Friday, February 15, 2013

Terror On The Docks

Richard Deming was a prolific mystery writer who turned to the quick-buck market of television tie-in novels during the 1970s. Under the pseudonym Max Franklin, Deming wrote novelizations, including five CHARLIE'S ANGELSes, a VEGA$, and eight STARSKY & HUTCHes. Since the STARSKYs, at least, were based on episodes, all Deming had to do was follow the script and add a few scenes to stretch the story to 150 pages or so. I don't intend for the above to come across as demeaning, as it does involve some measure of skill to adapt schlock in a readable fashion, but I don't believe Deming put as much sweat and tears into this paperback as he did his originals. I presume Ballantine intended this 1977 novel for kids, as the plot unfolds neatly and without surprise, and the dialogue is puerile. Then again, you could say the same about the actual STARSKY & HUTCH episodes.

Deming/Franklin's fifth STARSKY & HUTCH novel is titled TERROR ON THE DOCKS, though that appears nowhere on the outside of the book, and is based on a first-season episode written by Fred Freiberger (notorious for producing STAR TREK's third season and sinking that show with juvenile plots) and directed by Randal Kleiser, who moved on from television to do GREASE and THE BLUE LAGOON.

Blame Freiberger for the story's dumbest turn, which has detectives David Starsky and Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (played in the series by Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, respectively) accidentally bumping into Nancy Blake (Sheila Larken, Scully's mother on THE X-FILES), a childhood friend of Hutch's. Even though they haven't seen one another in many years, she reveals she's getting married in a few days and asks Hutch to give her away. And since she appears to have no other friends, she invites Hutch and Starsky to come over to the house where she lives with her widowed mother for home cooking nearly every evening.

Meanwhile, Starsky and Hutch are working a case where masked crooks knocked over a warehouse and killed an undercover cop. Well, of course, the gang's ringleader and the guy who actually pulled the trigger on the cop is Billy Desmond (Stephen McHattie, PONTYPOOL), Nancy's groom-to-be. What a coincidence.

Desmond's reveal is no surprise in either Freiberger's teleplay or Deming's book, though even if it were intended to be, it wouldn't. STARSKY & HUTCH wasn't a great show, but there was pleasure to be found in its action scenes and the breezy byplay between Glaser and Soul. Naturally, neither is adequately reproduced in the book, making it not worthwhile for the hour or so it takes to read it. You may as well invest fifty minutes in watching the TV show.

1 comment:

James Reasoner said...

I seem to remember that Deming's MOD SQUAD books, written under his own name and using original plots instead of being based on scripts, were pretty entertaining. But that was a long time ago.