Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hollow Mountain Man

The Penetrator attempts Bondian heights in this adventure that's further over the top than usual. What's disappointing is that author Chet Cunningham (as "Lionel Derrick") wimps out at the climax. What should have been the big finale—with the Penetrator battling an army of jumpsuited cronies in an underground laboratory and preventing a captured Soviet satellite from destroying the world—is dispensed with fairly quickly in a puzzling anticlimax. Cunningham apparently thought we'd be more excited by a rushed helicopter chase and routine stalk-and-shoot through some Mexican woods.

THE HELLBOMB FLIGHT (Pinnacle, 1975) is a typical mad scientist plot. Dr. Orlando Fitzmueller, banished from NASA and the rest of the scientific community for his, shall we say, extreme viewpoints about achieving peace on Earth, establishes a secret base beneath the Utah mountains. From there, he plans to hijack a Soviet weapons satellite and blackmail the major powers into giving up all their atomic weapons, or else he'll unleash some powerful bad fury upon the world. With the aid of a handful of scientists and a Mafia hitman named Marshall Davis, Dr. Fitzmueller is ready to achieve his dream, and if a few folks have to die to get there, so be it.

Fitzmueller has a daughter, of course, yet the Penetrator amazingly doesn't romance her, nor does she play a major role. I like THE HELLBOMB FLIGHT as much as I do the other Penetrator novels, though its reticence to fully embrace its espionage plot is a drag. Other Penetrator novels have involved megalomaniacs and slightly futuristic technology, but the main plot point of the rampaging satellite is wrapped up in a couple of pages. Fitzmueller, who is nicely portrayed as a benevolent man with good intentions, despite his mad means of making them real, is apparently captured off-page even.

I know the cover (not one of the series' best) says Nevada, but I'm pretty sure the book takes place mostly in Utah. A nice touch is wrapping up a side plot introduced in TOKYO PURPLE, an action-packed chapter with nothing to do with the Fitzmueller storyline.

No comments: