Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Peacemaker #4: The Wyss Pursuit

The Peacemaker #4: The Wyss Pursuit, by Adam Hamilton
March, 1975  Berkley Medallion Books 

The Peacemaker limps to a close with a fourth volume that’s even more tepid than the previous three; titular “Peacemaker” Barry Hewes-Bradford doesn’t even kill anyone in this one. I mean at least he shot the occasional bad guy in the previous books. This time ol’ Barry spends the majority of the narrative doing exactly what Mel Crair depicts on the cover: making phone calls. 

Speaking of the cover, again we get confirmation that Crair’s depiction of Barry is his own invention. The moustached lothario of the Crair covers does not exist in the actual novels. Instead, Barry is specifically stated as being “tall and black-haired” – no mention of a moustache, blondish-brown hair, or a bow tie. Also speaking of Crair’s cover art, it’s misleading in another regard: the scene shown doesn’t actually happen in the novel. While Barry and his assistant Lobo do ski down a slope as someone fires at them, Barry does not return fire – in fact he and Lobo flee off to safety and hide, waiting for the sniper to go away. The Peacemaker!! 

Yeah, but this one’s really lame, and just further evidence that the series was DOA from the get-go. I mean like Zwolf said, it’s supposedly a men’s adventure series, yet they named it “The Peacemaker,” and they got a woman to write it!! Maybe some editor at Berkley just had a goofy sense of humor. Whatever, Marilyn “Adam Hamilton” Granbeck again writes what is really a mystery novel, one that isn’t even gussied up with the paltry thrills of the previous installments. 

The series concept itself is also ungainly, that mega-wealthy Barry operates on the side as a crimefighter. The problem is, as I’ve bitched about in each previous review, Barry himself doesn’t do much – he just gets one of his untold employees to do the work for him. Thus there is very little tension or excitement in the series. Barry isn’t even given a proper background of a men’s adventure protagonist; he's just rich and has legions of employees at his disposal, so it’s not like he’s some ‘Nam vet out for payback. In fact it’s Lobo who does most of the “action stuff” in the series, but this time even Lobo doesn’t do much. 

The plot this time has to do with a heroin smuggling scheme; some mysterious drug kingpin known as “Wyss” seems to be targeting Barry’s freight line, using the ships to transport heroin out of the fictional Southeast Asian country of Balarac. Just forget about any promises of action and think of The Wyss Pursuit as a mystery novel and you might enjoy it more than I did. As mentioned it’s even slower-going than previous volumes, but Granbeck’s prose is strong enough that I figure she’s probably a fine writer in an element she’s more comfortable with. 

Granbeck is good with effective scene-setting, like the opening in which a hapless sailor on one of Barry’s ships accidentally uncovers the heroin and is killed for it. However Granbeck again proves that Barry is not really an action hero in the standard mold when later in the book Barry and Lobo get ahold of the killer and grill him for info on the heroin scheme. This takes place inside Barry’s limo as it slowly moves along Broadway in Manhattan; Barry doesn’t threaten or harm the killer. Indeed, Barry pays the guy and drops him off! A guy who killed one of Barry’s own men! It’s all just so against the grain of what makes for an action hero that you can only shake your head at the poor editorial decision-making at Berkley. 

So to reiterate, in the course of The Wyss Pursuit Barry doesn’t get in any fights, doesn’t shoot anyone, doesn’t do much of anything except travel around the country and make some phone calls. That said, he does get laid this time, by two different gals (not at the same time, though!)…however if you just thought to yourself, “Yeah, but Granbeck probably keeps it off page,” then award yourself a no-prize. And neither female character is exploited in the wonderful way mandated by the men’s adventure genre. One’s an insurance investigator who seems to have her own agenda and travels around the world with Barry, the other’s one of Barry’s jetset acquaintances. Curiously Granbeck seems to imply early on that the insurance investigator is interested in Lobo, but that might’ve been a misreading on my part; I did doze off a few times while reading the book, after all. 

Reinforcing the “mystery novel” vibe is the titular Wyss, a notorious figure in the drug world. It turns out that Wyss is behind the heroin-smuggling on Barry’s ships, with the added kick in the crotch that Wyss wants the heroin to be discovered so as to cause Barry legal and other woes. Even here we get more of a lowkey payoff, with Wyss finally being tracked down in Switzerland…but posing under another name. Instead of taking direct action, Barry tries to entrap him and all that, and it’s lame. And yes, it’s in Switzerland that the cover incident occurs, with Barry and Lobo hitting the slopes as one of Wyss’s goons sharpshoots at them. 

I mean this one’s so lame, Barry doesn’t even take part in the climactic action scene. It’s all relayed via report as Wyss and his ship get in a fight with some Balarac forces, and Barry frets while it goes down. And smokes a bunch of cigarettes. In previous installments he’d at least blow something up. It’s like with this one Granbeck didn’t even bother to give us that. But one must appreciate her steadfast determination to not cater to the demands of the action genre. Anyway not that it matters, as with this volume The Peacemaker comes to a close. It shan’t be missed.


Johny Malone said...

The PhoneCallmaker.

TLP said...

A few years ago, I read the first book in this series back-to-back with CHOPPER COP #1. Talk about a torturous exercise!