Monday, October 18, 2021

Amsterdam (aka Nick Carter: Killmaster #35)


Amsterdam, by Nick Carter
No month stated, 1968  Award Books

The mysterious author officially credited as “William Rohde” returns with a third contribution to Nick Carter: Killmaster…one just as boring and listless as the previous two “Rohde” novels: The Judas Spy and Hood Of Death. Amsterdam truly lives up to its title; like the earlier Rohde novels it’s basically just a ponderous travelogue, set in the titular city, just as The Judas Spy was a listless travelogue about Jakarta – and by the way, an asterisked footnote in Amsterdam indicates that the original title of The Judas Spy was “Jakarta.” Clearly the editor at Award didn’t catch that Rohde’s footnote was referring to what was presumably his original title for the novel before it was changed; perhaps the editor had fallen asleep, because folks this is by far the worst volume of Nick Carter I’ve yet read. Granted, I haven’t read the one by Joseph Rosenberger yet, but still… 

Literally the only interesting thing about the “Rohde” novels is the mystery of the author’s identity. As I recounted in uber-pedantic detail in my review of The Judas Spy, “William Rohde” might have really been a writer named Al Hine, who turned in two volumes of the series later in the ‘70s, after the switch to first-person and after series producer Lyle Kenyon Engel had left. Or it might have been the actual William Rohde, a ‘50s hardboiled writer. Or, as I’m starting to suspect, it might’ve been a collaboration between the two authors. For once again “Bill Rohde” is referenced in the text; at one point we’re told that “[Nick] had told it to Bill Rohde…a younger AXEman…Practical fellow, Rohde…Bill was handling the New York end and the Bard Galleries.” The mysterious “Bard Galleries” was also referenced in The Judas Spy, likely a “clever” allusion to Rohde being the writer, or “bard” behind the tale. 

But folks that isn’t enough to save a novel, not by a long shot. Amsterdam is so lame that Nick “Killmaster” Carter kills no one in the seemingly-endless course of the novel. Unless I too fell asleep like the Award editor and missed it! But no, I went back and checked…the entire novel is mostly composed of Nick, who spends the entirety of the tale in Amsterdam, driving around the city and checking out the sights. Even the harried ending is bloodless. What makes it funny is that at novel’s end a Dutch cop tells Nick he “plays rough,” and meanwhile Nick’s gone out of his way to not kill the novel’s villains. 

The only other thing that makes the Rohde books fairly interesting is the focus on continuity, with returning characters – but the continuity is only with the other Rohde novels. So this time we have, late in the game, a return of Mata, the Indonesian beauty who featured in The Judas Spy; as it turns out Mata has been relocated to Amsterdam, where she works as a stringer for AXE. There’s also a weird attempt at filling in background details on Nick Carter; we’re told, for example, that Nick’s grandfather, “the original Nick Carter,” was a famous detective known for creating gadgets – in other words, the Nick Carter of the original pulps. 

Well anyway, Amsterdam features Nick posing as a diamond seller, traveling for work into the Netherlands, but in reality tailing the lovely Amlie de Boer. Amlie works for famous diamond company Mansons, but AXE has determined that the company is housing a spy ring. Amlie works as a courier, and Nick’s trailing her to figure out if she’s delivering more than just diamonds. So this sets us up for what the rest of the novel will entail; Nick gets a seat beside Amlie on the plane into Amsterdam and just starts talking away. So much of the novel is just dialog and travelogue, and it’s overly prissy, too, with sentences like, “A quiet aquasport of captivating sweetness, mixing greedy draughts with the daintiest bonne bouche.” You’d never guess it, but that’s from what passes for a sex scene! Honestly, Amsterdam is one of those books where I wish I could give the author a friendly punch in the face. 

