Showing posts with label Protector. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Protector. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Protector #01 - Venus Underground

Author Rich Rainey contributed to Mack's universe, penning three Super Bolans and nine 'The Executioner' titles through the 90s and 00s. Before those, he created a six-book series entitled 'The Protector'. It was released between 1982-1985 through the action oriented Pinnacle line. The idea was rather clever. Alex Dartanian, The Protector, is an ex-CIA agent that creates a “clearing house” called DSS (Dartanian Security Services). This agency allows over one-hundred government operatives to conduct private excursions and affairs outside of their normal government roles. He gives them an operation front and they provide him much-needed intel on his own missions, which are all conducted under a team called ICE (Inner Court Executions). All of this is conveniently outlined on the first book's second page, and kudos to Rainey for quickly explaining the idea behind the series. The plausibility of all this is just bonkers, but it allows our paperback hero the ability to hunt criminals and save humanity. That's the goods.

The series debut, “Venus Underground”, has a four-man team of sex-slavers kidnapping a young girl named Cindy Brooks. Led by the completely competent main man Jerry, the foursome make the cabbage by peddling wholesale butt to wealthy sickos who either utilize the girls for their own entertainment or re-sell them for profit. Cindy is snatched, but later they realize that the girl was using Brooks as her last name to disguise the fact she is a senator's daughter – Cindy Barrington. The four sell her to a vile creep named Storm in the Catskill Mountains. Soon, a ransom call is made to Senator Barrington who then contacts our guy Alex “The Protector” Dartanian. Ready. Set. Go!

I like the way Rainey writes. He's the meat and potatoes writer that I typically rave about (Dan Schmidt, Ralph Hayes) and his pacing is Formula-1. By page 30 we have the complete plot (rescue the girl!), who The Protector is and what his ICE team actually does. Further more, we get two characters that Alex chooses for the mission (it reminds me of that 80s cartoon M.A.S.K where they pick the characters best suited for the mission). Alex chooses the strongman of the team, Mick Porter, and a Japanese martial artist named Sin Simara. Make no bones about it, this trio of bad-asses rivals even Mark Stone and his MIA Hunters. Whether this is always the same trio remains to be seen, but the book introduces about a half-dozen members of ICE in an all-guns-blazing assault on a Montreal stronghold. 

“Venus Underground” is an invigorating genre entry that is fast-paced, gritty and provides just enough curiosity to warrant an additional look at the series. The final pages suggest that this series will remain firmly in the “stop sex-slavers” theme and the second book is entitled “The Porn Tapes”. Whether the team remains its own independent agency will be a question as readers journey further into the series. I'm theorizing that this Senator Barrington may commission the team to pursue the sex ring based on his personal vendetta. Regardless of direction, “Venus Underground” is a rock-solid debut for what looks to be a promising short-lived series. Cheers to artist George Wilson's cover art. He's best known for his "jungle art" with titles like 'Turok: Dinosaur Hunter' and 'Tarzan'.