Saturday, March 17, 2012

Yes, Mr. President

CHINESE PUZZLE is said to be the first important novel in the Destroyer series created and written by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy.

Released by Pinnacle in March 1972 (during the Nixon Presidency), the third Remo Williams adventure is the one that begins to solidify the relationship between Remo, the ex-Newark police detective trained to be the ultimate martial artist, and Chiun, the ancient Korean warrior and master who becomes his trainer, mentor, and "little father."

CHINESE PUZZLE also provides some background to Chiun's character and, more interestingly, CURE itself. The only people in the world aware of CURE's existence are Remo, Chiun, their boss Harold Smith, and the President of the United States (well, and any previous living POTUS). CURE was created by Smith and John F. Kennedy as an illegal crimefighting force to be used when regular law enforcement wouldn't work. One of CHINESE PUZZLE's most interesting subplots involves what would happen if anyone else were to learn of CURE's existence, which would basically result in Smith's ordering Chiun to murder Remo, through a code transmitted to Chiun through Remo himself, and Smith's suicide.

Sapir and Murphy's plot, surprisingly, is weak. Perhaps they were more interested in building the characters and their world than in actually telling a story this time around. Basically, Remo and Chiun are ordered to find a Communist Chinese general who is gone missing in the United States. It's a task made more difficult because of the presence of the general's 22-year-old wife Mei Soong, whom the duo is also made to bodyguard during their investigation.

The political correctness flies in scenes between the Chinese-hating Chiun and the Korean-hating Mei Soong. But eyebrow-raising rhetoric won't surprise anyone with a couple of Destroyer novels already under their belt. CHINESE PUZZLE is a must-read for anyone interested in the Destroyer books.


Grant said...

I know I'm coming to this very late (I just discovered your site, thanks to the "Glorious Trash" site), but are you planning to do any more DESTROYER's?
The early ones, to around # 23, are especially good when it comes to the titillating stuff. It isn't exactly what you'd call "sleaze," but it makes up for that in other ways, like the Remo character's habit of "letting" the femme fatales seduce him, and the ways he handles them afterwards. Destroyer # 2 has a real "WTF" moment that mixes the two things, and Destroyer # 6 (one that you've reviewed) has a moment that really comes close to it.

Marty McKee said...

Grant, I sure hope to. I have slowed down on reading men's action novels for the past year or so, but I still have a large collection and will probably get back to them eventually. Thanks for reading!