Ralph Hayes conclusion to his four book series 'Stoner' was “King's Ransom”. It was released by Manor in 1978 and is the only entry that doesn't have the series name or number on the cover. I'm not sure why the publisher went this route considering the artwork leaves much to be desired. Perhaps that was the main issue? The lack of quality artwork to support the 'Stoner' title? While the previous three entries look fantastic, this one seems rather dull. But the contents offer us another quality entry in what amounted to a fantastic short-lived series.
Unlike the prior three novels, “King's Ransom” puts Stoner on the trail for a kidnapped corporate hotshot instead of a treasure or stolen relic. It's another urban installment, like the prior book “All That Glitters”. Set in Buenos Aires and Argentina, the novel has a militant group called the Mendoza Committee planning a snatch and run of Thurston King, head of an empirical oil company called AROCO. The terrorist group wants to rid corporate, and oil companies, from Argentina and wants to make an example out of King. The plot is to kidnap King and ransom him for three-million dollars. How this solves anything is debatable, but it's a surefire way to set up Stoner versus the baddies.
Argentina government contracts Stoner to assist the police in retrieving King. It's another $50K offer like the last jobs (I guess this is market rate for retrieval of stolen people and goods?) and Stoner takes the contract. On the flip-side, this Mendoza Committee ruthlessly kills King's son while mouth raping his wife. King is taken to a cottage in Buenos Aires, shot in the knee cap and left to starve, dehydrate and die while waiting for his employer to pony up. In a satirical way, the company finds King expendable and isn't going to pay a dime to liberate him. Thankfully, he has Stoner on the case.
This is probably the worst of the series, but the series is so good that even worst could be first when compared to other late 70s action offerings. While the first two books didn't showcase a whole lot of fighting skills from Stoner, these last two introduce a more formidable fighting force. Hayes, again completely oblivious to firearms, has the hero running around with the fictitious Magnum .38 revolver (he has it confused with the .357) and I cringed each time the bad guy screwed a suppressor on a revolver. It's trivial nonsense but as a firearm enthusiast it drives me batshit bonkers. Overall, you can't go wrong with “King's Ransom”. Hunt these four books down, turn your brain off and just have a damn good time.