Rohde makes some attempts toward excitement in these opening pages; when they land in Amsterdam and walk through the “ultra modern” airport, Nick feels something whiz by and realizes they’ve been shot at. He rushes around the place but finds no one. Later, in his hotel room, he’s accosted by three toughs. Here’s where I suspect Rohde was really a collaboration between Hine and the real Rohde, because the action scenes in the Rohde Killmaster novels – at least, what passes for action scenes – are more out of hardboiled fiction, with Nick doling out and receiving beatings a la Spillane. What I mean to say is, there’s rarely any gunplay or other “secret agent”-esque action. That said, it’s fairly brutal (but deathless), as Nick ultimately gets the better of the three tough guys. 

Another annoying penchant of Rohde is the constant teasing of gadgets; as with the previous two books, we’re told of weird gadgets Nick has on him…but he never uses any of them!! This time we’re told of these bottles in his traveling kit which look like typical grooming items and whatnot, but are really explosives or whatever…and they’re never employed. We’re also constantly reminded of Pierre, the gas bomb which “hangs like a third testicle” beneath Nick’s boxer shorts, and it’s never used, either. It’s all so puzzling, not to mention maddening, as Nick has all this stuff but it’s never actually used, and instead we’re just put through interminable locale-jumping across the Netherlands. And folks, I spent a semester of college in in the Netherlands (in Maastricht), and I couldn’t care less about this stuff – I wanted Cold War pulp action, not boring travelogue! 

The sexual material is also non-explicit, even more so than the other Killmaster novels of the era. When Nick and Amlie finally “do the deed,” as we used to say back in the ‘80s, it’s rendered in pseudo-poetics like, “[Nick] swam deeper into saturated depths.” Man, swimming in saturated depths and quiet aquasports (ie the “sex scene” quoted above – that one’s with Mata, by the way); one would figure Rohde had a bit of a metaphor going here. There’s absolutely no bite to any of it, either the action or the sex. Have I mentioned yet that “Killmaster” doesn’t kill anyone in the entire book? It’s just so lame, compounded by all the long Dutch names; there’s a plethora of suspects, and Nick slowly works his way through them as he figures out the spy plot. 

The mysterious Rohde returned for two more volumes, which I’ll get to someday. Oh and since starting this review (it took me over two weeks to write it, due to some vacation time), I’ve actually read Joseph Rosenberger’s Killmaster (review coming next week), and while it ain’t great it’s a helluva lot better than this one. So for now I’m sticking with my assessment of Amsterdam: worst installment of Nick Carter: Killmaster ever. (Said in my best Comic Book Guy voice.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Paradise Alley


Paradise Alley, by Sylvester Stallone
October, 1978  Berkley Books

I’ve never seen Sylvester Stallone’s 1978 movie Paradise Alley, and tell the truth had never even heard of it until I discovered this tie-in novel a few years ago. At the time I read somewhere that Stallone had written the novel first, then did the film, which was his followup to Rocky and also his debut as director. What’s most interesting about Paradise Alley is that it presents Stallone as an “event picture” type of actor instead of the action star he’d become more famous as with Rambo and other action flicks in the ‘80s. 

Paradise Alley was a dud, though, and this novelization appears to be just as forgotten. I need to see the movie to see how it differs from the book; if it’s true that Paradise Alley started as a novel, then I must assume this is that novel, unless Stallone rewrote it to cater to his script. In his contemporary review of Paradise Alley, critic Leos Carax (who memorably describes the movie as “an orphan’s nightmare”) states that the project started life in 1970 and that Stallone’s original script was much “darker.” So is this novel what the original, darker script was based on? Perhaps Sylvester Stallone himself will leave a comment here and clear up the mystery. (Hey, I can dream, right!) While the novel isn’t super dark, there is a bit of weird stuff that I’m betting didn’t make it into the film…like the part where the character Stallone plays wants to make a fast buck by lining up a bunch of winos to screw the corpse of a dead hooker! I mean, it’s not exactly up there with Adrian rushing into the ring to hug Rocky, is it? 

