Friday, May 11, 2018

The Protector #02 - The Porn Tapes

At the close of Rich Rainey's series debut, “Venus Underground”, the reader was left wondering how Alex Dartanian and his team would continue. In that novel, ICE (Inner Court Executions) nailed a sex slavery ring involving Senator Barrington's daughter. In the final pages I assumed that The Protector would concentrate on hunting more of the slavers and possibly utilizing Barrington as a conductor in this symphony of destruction. The second book is titled “The Porn Tapes” (1983) and from the surface it looks like a continuation of the debut's rather effective, albeit disturbing, content. While equally as good (if not totally surpassing) “Venus Underground”, the concept behind “The Porn Tapes” isn't what I had in mind. Instead we have a porn star being hunted by a criminal preacher. Huh? 

Just like the prior entry, Rich Rainey absolutely excels in this team-based violence extravaganza. Similar to stellar heavyweights like Stephen Mertz, Len Levinson and Dan Schmidt, Rainey incorporates multiple members of ICE into a supreme fighting force. While team-based concepts are a dime a dozen, these authors orchestrate the violence on multiple levels, carving out meaty slabs of destructiveness to match the various traits and characteristics of the team's members. It works well for 'The Protector', enhancing this crime novel and making it an enjoyable genre read.

In surprising fashion, the novel opens with Dartanian taking on a hired gun assignment. The mission? Protect a high-profile porn actress named Melonie Grand from killers. This is a different direction from what I envisioned, but nevertheless it is a neatly trimmed opening for a somewhat elementary plot. But, things prove to be a bit more complex for Dartanian and his ICE mainstays Sin Simara, Val Wagner and Mick Porter.

As the mystery thickens on who is attempting to snuff Grand, other porn stars are getting murdered. The first half delivery is like a good hard-boiled mystery with Dartanian trying to figure it all out. The reader doesn't know who the killer is until the second half, although it's somewhat mentioned in the book's synopsis splashed across the back cover. Reverend Luke Revere is a religious hack preying on the praying, designing a multi-million dollar empire built on sex, drugs and lies. It's clear that the author finds the reality of this industry appalling and holds nothing back. Revere made an early skin flick with Grand and the movie is about to be re-issued due to Grand's new super-stardom. Revere wants to kill her and the movie distributors. 

While all of this is more entertaining than it ever has the right to be, the author incorporates a lot of information about the porn industry of the 70s and early 80s. In some ways I couldn't help but place Grand in the same scenario as Traci Lords, young, exploited but going straight without porn's backing. It's a gripping and intriguing portrait of smut, laced with sex throughout it's 200-pages and brimming over with action and mystery. Dartanian is written well while never being too cavalier or overly admirable (these guys admit enjoyment watching live sex scenes and reviewing the details of porn videos). They exhibit normalcy while stalking the bad guys. There's a little gun porn among the porn, some hard-boiled staging and a high-octane firefight for the finish. 

Next up is “Hit Parade”. I'm marching to it.