Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Havana Hit

Burt Wulff is back in the fifth of fourteen Lone Wolf novels penned by Barry Malzberg under the name Mike Barry. The Lone Wolf series is unusual for the men's adventure genre in that it actually comes to a definitive end, rather than just fading away. It's also one of the better written series in the genre.

Too bad HAVANA HIT isn't among the finer Lone Wolf entries. Very light on plot and action, this 1974 book from Berkley Medallion picks up with the valise of heroin Wulff picked up in Las Vegas in DESERT STALKER. The plane taking him back to New York is hijacked to Cuba, where the drugs fall into the hands of a psycho government official named Delgado, who hands them off to corrupt Intelligence head DiStasio, who plans to take the dope--a million bucks worth--to New York to sell.

Wulff, whose crusade against the mob stems from his fiance's death by overdose, enlists the reluctant aid of a 'Nam-vet helicopter pilot named Stevens to blast his way first into Delgado's office, then DiStasio's jungle estate. Although HAVANA HIT is not as exciting as previous Lone Wolf books, Malzberg creates an interesting relationship between the singleminded Wulff and the burned-out Stevens, who is a fully developed and sympathetic character whose fate is a powerful shock.

Wulff's first name was originally Burt, but was inexplicably changed to Martin in DESERT STALKER. Here, he's Martin on the inside, but still Burt on the back cover. Speaking of covers, the Lone Wolf books offer some of the most striking paperback covers, though this one painted by Mel Crair is incredibly misleading, since no women appear anywhere in the story.

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