Sunday, May 17, 2009

New York Was Doomed

KILLER WARRIOR, one of eight (!) Black Samurai novels published by Signet between May 1974 and June 1975, is another top-notch international adventure with plenty of action, sharp pacing, and a terrific villain. The Baron, the former U.S. president who bankrolls the Black Samurai's missions, sends hero Robert Sand to Paris to prevent a deadly plot from destroying New York City. Japanese gangster Gozo Saraga, seeking revenge for the deaths of his family in the Nagasaki bombing, plans to detonate a homemade atomic bomb under the Empire State Building. The main villain is Valbonne, a powerful Frenchman whom Saraga hires to oversee the building of the weapon, which Valbonne does by kidnapping a handful of German scientists and putting them to work.

The best baddie, however, is Mangas Salt, a vicious Apache with a hatred of both the white and the black man. Salt deserted the U.S. Army in Vietnam and went to work as Valbonne's chief assassin. A man who enjoys his work, Salt's trademark torture is to hang someone upside down over a fire until the heat bursts the victim's skull until his brains leak out and extinguish the fire. Huge, mean, and cunning, Salt looks forward to meeting the Black Samurai face to face, after Sand threatens to put the kibosh on Valbonne's plans.

Writer Marc Olden's only misstep is the inclusion of Saraga, who does furnish an excellent motive for revenge—one that can't help but leave the reader at least slightly sympathetic. However, Saraga is also one villain too many, and Valbonne and Salt are so vividly portrayed that Saraga comes across as something of an afterthought.

Olden describes the chopsocky action well with the highlight being Salt's torture of an informer by locking him inside a cage with a pair of nasty baboons!

I have seven of Olden's eight Black Samurai novels (missing only #8—THE KATANA), and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

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