British author Peter Leslie (1922-2007) authored five novels in the television tie-in paperback series 'Man from U.N.C.L.E.' as well as 12 books starring popular action hero Mack Bolan. In 1981, Leslie was hired to author a series of action-adventures for Signet with a mercenary theme. Using house name Peter Buck, Leslie wrote all nine installments of the ‘Marc Dean: Mercenary' series beginning with the debut, “Thirteen for the Kill”.
The novel begins with a crew of 40 armed mercenaries attempting to beach a small warship on a West African coast. Due to the violent storm, tide and rip-current, 20 of them perish and all of the weapons sink. Thankfully, series hero Marc Dean survives to lead the men into the jungle. After this opening segment, a flashback scene helps explain these confusing events.
The small town of Gabotomi lies where Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria meet. It's only a few hundred square miles, but it has been infiltrated by a terrorist group calling themselves the Nya Nyerere. Their goal is to create an independent territory free of all three countries. The group is Soviet trained, non-Muslim and heavily-armed on a cliff-dwelling surrounded by dense forest and a scorching desert on each side. Diplomatically, no one really cares that this band of Nomad savages have proclaimed their independence. But peacekeepers have discovered that the area sits on a fortune of diamonds, a resource they can utilize to bring peace to all three nations: divvy up the loot and divide it three (or four) ways. The Nya Nyerere are an obstacle that must be removed, so the bureaucrats meet behind closed doors and come up with a solution – hiring Marc Dean to destroy the Nya Nyerere.
Leslie writes Dean like 'Doc Savage'. He's the most athletic guy on the planet, a sharpshooter, martial arts master and a Vietnam vet. He is also a Yale graduate and plays the harpsichord masterfully. In fact, he's written in the vein of Norman Winski's 'Hitman' character, just less arrogant. He even makes love like Hitman with sex descriptions like “entering deep into her like a sword wound”. It's over-the-top silliness...but is it any good?
I enjoy Peter Leslie's literary work on Mack Bolan titles, but “Thirteen for the Kill” was a painful reading adventure that seemed off-kilter and uneven in its presentation. There's 60-pages of Dean and company robbing an armory to gain new firearms. But, this comes after reading about the entire arms negotiation that secured the first weapons...you know the ones that sank in the ocean on page one. There's firefights galore with plenty of gunporn thrown around, but none of it was terribly interesting. The last assault on the terrorist compound involved blowing up a bridge to cut off aid from Nya Nyerere sympathizers. This exciting premise is just botched with a boring jungle fire that alters the whole mission.
Maybe this series just had some early missteps before finding a rhythm, but I'm not tapping any more shoulders to experience the dance again. While this isn't a dismal Hall of Shame contender, its pretty darn close. “Thirteen for the Kill” was an unlucky number for me.
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