The Man From Planet X #3: The Devil To Pay, by Hunter Adams
August, 1977 Pinnacle Books
A little over two years after the second volume
this third installment of The Man From Planet X
finally came out, and I can’t imagine too many people across this great land of ours rushed out to buy a copy. There’s no internal evidence that two years have passed, and neither the front nor the back cover mention it, so my assumption is this book was ready to go in 1975, to be published shortly after the first two volumes, but was held back due to the oil crisis. Per Michael Newton in How To Write Action-Adventure Fiction
, the men’s adventure market came to an abrupt halt in the mid-‘70s because publishers, facing an energy crisis, whittled their lines back to just the most essential titles. I figure The Man From Planet X
wasn’t anywhere near a top seller for Pinnacle, so it was put on hiatus a few years.
So I’ll proceed with my theory that James D. Lawrence
(aka “Hunter Adams”) wrote this one around the same time as the previous two, as the book just feels
more mid ‘70s than late ‘70s. All the topical references are to mid-‘70s stuff, and there’s no mention by hero Peter Lance (aka alien Pritan Lansol) of any passage of time since Tiger By The Tail
. But then at this point Lawrence is writing a straight-up comedy series, so there’s no focus on any sort of recurring storyline; Pinnacle proclaims this a “New Erotic Adventure Series” on the covers, but really “Adventure” should be replaced by “Comedy.” Peter Lance is so superhuman that there’s absolutely no drama or suspense to any predicament he finds himself in, thus everything plays out for laughs; even a part where he has to escape some scuba divers fails to engender any tension, given that, “like all Tharbians,” Peter has gills implanted in his lungs, so can breathe underwater.
Random musing: With this volume it occurred to me that “Tharb,” the planet Pritan Lansol is from, sounds similar to “therb,” the whip-weapon employed in the Balzan
series – which was also “produced” by Lyle Kenyon Engel, and which also ran for only three volumes. The similarity of the two words makes me assume Engel himself came up with the terms when he farmed out each series; my assumption is Engel devised the concept, characters, and any recurring gadgets or gimmicks, and then his various ghostwriters delivered to spec. Anyway I’m only noting this because, sadly, the Tharb/therb thing proved to be more interesting than practically the entirety of The Devil To Pay
. Because honestly this is a novel that starts with the mixed metaphor “the antlike humans were like fleas,” and that’s just the first paragraph. So you already know from the get-go that you’re in for a book where the author doesn’t give a shit.
Another thing clear with this volume is that Lawrence is bored with writing standard sex material. This already started with the previous volume, where the greater focus was on foreplay and gross-out situations. The initial boink is the most graphic in The Devil To Pay
; Peter is walking along Manhattan one night and senses danger – he looks up at the skyscraper he’s walking by and sees a nude hotstuff brunette screaming for help. Peter scales twenty floors
and enters the opened window to find the brunette about to be raped by a multiracial trio of thugs, leading to the unforgettable line, “…the Negro prepared to impale her with his huge, clublike ebony phallus.”
Without any effort Peter dispenses of the three, knocking them out and tossing them aside…he unties the brunette, a model named Solange, and when she complains that her arms are numb from being tied up, Peter does what any guy would do – he whips out his whang, which folks is sixteen inches long
. You see, Peter’s dick pulses “ultrasonically,” thus he explains to the gal that all she need do is hold onto it and the pulsing will take care of that pesky numbness. Of course one thing leads to another, and soon enough Solange hops up on Peter so his whang is “wetly sheathed,” which causes the gal to scream out what is yet another unforgettable line: “My whole twat’s ultrasonic!” As mentioned this is not only the most explicit sex scene in the book, but it also features the first of many gross-out moments, with detail on Peter’s “spewing geyser” which is so, uh, climactic that it actually suspends Solange in mid-air!