First published in hardcover in 1977 (where it was reviewed by Kirkus), Paradise Alley received this paperback edition the year of the film’s release. It includes some stills from the movie, which I assume were not in the original hardcover edition. There are also a handful of illustrations by an artist named Tom Wright, and I assume these were in the hardcover. What’s curious is that neither Wright nor Kirkus seem to know which of the three main characters Stallone would play; the uncredited Kirkus reviewer assumes it will be Victor Carboni, the brawny but gentle ice truck driver who eventually becomes a wrestling champ – clearly the role someone would expect Stallone to play, post Rocky, especially given that Victor is in love with the Adrian-esque wallflower Rose. However Wright, judging from his illustrations, seems to think Stallone will play Lenny Carboni, the morose WWII vet who becomes increasingly Machiavellan as the story progresses. 

As it turns out, Stallone played Cosmo Carboni, the least “Stallone-esque” character in the film, a conman with hardly any redeeming features. The character, as featured here in the novel, is so unlike any Stallone has ever played that I’m determined to see the film one of these days to see how Stallone pulls it off. Well anyway, Paradise Alley takes place in 1946 and occurs solely within Hell’s Kitchen, New York; supposedly the original title of the script was “Hell’s Kitchen.” But this is a 1946 straight out of classic cinema, and I concur with the Kirkus reviewer that the dialog here is much more 1930s than late ‘40s, but then it’s not like I was there and could give an accurate assessment. At any rate, Stallone well captures the grungy vibe of the place, presenting a small cast of penniless lowlifes; Leos Carax was very apt in his “orphan’s nightmare” description, as Paradise Alley takes place in a world in which grown men act more like waifs, where bullies roam the streets and there are no “adults” to set things straight. 

Stallone writes the tale in a simple, earthy sort of tone, with a lot of dialog and not much effort into word-painting the settings. In a way it reminds me of the Bowery sequences in The Bar Studs. Stallone, for some random reason, also sprinkles the narrative with short poems that seem inspired by haiku. But despite the aforementioned necrophilia for dollars plot, the tone is pretty much PG here, or at least the ‘70s version of PG, with only a little cursing and no real dwelling on any explicit stuff. Cosmo even has a hooker he visits frequently, but the sequences are mostly given over to dialog concerning the plot before immediately “fading to black” before the sleazy activities begin. I have to say overall that I really enjoyed Paradise Alley, and felt that it worked fine as a novel in its own right. And in fact I’m wondering if this will be a situation like The Rose, where the tie-in novel is such its own thing that seeing the film it’s based on would spoil it. 

Stallone spends the first hundred pages (of a 215-page, big-print book) on character building, before he gets down to the promised “wrestling” plot. He brings us into the grimy world of Hell’s Kitchen, in the sweltering summer of 1946, and introduces the three brothers who will be our protagonists: there’s Victor, who makes a meager living as an iceman, hauling hundreds of pounds of ice around town on his deliveries; Cosmo, the conman, with his “shockingly long hair” and anachronistic earring; and finally Lenny, with his cane and war injury and his perpetual scowl, who works in a funeral parlor. They’re all grown men, but the way they live together in a dingy home and insist how they must “stick together” only adds to that “orphan” vibe Carax noted. 

And the “nightmare” vibe is also present; within the first few pages Victor sees a dead dog on his route and some kids are trying to play with it, and there are a lot of refrences to dog shit and bird shit in this opening sequence. During his route Victor also comes across a legless vet who is begging for money; in one of the novel’s first big reveals this turns out to be none other than Cosmo Carboni, the “legless vet” bit one of his many cons. Lenny Carboni doesn’t feature as much in this opening half of the novel; as mentioned he’s morose, much more of a grown-up than either of his brothers in that he just wants to work and doesn’t daydream like either of them. The implication is that he’s come back from the war “half a man” and is now content to just live his lot in life here in the squalor of Hell’s Kitchen, and doesn’t dream of escaping like Cosmo and Victor do. In fact, Stallone is a bit guilty of completely changing Lenny’s personality in the second half of the novel, but he does at least set it up in a believable way. 

