Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Nick Carter: Killmaster #01 - Run Spy Run

Nick Carter is a WW2 veteran who's employed as a secret agent for AXE. From what I gather in the opening pages of “Checkmate in Rio”, the third installment, AXE works as early penetration for the CIA. Carter's subordinate is a guy named Hawk, who in turn has his own higher authority that remains unnamed in this particular book. The goofy stuff? Carter has silly names for his weapons, and these names come up a lot in the narration. Wilhelmina is a 9mm Luger taken from a German soldier in the war. Hugo is an Italian stiletto. Pierre is a little marble that can be twisted to release deadly gas (which he carries on his scrotum in later books). The names aren't so bad, but I cringe when Carter yells things like, “Quick! Hand me Wilhelmina!”, or when the narrator tells us how good Carter is at everything due to his daily yoga routine. It reminds me of Doc Savage and his fantasy gym training leading to miraculous feats of wonder. It's bonkers, but enjoyable in an over the top way.

In this one, Nick and AXE agent Julia Baron get tangled up in a plot designed by staple arch enemy Judas to blow up world leaders to propel the Red Chinese. It's called “Project Jet” and simply places bombs on planes to kill off various targets. It's a rather elementary plot, but Nick and Julia need to find the perpetrator and the reasoning. The novel is dominantly placed in London with all of the red herrings and suspicious looking smarties. It's here that Nick and Julia get into the sack in an effort to foil the evil mastermind. The book's finale puts both Nick and Julia in an underground horror fest to square off against the steel-handed Judas (of course he is bald, wretched and has a steel hand) and his deformed stooge Braile. It's overly fantastical, but that's part of the charm. As the agents run from location to location, there's intrigue about the location of the next bomb and an exhilarating rush to stop the ominous tick-tock. The book's ultimate plot leads to a plan to assassinate the US President. Published in 1964, I wonder if Avallone/Engel/Moolman wrote this prior to Kennedy's assassination in November of 1963? If not, I would have thought it a bit taboo to resurrect that idea during a time of America's mourning.

Based on this debut, I'm at the table with spoon and fork for 'Nick Carter'. From what I have read, if you can stomach this pulpy fruit, the series only ripens for more tasty and modern flavors later. While book two is still missing in action for me, I'm already on to “Checkmate in Rio” with an eye on book four. Killmaster for life.