Sunday, September 18, 2016

Hawaii Five-0 #2, "Terror In The Sun"

Kudos to the rear-cover copywriter who praised the "sensational long-running CBS-TV series" for his prescience, as TERROR IN THE SUN, the second paperback tie-in novel, was published in September 1969 -- just as HAWAII FIVE-0 was beginning its second season. Of course, the series ran ten more for a total of 12 seasons on CBS, which was then the longest-running crime drama ever.

HAWAII FIVE-0 was a pretty great show for most of its run, combining Hawaii's naturally sun-kissed scenery with gritty crime plots and occasional doses of espionage. The first American television series to film entirely on location in Hawaii, FIVE-0 wasn't shy about shooting in grimy alleys and Honolulu slums, which other shows produced in the state refused to emulate. Jack Lord starred as Steve McGarrett, the straight-laced, uptight leader of a special state police force that reported only to the governor (Richard Denning). In 1969, when TERROR IN THE SUN was published, Lord's co-stars were James MacArthur as McGarrett's number two man, Danny Williams (affectionately called "Danno"), Kam Fong as Chinese detective Chin Ho Kelly, and Hawaiian native Zulu as Kono.

However, a major fault of Michael Avallone's FIVE-0 novel is the lack of teamwork so essential to the series. Danno, Chin Ho, and Kono are taken out of the story very early, making TERROR IN THE SUN virtually a McGarrett solo story. Avallone likely didn't see FIVE-0 during its first season, as he doesn't quite have the McGarrett character down. Though the character was still finding its way during its first season, it was well established that McGarrett didn't drink ("I don't use alcohol," he stated in one episode), didn't smoke, and didn't much fool around with women, particularly not the daughter of a man involved in an investigation and not during a case. All of which Avallone's McGarrett does, unconvincingly.

As for the story, an important British diplomat, Rogers Endore, has arrived on Oahu, and the governor orders Five-0 to bodyguard him. Despite McGarrett's protestations, the governor refuses to provide the cop with any information about Endore's stay -- why he's here or why he needs protecting. What we, the reader, know is that a notorious assassin named the Undertaker has been hired by bad forces in Vietnam to murder Endore. To make his job easier, the Undertaker has recruited six assassins, all from different countries, to take out McGarrett and his Five-0 team, leaving Endore unprotected. Unfortunately, a bigger band of screwups you've never seen, as every assassin bungles his assignment to some extent.

An easy read at 125 pages, TERROR IN THE SUN is amiable enough, so long as you don't let its latitudes with the television series bother you much. As a huge HAWAII FIVE-0 fan since high school, I found the differences annoying, particularly Avallone throwing "The Process" out the window by sidelining the sidekicks and giving the hero all the heavy lifting.

1 comment:

Grant said...

I've never been more than the most casual fan of HAWAII 5-O (which is no insult, since that's how I am with nearly any detective show), and I haven't seen it in forever, but I know that in the pilot of the show McGarrett has at least a partial romance with a woman played by Nancy Kwan. (Of course, in her case, it makes perfect sense that he would break that rule of his.)