Saturday, December 20, 2008

Heroes Beware

Warner Books' Ninja Master series is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine. Clearly created to take advantage of the shortlived ninja craze of the 1980s, which began with Cannon's hilarious ENTER THE NINJA and even permeated an episode of QUINCY, M.E., of all things, the Ninja Master books were mostly written by Ric Meyers, who did double duty for Warners by also penning some of their Dirty Harry novels. Warners tended to get cute with the names of their house authors with "Dane Hartman" writing the Dirty Harry books and Wade Barker (Warner Books) on the Ninja Masters.

Meyers' Ninja Master books, judging from the two I've read so far, are pure, nasty sleaze. The hero, an American ninja named Brett Wallace, is portrayed as a somewhat urbane individual who enjoys culture, fine dining and occasional boom-boom with his lady Rhea, who owns a San Francisco restaurant. But when he gets pissed off, which is often, Wallace turns into a killing machine, laying waste to a slew of baddies in a methodical, hand-on fashion that would make Mack Bolan green with envy. Meyers doesn't shy away from scenes of ugly, fantastic gore and sleaze, which is actually a good thing when tackling the subject of BORDERLAND OF HELL.

This 1982 Ninja Master entry sends Wallace and his karate-kicking buddy Jeff Archer to Mexico to rescue a young Chinese stewardess named Meiko, who has been kidnapped by the brutal General Estrada and put to work as a sex slave for him and his cigar-chomping pals to use at their whim. Meyers' uncomfortable use of titillation and humiliation in graphically describing Meiko's experiences, which include enduring a pubic shaving and forced lesbian lovemaking for the delight of Estrada's audience, has the effect of putting the reader in the place of the book's perverse villains. Whether Meyers enjoys abusing Meiko or putting his readers on the hot seat, I can't really say.

Periodic flashbacks to Brett's days in training with a wizened ninja named Yamaguchi serve as padding for this 175-page novel and are obviously swiped from David Carradine's KUNG FU TV series. Otherwise, BORDERLAND OF HELL really moves, exploding at just the right times in scenes of incredible violence. Sometimes, the action is motivated by nothing except pacing, as in the scene where Wallace and Jeff encounter a family of peasants being tormented by Estrada's thugs, motivating Brett to open a can of neck-ripping, bone-smashing whupass.

Grimy sex and sadistic violence—what more can you ask for? Brett doesn't cut anybody in half the way he did in MOUNTAIN OF FEAR, but fans of sleazy adventure novels shouldn't be disappointed.


Anonymous said...

I hated this series with a passion. It gets even worse when he comes in contact with a porn ring. We are talking wanting to scrub yourself with a wire brush afterwards to get the memory of it out of your head.

Unknown said...

Rough scenes for sure, but Meyer did write some action packed fast reads.

His non fiction books are good, "For One Week Only"
is one I wished I'd bought when I had the chance.

Good Site, I enjoy your reviews.