In addition to his dreams of striking it rich via some scheme and escaping Hell’s Kitchen, Cosmo also dreams of Annie, a local looker who works as a dancer. Gradually Stallone will dole out another reveal: Annie and Lenny used to be an item, until Lenny decided to become a hero and go fight in the war. This however is not mentioned in the text until halfway through the book. But instead of plot-building, Stallone is focused on bringing his characters and their world to life in these opening hundred pages. The dialog throughout is priceless, with some of the most bizarre putdowns and retorts I’ve heard this side of a Jerky Boys skit. But it’s all G-rated, just super oddball, like “Go stand in a corner and pretend you’re popular!” and the like. Or Victor’s “You guys are causin’ me to breathe heavy!” when Cosmo and Lenny start nagging at him. 

Cosmo is an oddball himself; there’s a weird bit early on where he and Victor visit Lenny in the funeral home and Cosmo starts making inappropriate comments about the “stiffs,” noting the stink. There’s a lot of death in this hot New York summer, and one guy who’s died was a street performer who had a pet monkey. Cosmo wants the monkey for one of his schemes, but one of the boys in Nickels Mahon’s gang has gotten hold of it. Nickels and his street toughs are straight out of that “nightmare,” roaming Hell’s Kitchen and preying on the weak, but still it has a juvenile vibe, with Nickels mostly trading insults with the Carboni brothers. However there is a dark quality at play; in an effective sequence Cosmo remembers the time when he saw Nickels and gang beat a bum to death: 


But now Cosmo wants that damn monkey. So at the neighborhood hangout Mickey’s Bar (surely an in-joke reference to Rocky’s trainer) Cosmo challenges Nickels: if Victor can beat Nickels’s hulking stooge Frankie the Thumper in an arm wrestling match, then the monkey is Cosmo’s. Otherwise Cosmo will owe Nickels a lot of money. This is where the brothers first learn the untamed power Victor has at his disposal, and also where they learn that he’ll only fight when his brothers believe in him. This will be the first pretense toward the main plot, but before that we’ll have more material with Cosmo’s schemes, like for example his plan to line up some drunks and tell them a dead hooker is really just “sleeping.” Tom Wright illustrates this scene, of Cosmo and Victor standing over the hooker’s corpse in the funeral parlor: 


But it’s not until around page 100 that we get to the wrestling setup, and it’s a spur of the moment thing, as Cosmo again eagerly volunteers Victor’s brawn. A “colored” fighter named Big Glory has remained undefeated in the ring at Paradise Alley, where people can bet on the fighters. Cosmo, apropos of nothing, dubs Victor “Kid Salami” and talks him into fighting Big Glory, which Lenny is opposed to. But Victor again proves his worth in the ring, which takes us into the main plot, of Victor becoming a famous Hell’s Kitchen wrestler, working his way up on the underground fight circuit. Here too Stallone reveals that Annie and Lenny were an item before the war, and Cosmo gets his heart broken when he sees the two back together. 

Also here as mentioned Lenny gets a personality overhaul; whereas the first half of the novel he’s taciturn and introverted, with Victor’s success in the ring Lenny turns into his aggressive manager, pushing Lenny further and further. This comes off as very awkward given that there’s not much setup for Lenny to suddenly become such a prick, but Stallone does sort of cover for it, as previous to this Cosmo gives Lenny a “what the hell happened to you?” speech, where he accuses Lenny of being a fool and rushing off to prove himself in the war…and coming home with nothing to show for it but a bum leg. (As I say, Cosmo is pretty unlikable at times.) Shortly after this Lenny’s not only rekindled his relationship with Anne, but he’s also become a new man, pushing Victor around like a proto-Don King. He also comes up with the schtick of hanging actual salamis on Victor before he enters the wring. But the implication is that Cosmo’s speech has spurred this change, serving as a moment of clarity for Lenny. 

