Friday, April 17, 2009

The Spanish Connection

I'm a little surprised it's taken me this long to get around to reading a Nick Carter novel, as it's most likely the longest running action series in the history of original paperbacks. From 1964 to 1990, a whopping 261 Nick Carter novels were published. None of them featured the author's name on the cover, since the adventures were purportedly penned by Carter himself. Since so many different authors over the years took a crack at a Carter adventure, it appears as though continuity ran a little ragged in terms of style and descriptions of the main character. Apparently, this Nick Carter, who was an American agent codenamed Killmaster, is no relation to the pulp detective that debuted in print in the 19th century, spawning several novels, movies (Walter Pidgeon played Carter), and a radio series.

THE SPANISH CONNECTION (Award, 1973) is about the 82nd Killmaster novel to be published. Carter is assigned by AXE to pick up an attractive Mexican agent, Juana, and take her to Spain, where they're to meet a Mafia druglord named Enrico Corelli. Corelli, after years of pushing hard dope, found a conscience after his college-age daughter died of a heroin overdose. He decides to turn state's evidence against the Mob and sets up a meeting with the Killmaster and Juana on a yacht off the coast of Malaga. Knowing the Mob wants him very, very dead before he can turn over microfilm containing all the details of their drug operation, Corelli makes Carter jump through all sorts of hoops to protect his health. And since nobody knows what Corelli looks like, Nick has no way of knowing which of the new friends he makes on this adventure is Corelli and which is the hitman on his trail.

Told in first person by, reportedly, author Bruce Cassiday, a pulp author of some renown who also dabbled in TV tie-ins (including a MARCUS WELBY, M.D. novel), THE SPANISH CONNECTION is a crackling good yarn short on gadgetry and pyrotechnics. It feels more like a tight private-eye yarn than a globetrotting spy adventure; actually, now that I think about it, it's similar to Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series or Edward Aarons' Sam Durell books, but not as rich. It runs 200 pages, but feels much leaner, which is a great compliment. I understand the Killmaster series varies in quality, but this is a good one to start with. It was one of 14 (!) Carter novels published in 1973.


Bruce said...

Nick Carter books are mindless fun of varying degrees. Just depends on who the ghost writer is. I've got stacks of these books and never tire of them. The more over the top the better.

Christopher Mills said...

I read about 30 or so of these as a teen, and recently found my old copies again.

I just finished reading my second Nick Carter adventure this month, TARGET: DOOMSDAY ISLAND. I read EYES OF THE TIGER, last week. Both are from '73.

EYES was fun, tho Carter was insufferably superior, but DOOMSDAY was surprisingly good.

I'm reading another '73 entry, BUTCHER OF BELGRADE, next...

Johny Malone said...

Spanish editions of Nick Carter's books:

Pelaphus said...

Cassiday actually wrote three MARCUS WELBY novels: