Monday, August 12, 2013

Survival Of The Swiftest

Based just on the Black Samurai and the Narc series, I feel comfortable anointing the late Marc Olden as one of the finest authors of action paperback originals of the 1970s. Click the above link to read reviews of his Narc novels. This post is about Olden's fifth Black Samurai book, THE INQUISITION, published by Signet Books in 1974.

I've mentioned in previous reviews of Olden's books that he has the rare gift of creating villains just as memorable and colorful as his heroes--in fact, often more so. The antagonist of THE INQUISITION is a vainglorious black terrorist who calls himself Dessalines, and he and his young revolutionaries (some of whom are white) have pulled off the crime of the century. Dessalines has kidnapped Mary Clarke, the college-bound daughter of William Baron Clarke, a two-term President of the United States, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, and the secret employer of Robert Sand, the Black Samurai.

Sand is the only American to be trained as a samurai in Japan under Master Konuma. And when Konuma and 22 of his students were murdered by Colonel Tolstoy's mercenaries, Sand made the crazed American terrorist (who also had plans to snatch Mary Clarke) pay with his life. Sand respects "the Baron" more than any other man in the world--black or white--and when Clarke's daughter is kidnapped, he has only a few days to investigate.

Dessalines never just kills his captives, however. No, he first judges them in a kangaroo court, as we see when he sentences a police officer to death by beheading at the hands of Dessalines' main enforcer, known only as Machete (guess why). He plans to "try" Mary Clarke as well, unless the Baron agrees in three days to turn himself into Dessalines' men and be tried for the crimes of being wealthy and white.

I like the way Olden manages to flesh out even the most minor of characters in just a few pages or even paragraphs. For instance, even though the two Secret Service men guarding Mary are murdered by Dessalines' men almost as soon as they're introduced, Olden looks into their heads and creates fully rounded personalities for both men, which makes their deaths more of a shock. THE INQUISITION's action scenes are terrifically rendered by Olden, and even though the terrible BLACK SAMURAI film wouldn't be produced for another two years, it's easy to picture the recently deceased star Jim Kelly playing Sand in your head.

1 comment:

Joe Kenney said...

It's a shame these Black Samurai books are so overpriced these days, though there are always the recent Kindle editions for those who want to go that route. Personally I prefer the original incarnations, with the awesome cover art. It looks to me like the same artist did the covers for both the Black Samurai and the Narc books. (And speaking of which, too bad Olden never gave us that team-up...John Bolt working with Robert Sand.)

I've only read volume #6 of this series, and I loved it. One of these days I will track down the rest of them.