Humorously this “geyser” is witnessed by Solange’s muscular and simperingly gay photographer, Brute Smoot, who doesn’t
puke when he sees it, but instead starts checking out Peter, who of course quickly puts on his pants – the Man From Planet X might be an alien, but he’s no switch-hitter. Smoot just freed himself from a closet (unironically, I’m sure); he reveals that the thugs put him there before going after Solange, and Peter discovers that the entire building is crawling with other thugs who are looting the place. This promises a Die Hard
situation, but instead Peter calls his boss, crotchety billionaire BG Wyngard, who sends in a private ‘copter to pick up Peter. BG is more concerned with one of his many companies, one that happens to have an office in this building; this place was working on a new energy project called Project Q, and when Peter checks the office on BG’s orders, sure enough the plans for it have been stolen from the vault.
Daphne Wyngard, who served as the main female character in the first volume
, is again reduced to a cameo role, same as last time; when Peter goes back to BG’s rolling mansion, Daphne comes to his room to tell him she and her friends had “a little orgy,” one that led to a game of “find the olive.” Well, you know how these things go, and now a pimento is stuck up there and Daphne wonders if Peter could help remove it. “Perhaps if I use my tongue…” muses Peter, an idea which Daphne is eager to try out. This leads to off-page sex, same as Peter’s boff immediately thereafter with Wanda, BG’s insatiable, much-younger wife. Indeed, all the many sex scenes will be off-page from here on out, so while the book is smutty and sleazy it’s never outright hardcore. I mean The Baroness
, another Engel production, is much
more hardcore, and it wasn’t even billed as an “erotic series.”
The title and back cover copy promise a storyline involving Satanism – yet another element that places the book more in the early-mid 1970s than in the late 1970s – but truth be told Lawrence doesn’t do much to exploit it. BG reveals that one of Project Q’s main scientists, Ghent, went missing during a trip to Italy, but has finally returned and is acting weird. Peter shadows the guy – including a random bit where Ghent receives a package at the post office, Peter intercepts it, and it apparently has shit
inside it – and this ultimately leads Peter to a Satanic orgy in a warehouse in SoHo. Here a guy dressed as the devil exhorts his followers to have group sex; more interesting is that Black Sabbath’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” provides the soundtrack! This is actually the second time Lawrence has referenced Black Sabbath in a men’s adventure novel; he also did in Dark Angel #4
. And also this particular Black Sabbath track, from their 1973 album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
, might be another indication that The Devil To Pay
was written in ’75, not ’77 – but then, what self-respecting Satanist would play Technical Ecstasy
at an orgy?
Even here though the focus is more on sleazy comedy than action, let alone Satanic horror. (I mean if you want sleazy Satanic sex mixed with men’s adventure thrills, you seek out The Mind Masters #2
.) Peter doffs his clothes to “fit in” with the others, but of course none of them have coppery red skin (“like a storybook Indian,” per one of Lawrence’s more memorable descriptions)….let alone a friggin’ sixteen-inch cock, so he’s an instant hit when the Satanists get a gander of him. And like the ol’ “dick stuck in the sink” bit from the previous book, this time Peter allows his whang to be strapped into some old piece of machinery, to be fawned over and petted by the orgiasts – Lawrence doesn’t elaborate, but it’s clear that the male orgiasts are stroking and sucking away at it, too, which makes Peter’s earlier abhorrence of Bruce Smoot kind of hypocritical – and then a fire breaks out, and Peter’s stuck. This is actually the most tense part in the book, as Peter has to choose between being burned alive or literally emasculating himself so he can get to freedom…but then our inhuman protagonist merely lifts
the one-ton contraption and staggers out to the fire escape. And only after this does his “excitement” sufficiently dwindle so that he can, uh, slip out of the device.
In fact the whole Satanism angle barely fits into the scheme of things, making me suspect it was yet another Lyle Kenyon Engel mandate which Lawrence only half-assedly fulfilled. Instead, Peter figures the Satanism thing was more of just a fun hobby sort of thing for Ghent, and shortly afterward is tracking down another clue left by the scientist – a sex-focused travel agency based out of Manhattan, which has a whorehouse on the property. Peter’s getting busy with a busty Italian hooker when CIA agents raid the place – leading to yet another unforgettable line, as recurring CIA goon McDade orders his men to search the inner recesses of all the hookers: “That’s the spirit, cunthunters!” McDade comes in on Peter and the girl just as they’ve finished, and proceeds to inspect her; this bit probably has the most gross-out moment of all in the book, so gross-out that I just had to quote it in full:
[McDade] plucked from his pocket a slender-barreled optical instrument which appeared to be a battery-powered vaginascope; and after screwing one end to his eye, he inserted the other end into [the hooker’s] vulva – his face taking on an expression of deep interest.
