Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Wisdom Of Death

After reading the next two Ninja Master novels first, I have to conclude that Wade Barker's VENGEANCE IS HIS (Warner, 1981) is something of a disappointment. Oh, there's nothing wrong with the basic storytelling, but it's a fairly mundane urban revenge tale that treads familiar ground from countless exploitation films of the period. The debut book seriously lacks the grungy sleaze of the later entries that may have been completely tasteless, but was at least memorable.

Barker, who may have been Ric Meyers, gives VENGEANCE IS HIS a two-act structure. The first reveals the origin of the Ninja Master, who is Brett Ashford, a young man who returns to his parents' home in Ohio with a new Japanese wife, Kyoko, after several years overseas studying philosophy. After an elegant party, at which the Ashfords announced Kyoko's pregnancy, Brett's parents, wife, and unborn child are murdered during a raid by psychotic drug-addicted bikers while Brett is driving an intoxicated friend home. Seething with rage, Brett watches while the killers are eventually set free on a technicality. Using the martial arts skills he developed as a child and honed during his time in the Far East, Brett lures the three baddies to a secluded spot and murders them. Realizing his true calling, Brett liquidates his family's fortune, stashes the cash in various bank accounts around the world, returns to Japan, and trains to become a ninja.

Nine years later (this jump in time is literally dealt with in a single sentence), Brett (now Alexander) moves to Los Angeles after reading about street gangs terrorizing innocent citizens. He finds an apartment in a colorful building populated by old people, a grizzled ex-cop, and a sexy call girl. He goes into Charles Bronson mode from his new base, investigating the Street Rangers and ingratiating himself with the leaders, so he can get them alone and assassinate them.

Unlike the Ninja Master books that followed, VENGEANCE IS HIS is light on gore and sex. Although it's an okay story decently told, there's little about it that would stand out among the more lurid paperbacks of the era. Perhaps that's why Warner Books sleazed it up in the books that followed. I would say that VENGEANCE IS HIS would make a good movie, but I feel like I've seen it many times already.


Bruce said...

yeah the whole one sentance makes up for 9 years was total bullshit.

I have the ninja war or what ever the follow-up series with the white covers and giant symbols collecting dust.

ACW said...

This one was alright. Wait till you get to the 8th one, then Year of the Ninja Master then War of the Ninja Master. It gets REALLY dark.