Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Luscious Stewardess Is The Bait

I was pretty excited to find THE HITCHHIKE KILLER in a 50-cent box at last month's Gordyville flea market. I've been searching eBay for one of the Chopper Cop novels for several weeks, but haven't found very many of them (I think only three exist). I had never read one of the Popular Library Chopper Cop books, but was naturally drawn to the ludicrous concept of a, well, "chopper cop."

The Chopper Cop is Terry Bunker, a long-haired (though he doesn't appear to be on the cover) antiestablishment Vietnam-vet hippie, 26 years old, who works as a special investigator for the state of California who appears to be answerable only to the governor, one of the few establishment types with whom Bunker gets along. Bunker's police superiors spend most of their time grumbling about his hair, his non-conformist approach to law enforcement, his womanizing, his beer drinking and pot smoking, while begrudgingly admitting that, yeah, okay, Bunker's the best damn cop on the force.

1972's THE HITCHHIKE KILLER finds Bunker investigating three murders that took place during the same weekend, hundreds of miles apart, but appear to have been committed by the same person. All the victims were attractive teenage girls who were hitchhiking and terrorized and run down by a motorcycle rider. The cops all suspect a biker gang, but Bunker thinks the killer may have taken a commuter flight from San Francisco to San Diego to commit the murders, and begins shuttling up and down the state via a small airline, where he meets a pair of foxy stews, Lisa and Chris, and begins suspecting Lisa's married boyfriend, co-pilot Paul Bunn.

Another cheap paperback that could have been a pretty cool movie, THE HITCHHIKE KILLER is a brisk, entertaining read with an unusually left-wing hero for this type of book. I'm particularly looking forward to finding Chopper Cop #3, which is titled DYNAMITE MONSTER BOOGIE CONCERT! Author Paul Ross is identified in the indicia as Lyle Kenyon Engel, who "produced" THE HITCHHIKE KILLER and owns the copyright. However, it's reported that Engel never did any writing and farmed it out to various authors, so Engel was actually a house name working under a house name, so to speak.

1 comment:

Matt Farkas said...

Cool find, Marty! Looks like a fun series to check out.

Have you ever used the BookFinder search engine? I found a few copies there of DYNAMITE MONSTER BOOGIE CONCERT (a title just begging to be swiped by stoner-metal kings Fu Manchu) there, though none to be had as cheaply as 50 cents!

Isn't it peculiar how quick most of these series are to employ the "outsider" cliche ("So-and-so does things his own way - and gets results!")? It makes sense that right-wing authoritarians would embrace extra-legal tactics out of hostility to due-process and contempt for non-conformists (is it any wonder Joe Friday never became the model for law-and-order Republicans?), but what's Chopper Cop's angle then? Personal vendetta? Coerced cooperation? "Reluctant warrior" who knows no other means to find his way?