Cosmo for his part becomes Victor’s trainer, leading to more goofball stuff, like Cosmo making Victor through radiators and such. Again, nothing on the par of running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but still entertaining in its own right. As for the wrestling matches, Stallone doesn’t dwell on them much. They’re for the most part rendered in a few sentences, and only occasionally does Stallone give blow-by-blow action description. There is though this phenomenal sentence when Victor knocks out one of his opponents: “Patty McLade dropped to the floor like a whore’s nightgown.” Again it comes down more to character, with Victor losing his lovable nature and becoming more of a “killer” in the ring. Unexpectedly here Stallone goes for the heart strings in a sequence that comes out of nowhere but leaves the longest impression on the reader: on Christmas Eve, a drunk Cosmo comes across Big Glory, the black fighter Victor defeated on his path to wrestling fame, and the two men carouse around Hell’s Kitchen, trading goofy dialog; a sequence that leads to a surprising, and touching, climax. 

The same can’t be said for the actual climax of the novel, though; Nickels Mahon, planning revenge on the Carboni brothers, gets Frankie the Thumper into his own wrestling career, leading to a final confrontation between the two giants in Paradise Alley. At this point the Carboni brothers are split asunder, with Victor a sadistic brawler, Lenny a heartless bastard, and Cosmo hating Lenny not only for taking Annie from him, but for being such a merciless controller of Victor. But the brothers reuinite during this climactic brawl, after which things get back to how they were at the start of the novel. Stallone goes for a circular approach, implying that the Carboni brothers can never leave Hells Kitchen, but by novel’s end it’s clear that there’s no place they’d rather be. 

So in closing I have to say I enjoyed Paradise Alley more than I thought I would. It’s a fast-moving tale for sure, and Stallone shows his screenwriting nature by sticking mostly to colorful dialog instead of scenery description. I did feel that the wrestling angle wasn’t properly exploited, but I’m assuming the movie goes into more depth in that regard. I’m also curious to see if Cosmo’s various schemes make their way into the film. Speaking of which, Stallone clearly intended to play Cosmo, as he’s the main protagonist of the novel, appearing more than either Lenny or Victor. But as mentioned Tom Wright must’ve been under the impression Stallone would play Lenny, as evidenced by this illustration of the cane-wielding Lenny looming behind Victor: 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Kane‘s War #5: Depth Charge


Kanes War #5: Depth Charge, by Nick Stone
November, 1987  Ivy/Ballantine Books

When I began collecting Kane's War years ago I really looked forward to getting to this fifth volume; the plot, about an underwater luxury resort only accessible via scuba or submarine, really appealed to me. I could just see the Burt Hirschfeld-esque trash fiction yarn this setting might entail, with a bunch of jet-setters congregating in a plush locale beneath the waves for some wholesome sin. But one thing I’ve learned from reading so many men’s adventure novels is that the contents of the books often differ from the stories promised on the back covers, and such is the case with Depth Charge

While there is an underwater resort here, it’s largely unexploited and indeed the entire novel – up to the series’ usual unwieldy length of 280+ pages – takes place before the resort even opens! The resort, Neptune’s Palace, only opens to its guests in the final quarter of the book, but instead of the glitzy beach read I’d hoped for it instead turns into a Die Hard prototype, with terrorists attacking (and destroying!) the place before the festivities can even begin. Rather, the majority of Depth Charge is given over to the usual Kane’s War formula, with our hero getting in frequent waterborne scrapes with a variety of foes, while finding the opportunity to enjoy some explicity-rendered sex with his two female companions. 

