Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Battle For Power

1974's THE CASTRO FILE is the earliest entry in the Death Merchant series I have read, and it's different from later entries. #7 in the Pinnacle series by Joseph Rosenberger runs more than 200 pages, and spends much more time on plot and characterization than later books, which sometimes riddled more than half its pages with machine gun bullets. Here, Rosenberger takes his time, fleshes out the villains, lays out a complicated espionage plot, and still leaves room for his trademark lurid shootouts.

THE CASTRO FILE's plot is a tried-and-true favorite among crime and adventure writers: assassinate a high-level government official and replace him with an exact double. This time around, it's Fidel Castro who is the target. With the Cuban dictator making peaceful overtures towards the hated United States, the Soviets plot to lure Castro onto a boat under the guise of a relaxing fishing trip, murder him, and install their own "Castro": a Kiev actor who has undergone extensive plastic surgery and two years of learning all of Fidel's habits and movements.

The Death Merchant is working for the CIA to sneak into Cuba and prevent the Soviet plot, which may be one of the few times that an action hero ever had to go to Cuba to prevent a Castro assassination. While Rosenberger introduces a handful of colorful characters in THE CASTRO FILE (the title character even plays a large part, not just relegated to a corner as many real-life figures are in novels), we don't learn a whole lot more about Richard Camellion that we did before. Except that he's really, really, really good at killing Russians. No, I think we did know that already.

No comments: