Saturday, November 08, 2008

The $1,875,920.70 Chicken Dinner

I suppose it's inaccurate to label Bantam's books about the Ms. Squad as a men's adventure series, since its heroes aren't men at all. The Ms. Squad are scientist Jacqueline Cristal, Olympic gymnast Pammy Porter and R&B singer Deena Royce, three sexy, smart, enterprising babes who team up on occasion to pull off elaborate capers. I believe only two Ms. Squad books were written.

In the second, ON THE BRINK, published in 1975, the Squad attempts to duplicate the Great Brink's Robbery of 1950, purely for kicks. Boston's Brink building is no longer standing, but since they aren't in it for the money, the ladies rip off the fast-food chicken joint built on the same spot. Imagine their surprise when the loot adds up to nearly $2 million, not knowing that Henry Jackson, the owner of the Chick 'N' Treat restaurant, is a member of a black mob run by New York's Fats Pendleton.

Author Mercedes Endfield, who may be a writer named Bela W. von Block, who also wrote as Jonathan Black and E.L. McGinnis, also spoofs the current blaxploitation craze in this light-hearted thriller by putting a super-suave black private dick named John Shift (!) on the robbers' tail. ON THE BRINK probably would have been a fun movie if cast correctly; say Jo Ann Harris, Candice Rialson and Judy Pace as the leads. The PG book is good, frothy fun with no sex or graphic violence, and Endfield's heroines are given particular quirks to set them apart. They also use silly gimmicks to cover their tracks, such as Perma-Zonk spray to knock out any guards and Tru-Skin plastic coating to cover their hands and prevent leaving fingerprints behind. The first Ms. Squad adventure, LUCKY PIERRE, also detailed a sophisticated robbery, but I haven't read that one.

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