Wednesday, November 14, 2012


If you enjoyed Ed Naha's 1980 science fiction mystery THE PARADISE PLOT, you will probably also like the sequel, which Bantam published in 1982. In the first book, shambling reporter Harry Porter went into space to investigate a murder and a cover-up aboard Island One, a mining colony on a space station orbiting the Earth.

In THE SUICIDE PLAGUE, Porter, a perpetually broke and hungover individualist quick with a wisecrack but slow to cultivate close relationships, is back home in futuristic New York City, a dirty, crowded, cynical, and expensive place. Life doesn't seem to be worth a lot in this time period (seemingly the early 21st century, but never quite pinned down by Naha), but a series of teenage suicides are still unusual enough to catch Porter's interest.

The star reporter of the city's lone newspaper (Naha was prescient in predicting the death of print and news--or what passes for it--being force-fed to the populace electronically) becomes involved when he tries to stop one of the teens from leaping off a rooftop and nearly takes a fatal tumble himself.

With the help of a doctor friend, Andrew Cade, and a seedy "peeper" (someone with psychic powers, which are not uncommon in the future) named Marion Saint-Crispen, Porter finds himself getting drawn deeper into the mystery, which expands to involve a charismatic cult leader, a revolutionary new plastic skin that allows its wearer to seamlessly assume another identity, the kidnapping of Harry's attractive neighbor, and even a plot to kill the President of the United States (a thinly veiled slap of Ronald Reagan).

For more on Ed Naha, a name familiar to many fans of science fiction and horror, see my review of THE PARADISE PLOT. He does a nice job with THE SUICIDE PLAGUE, which he apparently penned while moonlighting from his day job writing and editing FANGORIA and STARLOG magazines--essential publications in every genre fan's library of the 1970s and 1980s. At 279 pages, it's just the right length, and Naha excels at spinning several intriguing plotlines, which left me wondering how he could possibly bring them together in an exciting and logical fashion. He does.

Surprisingly (I think this of a lot of really cool old novels I've read), no one has made either Harry Porter adventure into a movie, even though both THE PARADISE PLOT and THE SUICIDE PLAGUE read as though Naha had films in mind. SUICIDE's third act takes place in a tried-and-true villainous stronghold, where--in Bondian fashion--the charming heavy escorts Porter to show off his magnificent and malevolent plan. Strangely, it doesn't blow up at the end.

Another reason to like Naha. He dedicates the novel to one David Harold Meyer, which fans of classic television will recognize as the birth name of the great actor David Janssen.

1 comment:

Jeff Mclachlan said...

Hopefully Naha didn't right that book while hopped up on "happiness pills".