Saturday, April 12, 2008

Two Million Quick Kill

Pinnacle's Penetrator series is rapidly becoming one of my favorite. The five Penetrator novels I've read so far are fast-paced adventure stories with just the right ingredients of bloody violence, kinky plots and oddball gadgetry. Probably because the authors were ripping these things out right and left, just pounding their typewriters in pursuit of as many paychecks as possible, the Penetrator stories—as with many in the men's adventure genre—are breakneck espionage/crime plots in which no story element is too strange.

Mark Hardin, the half-Indian Vietnam vet who dedicated his life to crimebusting after his fiancé was murdered in a car crash meant to kill him, goes to New York in HIJACKING MANHATTAN to find a black militant group called Black Gold, which establishes itself as a threat to be taken seriously when it blows up a subway station. The city agrees to pay the group a $2 million ransom, but when the police department's plan to follow the money blows up in their faces (literally, as the detective pursuing the ransom is run off the road and killed when his car explodes), Black Gold asks for more money not to release a nasty virus called X-446 into the Manhattan water supply.

Chet Cunningham, the author of HIJACKING MANHATTAN (as Lionel Derrick), approaches the plotting with such gusto that he manages to include a wild scene in which the Penetrator disguises himself as a black man to investigate an auto painting outfit he thinks may be a Black Gold front. With "the right chocolate brown covering on his hands, arms and face," Hardin spends a couple of hours wandering around Broadway, listening "to the chatter of the blacks, refining, updating his 'black' mannerisms." Oddly, his disguise doesn't really work, as the employees spot him as a cop right off, leading to one of many of the book's exciting shootouts.

By the way, Cunningham was in such a hurry to hit his word count that he never wraps up a dangling plot thread in which the female cop assigned to deliver the ransom is captured, gangraped and held captive. As far as I know, she's still tied up in bed, waiting for the Penetrator to rescue her.

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