One thing this fifth volume seems to confirm for me is that there really were two authors on Kane’s War, maybe more. Some of them, like the previous volume, are a bit more “straight” and feature small print, the author fully invested in capturing the “marina mystery” vibe. The odd-numbered volumes, like this one, are much more crude, especially in the sex scenes, and feature big print. In fact the closest comparison I could make would be to prolific men’s adventure writer J.C. Conaway, but there’s too much plot here for one of his works, not to mention too much action. Otherwise whoever served as this particular “Nick Stone” writes like he’s working for Leisure Books or Belmont-Tower in the ‘70s; he could care less about “realism” and instead wants to serve up a bunch of sex and action. The only caveat is the page length, which again makes the series a bit of a chore; if a hundred pages were cut out, Depth Charge would be a lot more fun. 

Anyway the story follows on from the previous four: hero Ben Kane is minding his own business in the Caribbean when all hell breaks loose. The opening is memorable; Ben and his “favorite playmate,” Michelle, are deep-sea diving and checking out Neptune’s Palace, which is soon to open. Someone cuts their air lines, but luckily Neptune Palace owner Paul Kavouris happens to be scuba diving nearby and gets Kane and Michelle into the resort before they drown. Here we get our first – and only, really – look at Neptune’s Palace. It’s a two-storey structure that looks like “a twenty-first century spaceship.” Kane’s charter line has gotten the contract to ferry guests to the resort, and he and Michelle wanted to come by this Sunday morning to see how the development was going. When they get topside they find Kane’s skipper out cold, courtesy a dart to the neck; we readers know that an assassin’s in the vicinity, his sights on Kane. This cutting of the air lines was just his first assault. 

But really this setup becomes unintentionally humorous; there will be multiple attempts on Kane’s life as he’s just tooling around the ocean, lending the novel the slapstick tone of The Naked Gun or somesuch. I’m certain the author had his tongue in cheek, though; I mean, Kane will be out cruising the waves with erstwhile colleagues Ganja and Miles, and some boat will come out of nowhere and start shooting at them, and pretty soon Miles will be blasting back at it with an M-16 he takes from the bulkhead or whatever. Reading this series you get the idea that firefights frequently occur in the Caribbean. The author tries to make it all somewhat believable, with a hapless cop at least making the pretense of trying to maintain law and order – and chastising Kane for his violent “American ways.” 

An interesting thing about this series is that it has the ‘80s-mandatory “team” focus, even though Kane is the titular character. While Kane is the main character, Ganja and Miles are part of his team and have their own subplots. Miles continues to be a cipher, and the author doesn’t do much to bring him to life; he’s monosyllabic and likes knives. There’s a definite “hmm” factor at work, too; Neptune’s Resort features two “mermaids” at the entrance, twin blondes (“they were natural blondes, too”), clad only in scuba gear, who welcome all visitors. Well, one of them (or both, the author doesn’t clarify) takes a shine to Miles…who goes out of his way to ignore her. Otherwise the mermaid bit is wholly unexploited by the author; as I say, the entire “Neptune’s Palace” setup comes off like an afterthought, with more focus on Kane’s waterborne firefights and the lame mystery of who hired the assassin that’s after him. 

This “mystery” angle is what makes me suspect J.C. Conaway was this volume’s “Nick Stone,” but as usual I could be wrong. Conaway always had a mystery angle in his books, and there’s one here, complete with even a Conaway-esque bit at the end where Kane assembles all the suspects and starts grilling them with full-bore exposition. But as I say, there’s a lot more focus on action here than any Conaway novel I’ve ever read, though the firearms detail is minimized. In other words, you certainly couldn’t confuse Kane’s War with the average Gold Eagle offering of the era. Nor is the violence much exploited; gunfights are frequent, but blood and gore is minimized. The same, happily, cannot be said about the frequent sex. As mentioned, this particular author is quite crude in that regard – enjoyably so. 

