The Emerald Chicks Caper, by L.V. Roper
January, 1976 Popular Library
The second and final volume of Renegade Roe gives a good indication why this series didn’t last: Renegade Roe is a dick. In fact I’d rank him as the most annoying protagonist in any of the series I’ve reviewed here. He’s an obnoxious twit, and once again I wonder if L.V. Roper even realized it, or if the whole thing was just an intentional joke.
At the very least, Jerry “Renegade” Roe comes off slightly better than he did in the first volume. Sure, he still talks a big game but does little in the way of action to back it up, but at least this time he actually knocks a guy out. And sure, he himself is again knocked out a couple times and constantly has to be saved by his partner, Stuart Worth, same as last time. But at least he doesn’t do stuff like “spy” on people with binoculars while standing in plain sight of his prey or talk out loud to himself while “hiding” in a closet. On the other hand, he’s become even more juvenile than he was in the previous volume, pulling off stuff that could get a guy jailed in our #metoo era, up to and including feeling up the firm’s hapless secretary…and then accusing her of wearing a padded bra!
Roe does seem to get laid a bit more this time, though as ever Roper leaves everything off page. The novel opens with Roe’s perennially-aggrieved partner, Stuart Worth, showing up at the office one morning to find Roe sacked out in their room with a nude blonde at his side…the very same runaway socialite Roe and Worth had been hired to track down. We’re to understand that this girl, as well as the others who fall in his sway in the novel, are drawn to Roe due to his “exotic” cast: he’s tall, reddish skin, wears flamboyant “Indian” fashions like moccasins and a headband, and of course is a loudmouthed brute.
This is displayed posthaste, when Roe, mere hours after sleeping with the blonde, sets his sights on yet another attractive female client: Helen Bingham, who slinks into the office and asks to hire Worth and Roe to find out what happened to the gold egg and emerald chicks her husband found in Venezuela. Roe makes his interest known immediately, in his usual fashion – ie making all kinds of inappropriate comments – and the idea one gets is that sophisticate Helen merely decides to entertain him so as to file off “an exotic” from her bucket list. As for her case, it’s involved: her husband, a loser who married Helen for her money, desperately struck out to find money for himself, given that Helen had lost interest in him, but was too lazy to file for divorce. Thus Mr. Bingham found out about the legendary golden egg and emerald chicks of Venezuela, and somehow managed to get them, and mailed them to Helen here in New Orleans. But the shipment is missing. Oh, and he’s dead now, not that Helen seems to give a rat’s ass.
This caper takes Roe into the upper crust of New Orleans, but Roper doesn’t do much to bring any of it to life. Nor does he do much to heat up any of the erotic stuff; Roe just makes his inappropriate comments – the one thing Roper does excel at – and when Helen gives in to his “charms” it’s an immediate fade to black. Even the exploitative content isn’t up to stuff; when Roe visits Helen late one night to ask some questions on the case, she answers the door in a robe made of “transluscent material” (so, uh…plastic??), and Roe can’t stop staring at her boobs: “That’s a lovely bra you’re not wearing.” But Roper doesn’t even do much to bring those heaving, upthrusting, ample charms to life, other than to tell us how Roe keeps gawking at them. The entire novel is just so listless.
And given that the case has Roe hanging out with uppercrust of society types, there’s little opportunity for much action, so what Roper does is have endless scenes where Roe shows up at Worth’s house and starts hassling Roe’s wife. Just ridiculous stuff, like being there every time Worth comes home from the office – even at one point rushing over to Mrs. Worth when Stuart comes in and panting, as if Worth just caught them in the act. Just stupid juvenile stuff. What makes it worse is that Roper wastes not only our time but his own by even writing all this shit. It just goes on and on, Roe showing up at the Worth home and bugging them…honestly it’s almost like if Billy from Predator had starred in What About Bob?
Action does finally show up when some Venezuelan thugs accost Roe; he beats up one of them but is of course caught, and Worth has to save him. This is a repeat of the previous volume and will happen again before novel’s end. This motif is one of the things that makes me wonder if Roper had his tongue in cheek the entire time he wrote, because American Indian “Renegade” Roe is presented as the studly hero of the series…yet he’s always getting captured and it’s up to the white guy to save him. Maybe the whole series is a subtle play on the whole cowboy and his sidekick Indian schtick, who knows.
Not that Roe’s upset by his near death; soon enough he’s back to harrassing Frances in the office, even unizipping her dress when she’s unawares and grabbing her bra strap. Shortly thereafter Frances herself is abducted; Roe finally makes some headaway in the “action hero” department when he tracks her down and sneaks in to free her, but wouldn’t you guess it he’s knocked out and captured again. And who arrives in the nick of time to save his ass but Worth? Roe’s shot in the shoulder here, and there follows and interminable bit where he’s in the hospital, then storms his way out of the place because he’s figured the villains are going to escape via plane. Roe gets in his Mustang and races onto the tarmac to stop it.
And mercifully here The Emerald Chicks Caper comes to a close, as does Renegade Roe itself. Whereas The Red Horse Caper had a “future books in the series” page with a slew of projected titles, The Emerald Chicks Caper doesn’t, which leads me to believe that by the time of publication Popular Library had decided the series was finished. I guess maybe they’d also had enough of Renegade Roe’s shit. Great uncredited covers, though; I wonder if they were done by Hector Garrido of The Baroness and The Destroyer.