Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Survival Scam

No, this Pinnacle Books series has nothing to do with James Cameron's film. In fact, THE KILL SQUAD was published in 1983—one year before Cameron's THE TERMINATOR made Arnold Schwarzenegger one of the world's biggest movie stars.

Pinnacle's "Terminator" is Rod Gavin, an ex-CIA assassin who has retired to a quiet Colorado community where he hopes to permanently retreat from the killing and bloodshed that marked his former life. Of course, in these paperbacks, no assassin/'Nam vet/ex-Mafioso can ever escape his old life. Just when Gavin thinks he's out, they drag him back in—you know the drill.

In the third Terminator book, the first I've read, Gavin looks into the murder of a New York City assistant district attorney whom Gavin knew slightly from various CIA missions. It looks as though the brother of a young woman of Gavin's acquaintance is the murderer, though when he, his fiancé and the sister all turn up horribly tortured and murdered, Gavin gets involved. He ends up in Arkansas, where a team of international assassins have created a survivalist retreat, so they can blend in with the gun-toting local yokels. From there, the "kill squad"'s leader, Bruner, sends killers all over the world to commit murders with the ultimate goal to team with a Libyan hit squad to assassinate the President of the United States.

THE KILL SQUAD plays like a made-for-TV movie with little action and no sex. I can imagine budget-minded producers shooting this one in Vancouver with Bruce Boxleitner in the lead. The author, "Quinn," who may be Dennis Rodriguez, sets up a potential powerful finale with the Presidential assassination, but the kill squad never leaves Arkansas, as Bruner invites Gavin to join the survivalists, not knowing that he intends to do so his own way—guns a-blazin' in the middle of the night. Beyond an intriguing twist involving Bruner's identity, THE KILL SQUAD, while a quick, easy read, is too jumbled and detached from the action to provide many thrills.

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