“Judas Priest, boy!” he muttered. “Talk about giving somebody the Deep Six! You got her pumped so full of pecker juice, I may need scuba gear and sonar to find out what kinda subversive-secret weaponry she’s got stowed up her snatch!”
After this the novel becomes mired in a tiresome espionage-comedy thing; Peter heads over to Rome to further research what happened to Ghent, only to find himself attending another Satanic orgy. While again trying to fit in, Peter is quickly outed, leading to a bit where Lawrence both indulges in the goofy sleaze vibe of the series and
his penchant for obscure terms:
The third [Satanist girl] fastened her lips around [Peter’s] genital. But instead of sucking, she seemed to be blowing something up through his meatus!
Too late, Peter Lance realized what was happening. They were injecting him with some sort of vaporous drug!”
I mean nothing says “New Erotic Adventure Series” like “meatus.” And also “genital” is a recurring term, to the extent that it makes the book seem like it was written by a robot with a limited understanding of human sexual intercourse. But then this appears to have been the idea, as Peter himself has no understanding of human sexual mores; when later he catches Solange, who has followed him here to Italy, having sex with a French triple agent, the girl cries because she can’t understand why Peter’s not upset that she was screwing another guy. To which Peter responds, “Good heavens, it’s your
genital. Why should I object to what you allow inside it?”
Ultimately the Satanist angle drops and more focus is placed on Kontides, a Greek shipping magnate clearly based on Onassis who goes by the colorful nickname “Superkunt.” He’s very much in the Bond
villain mold, with gold teeth and an army of henchmen. Peter runs afoul of him, is briefly captured and interrogated – he easily escapes, of course – and also Peter manages to pick up a parrot, per Bruce Minney’s cover. As we’ll recall, Peter can telepathically communicate with animals, leading to some humorous exchanges with the bird. And also this whole bit reminded me of a novel Len Levinson
told me about back in 2014; he said in the ‘70s he wrote an unpublished novel titled The Parrot
“about the world from the viewpoint of a highly intelligent parrot who has various adventures with people,” but it never got past the first draft. He’d recently rediscovered the manuscript and I practically begged
him to send me a copy, but he said it needed too much work.
Anyway, that too is more interesting than anything in The Devil To Pay
. There’s more espionage stuff, all of it revolving around goofy sex, like when Peter gets a bj from a hooker in an Italian whorehouse and afterwards his whole nether region is numb – metal fillament implanted by the woman’s mouth, connected to electrodes which she controls from a button on the bed. One touch of the button and Peter’s sixteen inches will be fried. There’s also the outrageously-named Tex Happyfeller, a redneck agent for OPEC, but he vanishes from the narrative almost as soon as he’s introduced.
The plot gradually centers around cacatroleum, the (literally) shitty substance Peter discovered in that package he intercepted from Ghent at the start of the book. This material is on the property of lusty Rosa Volterra, and all the action and intrigue have been a result of various factions trying to gain control of it. And also Brute Smoot keeps showing up everywhere, on one pretense or another, and clearly Peter Lance isn’t too smart because it takes him until the end of the book to realize that Brute’s involved in everything. And it’s ironic if the oil crisis really did postpone publication of this book, given that cacatroleum is a newly-discovered natural fuel that has the potential of replacing oil.
The novel (and series) ends with Peter heading off for more time with Rosa – honestly he sleeps with so many women in the book that the reader needs a scorecard to keep track – and it was with much relief that I closed the book for the final time. Even the funky ‘70s details weren’t enough to save this one, and in fact they’ve dwindled as well…we read about, say, “purple hip-huggers” on Solange, or a denim suit for Peter, but really Lawrence saves all his “sleazy ‘70s fashion” ammo for Dark Angel
. So the sex is pretty much nonexistent, the “thrills” are lame and tame because the hero’s superhumanly strong and fast, and the writer clearly isn’t taking anything seriously…which altogether means that there’s not much return on investment in either collecting or
reading The Man From Planet X