Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fargo #04 - Massacre River

Under house name John Benteen, Ben Hauss crafts another adventurous entry in the long-running 'Fargo' series with “Massacre River”. This is fourth in the series for publisher Belmont Tower (different numbered order with other publishers), originally published in 1969 with a cool asking price of $1.50.

Wealthy Chinese entrepreneur Jonathan Ching asks to meet with Fargo for a rather odd proposition – he wants Fargo to escort his daughter, Jade, through a war-ravished stretch of the Philippines. The destination? Another wealthy Chinese man named Chea Swen-Tai, who has been promised the hand of marriage from Ching's daughter. Ching and Swen-Tai arranged the marriage before Jade was even born, so it's only fitting she despises the marriage. Fargo will do anything if it's the right price, and after negotiating over a few thousand our Paperback Warrior is ready for action.

During the Spanish-American War, the Philippines were ceded by Spain to the US. America didn't recognize the First Philippine Republic, thus war ensued. The rebellion against the US included the Republic of Negros, Tagalog Republic, Sulu and the main enemy in the book, the Moros (which are really just tribal and violent Muslims). Fargo served in the US Army in the Philippines and already knows the job is a perilous one. To assist on the 300-mile trek, he recruits a fighting Irishman named O'Bannon, whom he actually has to fistfight first. 

It wouldn't be a Fargo novel without sex, and we get that with the mandatory mattress romp with the client. Jade, fully westernized, pleads with Fargo to help her escape. It turns out she has already lost her virginity in London and Chea Swen-Tai will kill her once he realizes he is marrying used snatch. Fargo is faced with a moral dilemma, deliver the goods knowing she will be put to death or forget the money and liberate her. For one night, Fargo gets to think it over with Jade offering up her body. 

The trek itself is a typical adventure/road story with some natives fighting the convoy, some meet and greet with other Americans and ultimately...betrayal. The book's rowdy end has crazed Confederate soldiers refusing to accept the North's victory, attempting to rule parts of the Philippines and eventually capturing Fargo and company. We go from route preparation to road adventure to a “let's escape the lunatics” finale. It's a typical Fargo story...and that means it is absolutely a blast. We get a cannon fire competition, knife fights, nearly endless run 'n gun and a whole lot of brawling. I just can't get enough of this series and character. If you like adventure – and who doesn't - Fargo is your guy. Bring on the next entry, “The Wildcatters”.