't know, "Come on, mates -- it's off to Northamptonshire!"

Thanks as always for the comments, guys!

Drew Salzen said...

Oooh that'll be Mick Norman's books. He was Laurence James, ex-NEL eitor who became a paperback hack of such prolixity that he used 'supahack' as his email address. He was also the first James Axler and responsible for most of Deathlands (depends what you feel about that - I did 18 of them and loved it)having taken over Jack Adrian's partially finished first book and then basically stripping back and reinventing the cast for the next 30-odd books.He was my mate DJ's dad and a massive encouragement to me when I was starting out. Lovely man.

But I do see your point about Northampton not being the same as San Francisco. Peter Cave's biker books are just as oddly UK centric (we have Angels here - used to drink in some of the same places in East London years back) but the mythology around them somehow lends itself more to California than Walthamstow, London E17...

It's also worth noting that 'Mick' deliberately made the books a bit more experimental in structure as he was playing with that sort of thing at the time - he'd been in Moorcock's New Worlds, and was very influenced by that school as well as being a big Beat Lit fan - he edited NEL's City Lights compilation from a year or two before.