Monday, August 15, 2011

Hung By The Thumbs

I think I'm about done with Pinnacle's Dakota series. 1975's CHAIN REACTION, the fifth in Gilbert Ralston's series, is so dull that I could hardly finish it. Really, I spent the last chapter and a half speed-reading, even though this is where the allegedly thrilling climax occurred.

Ralston spent the 1960s and the first part of the 1970s as one of television's busiest writers, penning episodes of major dramas and adventures like HAWAII FIVE-0, I SPY, GUNSMOKE, STAR TREK, and THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR. He also penned the screenplays for WILLARD and its sequel BEN, which were based on his novel about A Boy and His Rat.

By the time he created Dakota, a Native American private eye, Ralston appears to have left Hollywood behind to churn out cheap paperback novels. Unfortunately, CHAIN REACTION reads like a rejected MANNIX script. It lacks excitement and mystery, the cast of characters is ridiculously and confusingly large, and many scenes exist of filler dialogue telling us stuff we either already know or don't care about. Sort of if a writer was trying to stretch a 50-minute screenplay to a 180-page manuscript.

CHAIN REACTION starts promisingly about the murder of an Indian woman who is found in an abandoned house, tortured and hung by her thumbs until death. Her teenage daughter enlists the help of local private dick Dakota, who drags his best pal and the victim's two brothers to Oakland to investigate. Precious little action and lots of driving around occur.

I liked the first Dakota adventure okay, but two others that followed left me wanting.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for reviewing these old books, it brings back a lot of memories. Are you familiar with the "Resistance" series by Gregory St.Germain? It was published in the early 80's by Signet, and was about a special team of freedom fighters circa WW II. I cannot find any info on who would have wrote these books under the house name "Gregory St.Germain". Any ideas?

Marty McKee said...

Nope, sorry, never heard of that series.

thingmaker said...

Well, damn... I didn't know Stephen Gilbert was Gilbert Ralston... Or vice-versa.
I don't read many books in this genre but am interested in your reviews/recommendations... As well as the nuggets of general info that you provide.