Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Snow Queen

In his Black Samurai series and his Narc series (which he penned under the name Robert Hawkes), author Marc Olden demonstrated a terrific talent for creating intimidating over-the-top villains. It has been said that an adventure or an action piece is only as strong as its bad guy, which is perhaps why the Black Samurai and Narc series are among the top echelon of men's adventure novels.

In THE DELGADO KILLINGS, the fourth of Olden/Hawkes' Narc books (published by Signet in October 1974), the villain even gets his name in the title. He's Raul Delgado, "a fifty-two-year-old Cuban cocaine dealer grossing fifty million dollars a year" who is also facing a high-profile trial that could put him away for a long time. His strategy to beat the rap is to ensure no one is alive to testify against him. Possessing a list of the government's witnesses against him, Delgado hires Victor Poland, an ex-cop turned hitman to murder them. Oh, and also to kill John Bolt, the D-3 agent (Department of Dangerous Drugs!) who arrested him.

It's a testament to Olden's skills that Delgado is not the most interesting character in THE DELGADO KILLINGS. Poland is smarter and more ruthless, and as an ex-cop, he has access to inside information to use against his targets that not even his millionaire boss can get. Olden seems to have more fun writing the bad guys than he does his hero Bolt. Bolt is a fairly standard action hero--single, handsome, dedicated to crimefighting with no hobbies, family members, friends, or outside interests to get in his way. Bolt is tough and intelligent and is certainly written as the man to root for, but we learn more about Delgado and Poland in this book than we do about Bolt in all four Narc novels to date.

Olden wraps up THE DELGADO KILLINGS with an exciting chase and shootout within the New York City subway tunnels. I think it's safe to say that Olden liked Victor Poland so much that he left open the question of the assassin's death at the end. Does that mean Poland will return in subsequent Narc novels? THE DELGADO KILLINGS leaves us with that impression. I look forward to finding out.

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