Friday, March 28, 2008

Sleek, Ruthless, Cunning

MCCLOUD meets NAKIA is a good way to describe CAT TRAP, which is Pinnacle's third entry in its paperback series about Dakota, a Native American private eye. Using then-current television series to describe CAT TRAP is apt, because of its author, Gilbert Ralston.

Ralston was a veteran producer and writer of television series whose credits include ROUTE 66, BEN CASEY, THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR, I SPY, THE WILD WILD WEST, STAR TREK ("Who Mourns for Adonis?") and nearly every other important drama of the 1960s. In film, he penned the screenplays for the campy horror classic WILLARD and the brutally violent western THE HUNTING PARTY.

I'm not certain how much prose Ralston wrote, but CAT TRAP reads very much like a Universal television show, light on sex and violence and a waste of a potentially memorable villain. Also, in opposition to other Pinnacle action heroes, Dakota has a very large supporting cast—friends, an extended family and a lover who all appear to live in or around his Nevada home.

Two disparate heart attack victims are revealed to have been killed by a rare poison, and the killer is Guy Marten, a madman previously thought to have been killed in a house fire. A worshipper of Bastet, an ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Marten and Dakota would appear to be worthy adversaries for each other, except we never learn very much about Marten or his state of mind.

Perhaps Ralston originally intended Dakota to be the leading man of a TV pilot, but as a rough adventure hero, he doesn't quite cut it. Conventional plotting and characterizations take precedence over the action and sleaze factors, which barely exist.

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