So the previous volumes have established the template which appears again here: each novel opens with Kane having explicit sex with either Michelle or his other “playmate,” British beauty Jessica, and then shortly after this escapade we’ll have Kane conjugating with the other playmate. So this time it opens with a graphic bang of Michelle, then that night Kane goes to a lavish party of the elite and has sex with Jessica. This will be repeated throughout the book, and as with previous books a third babe will gradually be introduced into the mix. But the sex in this volume is much more crude than previously – and I’m sorry to keep using that word, but it really is the best description:
 

 But this is just the tip of the veritable iceberg. Later on we have a bit where Paul Kavouris has sex with his mistress Rachel, a stacked redheaded widow who becomes manager of Neptune’s Palace (and ultimately will become the “third babe” Kane himself enjoys in the novel). This part is so randomly bonkers that I just had to share it: 


As mentioned Kane gets his turn at the wheel with Rachel, leading to even more bonkers filth: 


And this crude vibe extends to the entire book, complete with random exclamation points in the narrative. Again, the feel is very much of a Leisure offering from the decade before. But the sleaze can’t save the book, because too much of it is given over to egregious page-filling. Through Max’s somnambulic mumbling, Kane learns of an infamous assassin nicknamed “Feathers” due to his favored method of kills – feather-tipped darts. Ultimately this has Kane constantly cornering a local gaddabout named Sir Max and accusing him of being Feathers, or of hiring him. And yeah, that’s “Sir Max;” rather than the Hirschfeld-esque potboiler beneath the sea I was hoping for, Depth Charge instead concerns itself with stuffy upper-crust British types, like a notoriously “fabulous” old lady named Adelle. 

After the interminable attacks on Kane – I mean he’s even shot at while merely fishing with Kavouris – we get back to Neptune’s Palace, which soon will open to its first round of tourists…who happen to be those stuffy upper-crust Brits. The author brings the recurring characters here, with Michelle getting a job – it’s implied so she can ensure Kane doesn’t get too cozy with either of the “mermaids” – and Ganja also working in the place. But as mentioned any chance to exploit this exotic setting is squandered. Promptly upon Neptune Palace’s opening it’s hit by those titular “depth charges,” and pretty much the entire place is destroyed! I mean there’s no part where we see the various characters interacting with this plush underwater resort, complete with its view of the sea and its nude mermaids. 

Even the proto-Die Hard connotations are squandered, as the underwater action’s over quick and things go topside, with Kane and comrades blasting away at the villains. But this only leads us to that ultra-lame “climax” I mentioned earlier, with Kane assembling all the various one-off characters and grilling them to discover who would want to destroy Kavouris’s underwater resort. It’s all incredibly lame and almost reminds the reader of the climax of the average episode of Scooby-Doo. Even worse is this “Nick Stone” has no feel for drama; one of the new one-off characters is killed in the action at Neptune’s Palace, and the death is treated like an afterthought. 

That said, Depth Charge moves incredibly fast for a 281-page book. I’d love to know who the authors were who worked on this series; maybe it really was J.C. Conaway who wrote this one. I guess we’ll never know.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Executioner Series Style Guide

In my review of Men's Adventure Quarterly #3 last week I mentioned the issue had inspired me to upload an Executioner curio I picked up some years ago, thanks to a cool guy I used to be in regular contact with named Mike Madonna.  Mike kindly shared with me this style guide for The Executioner that Gold Eagle put together in the early 1980s, when the imprint began publishing the series.  I have been meaning to share this out for several years now, and the newest MAQ inspired me to finally do it.

This 38-page document features an intro by Don Pendleton himself, and then goes on to give potential Gold Eagle ghostwriters the ins and outs of handling the series.  It would appear that the guide was not used for very long; per his comments in A Study Of Action-Adventure Fiction, Pendleton grew quite frustrated with how Gold Eagle ultimately veered away from his suggestions for the character and the series.

Also, I thought it would be fitting to post this now, given that the final Executioner novel was published this past December, courtesy long-time series author Michael Newton (who per a comment Brian Drake left in my recent The Hunter #1 review passed away recently).

Head to this Mega link to download the Executioner Series Style Guide and let me know what you think!