Sunday, October 28, 2007


"The Penetrator" is Mark Hardin, who, unfortunately, did not acquire his nickname because of his skills with the ladies. 1979's SHOWBIZ WIPEOUT is the first of Pinnacle's Penetrator paperbacks I have read, but I was able to ascertain that Hardin is a half-Cheyenne Vietnam vet who turned to anonymous crimefighting after the murder of his wife. He isn't connected with any official government agency, but he has U.S. backing, operating out of a secret base in California. In addition to his fighting and firearm skills, he carries a few gadgets, such as smoke and tear gas bombs. He also wears ultra-thin plastic "second-skin" gloves with fake fingerprints on the tips, so that he can never be traced.

One interesting aspect of the Penetrator novels is that the hero apparently has his own Javert, an FBI agent named Goodman who is obsessed with capturing Hardin. SHOWBIZ WIPEOUT opens with Goodman frustrated because, after one year of chasing the Penetrator around the country, where he is suspected of murdering dozens of mobsters and other assorted bad guys, the bureau has pulled the agent from the case, no closer to the Penetrator's identity or whereabouts than he was when he started. I presume Goodman also appears in several other Penetrator entries.

SHOWBIZ WIPEOUT is more like a traditional private-eye novel than a typical men's action novel. The violence is not graphic, and the sex is nil, as Hardin refuses to get close to anyone, so that they can never be used against him as bait or objects of vengeance. It moves briskly enough at 164 pages, and finds the Penetrator in Hollywood, where a mysterious new talent agency appears to be strongarming major stars into signing with it. It's a ploy by the agency's owner, an embittered ex-producer who was blackballed by the movie industry after an embezzling scandal, who plans to anonymously sign the biggest stars and then hold them out from the studios for huge salaries. The Penetrator, aided by a beautiful private investigator named Angelina Perez, disguises himself as a potential matinée idol named Lance Lansing to ferret out the killer's identity.

Credited to Lionel Derrick, SHOWBIZ WIPEOUT (and, apparently, all the Penetrator's even-numbered novels) was written by Chet Cunningham.

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