Monday, January 06, 2014

Mod Squad #5, "The Hit"

Richard Deming, who wrote at least one unexceptional tie-in novel for STARSKY & HUTCH under the name "Max Franklin," did a much better job under his own for this MOD SQUAD adventure, published in 1970 as THE HIT.

It was the fifth of Deming's five MOD SQUAD novels for Pyramid Books, and, unlike many tie-in paperbacks of the era, was not written for kids. Racial epithets fly in every chapter, as Deming composes a mostly interesting tale of prejudice and murder that gives all three Mod Squaders an undercover role.

Everett Peterson, an important Los Angeles businessman and close confidante of city councilman Frank Gardner, comes to LAPD captain Adam Greer (played by the late Tige Andrews on the television series) after overhearing a conversation over his office switchboard that indicated a murder plot against prominent black leader Julian Ward. Two groups are the prime suspects: the Black Vigilantes, a vocal black militant group with no love of whites, and the Downtown Vigilantes, made up of white-collar white supremacists.

Greer assigns Officer Linc Hayes (Clarence Williams III) to infiltrate the Black Vigilantes and poke around for clues, while Pete Cochrane (Michael Cole) and Julie Barnes (Peggy Lipton) pretend to be a brother/sister duo interested in joining the Downtown Vigilantes. The Mod Squad discovers Gardner is a member of the anti-black organization, and when he is murdered by a sniper who appeared to have been aiming at Ward during the latter's public speech, the mystery grows more complex.

Characterization was not really the TV series' strong suit, and Deming doesn't bother much with it either. Not that THE HIT needs any, as the author seems more interested in examining race relations at a time when the King assassination was still on everyone's minds. THE HIT is not deep or heavily dramatic, but it does a nice job poking around the edges under the guise of a quickie paperback tie-in to a television show popular with young audiences. Executive producers Danny Thomas and Aaron Spelling hold the copyright on THE HIT, and it's interesting they would allow Deming to use their characters in a book with so many racial slurs. Of course, it was a different time, and America was more mature.

1 comment:

James Reasoner said...

All of Deming's Mod Squad books are pretty good. They're original stories, not novelizations of TV episodes as his Starsky and Hutch books were. At least one of the Mod Squad books has some fairly graphic sex scenes in it, as I recall.