Monday, December 20, 2010

Deadly Game

I know. It's been a long time since I did a book review here. I had been laying off the trashy novels for awhile to catch up on other things, but now I'm back and starting the new reviews with a winner. And I must say I'm surprised it took Pinnacle fourteen novels for the Penetrator to rip off "The Most Dangerous Game."

First published in 1924, "The Most Dangerous Game" is a short story by Richard Connell and has probably been stolen for use in more novels, stories, movies, and television shows than any other. I believe only the 1932 feature THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and 1956's RUN FOR THE SUN are the only official film adaptations, but you've seen the central plot a hundred times: man and/or woman is captured by a crazy hunter who sets them loose in the jungle/desert/forest with a head start and then tracks them as game. For instance, in SURVIVING THE GAME, it was a homeless Ice-T who was the quarry of hunters including Gary Busey and Rutger Hauer. Even GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (!) did a MOST DANGEROUS GAME ripoff with great white hunter Rory Calhoun tracking Gilligan.

The 1976 novel MANKILL SPORT, written by Chet Cunningham under Pinnacle's house name of Lionel Derrick, pits Mark Hardin, the Penetrator, against a Detroit mobster named Johnny Utah who runs an operation in Canada in which he kidnaps people off the street, strips them naked, cages them, and systematically sends them off into the woods to be tracked and hunted like game by rich assholes.

Hardin allows himself to be captured to expose the operation from the inside, but Utah and his men get a lot more than they bargained for when they inadvertently snatched a victim who can fight back. Even without shoes and clothes, the Penetrator kicks some major ass. As he's not a total psycho, unlike some other men's adventure heroes, he tries to show some mercy for Utah, who then proves he isn't worthy of it.

MANKILL SPORT packs few surprises, but is still a compact, easy read that delivers a couple hours of thrills. It drags a bit at the beginning when it saddles Hardin with a romance with Joanna Tabler, an FBI agent he met in an earlier story. Hardin even gives horsey rides to some little kids! Bah, who wants a domesticated Penetrator?


sleestakk said...

Haven't read any of these Pinnacle titles but I will start looking them up at Half Price Books. Sounds like the kind of story that could me interested and, if nothing else, have for the fun cover art. Suppose it doesn't matter what order they're read? =)

Marty McKee said...

Not really. One nice thing about these books is they usually do a good job of recapping the hero's origin and relevant past cases in the first chapter.

Temple of Schlock said...

I bought a pile of early Penetrators and Death Merchants for half a buck apiece at a used paperback shop in Moab, UT two years ago. I don't think this was one of them though.

Jack Badelaire said...

I've got a few Penetrators, but I've never read one. I'm sad that I don't have this book, because The Most Dangerous Game is one of my favorite short stories (and I own a copy of the film as well). Absolutely agree that it is one of The Great Plots of the action/adventure fiction genre.