Showing posts with label Marc Olden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marc Olden. Show all posts

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Narc #02 - Death of a Courier

Marc Olden (1933-2003) is a familiar name for crime-fiction fans. He authored series titles like Black Samurai, Narc (as Robert Hawkes), and The Harker File. In addition to series titles, Olden penned 17 stand-alone novels and two works of non-fiction. We've covered both Black Samurai and Narc and I was anxious to read more of his work. After enjoying his Narc debut, I wanted to revisit the character with the second installment, Death of a Courier. It was published by Signet in 1974.

You can read the series in any order. The gist is that John Bolt is a seasoned narcotics agent working for a government agency called D-3. The agency has ten regional setups covering all 50 states. Nine of these operations cover 49 states, the tenth covers New York City, where Bolt has worked for over a decade. He reports to Sam Rand, who then reports to a guy named Craven, D-3's head honcho. 

Death of a Courier lives up to its name. The novel's premise is that drug couriers for Vincent DeTorres, a Cuban mob, are being murdered by enforcers working for a New York mobster named Don Rummo. Bolt's entrance into this drug war begins in Central Park when a courier he is tailing is shot and killed by hired guns. Reporting the incident, Bolt then learns that couriers in big cities are being killed. He then gains the assignment of digging into the details, and this is where Olden shines.

Undercover, Bolt infiltrates DeTorres' mob by partnering with an enforcer named Ortega. There are numerous firefights, but the most memorable one entails 20-pages. In it, Bolt and Ortega find themselves in a Detroit airport to receive a large shipment of heroin. Thankfully, the deal falls apart and the scene explodes as these warring factions shoot it out in close quarters. Bolt's use of a .45 Colt and shotgun reminded me of the intensity of the opening scene in the series debut. Olden describes these action scenes with so much detail that readers can almost smell the cordite. 

While the war between rival mobs is really interesting, Olden introduces another exciting addition to the plot. There is an included backstory of Bolt's former partner, Paris, being brutally beaten by racists. In rehabilitation, Paris feels that the agency failed him. Months later, Paris kills the racists and enters a life of criminality. Bolt learns that Paris has re-emerged as an enforcer for Don Rummo and that he has vowed to kill seven Narc agents, one for each year that he served the agency.

Needless to say, Death of a Courier was simply awesome. Olden is a great storyteller and I felt that the narrative was soaked with realism. A year before this novel, the author wrote a non-fiction book titled Cocaine, a deep dive into New York's drug trade. Partially due to this, the Narc series doesn't seem terribly far-fetched like a Butcher or Death Merchant entry. Further, Olden's martial-arts studies lends credit to some of the fight scenes. 

If you are bored with the superhuman vigilante stuff, Narc is a must read title. These books are becoming more and more pricey, so I encourage you to get them now. Remember to search under Olden's pseudonym of Robert Hawkes. You'll thank me later.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 40

Episode 40 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast is our contentious “Women and Minorities” episode. If you can handle the heat, listen to the guys candidly discuss the work of Helen Nielsen, Amber Dean, Joseph Nazel, and Marc Olden. Be warned: This episode is sure to be highly controversial and may spark a worldwide boycott. If you dare, check it out on your favorite podcast app, stream below or download directly HERE:

Listen to "Episode 40: Women and Minorities" on Spreaker.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Narc #01 - Narc

Narc was a violent 7-book run published between 1973-1975. The debut, simply titled Narc, was released by Lancer (Enforcer, Conan). The remainder of the series was published under the Signet brand. The author's name on the cover is Robert Hawkes, but this is really Marc Olden of Black Samurai fame. 

The “Narc” is John Bolt, a former New York City blue who comes down hard on police corruption. Lying in a hospital bed, Bolt meets a guy named Craven and is told about the Department of Dangerous Drugs (D3). They offer him $25,000 a year, ten weeks of training in DC and assignments all over the country working strictly narcotics. The book opens six years into Bolt's career with D3. Our hero is in La Playa with five other narcotics agents to arrest Antoine Georges Peray, a major player pushing $2 billion in heroin. This opening scene has a convoy of cars carrying Peray, Bolt, agents and local enforcers to the airport. Peray's guerilla fighters descend on the convoy in an effort to free their man. In what could be the best opening pages of any book, we find Bolt using a .45 and sawed-off shotgun as he weaves between and under cars cutting off the guerillas at the knees. His own men turn on him and we immediately realize that Bolt is an absolute badass. It's a massive firefight that has Bolt utilizing grizzly methods to bring Peray into the US. Unfortunately, this opening scene is really the best part of the book. The rest is about average. 

The novel focuses on a high-profile dealer in the US named St. James Livingston. Livingston has shut down all of the drug traffic in NYC while awaiting a massive shipment from Peray. His drought has increased tensions and hostilities in the city with users needing fixes and dealers needing cabbage. With Bolt capturing Peray, it clogs up the pipeline. Needing the drugs and the big payout, Livingston puts hits on Bolt, including targeting Bolt's girlfriend Pavanne. There's numerous side stories including Peray's daughter and a former colleague named Zan. The narrative is propelled with Bolt infiltrating gangs, Narc teams and collaborating with local law enforcement to stop Peray's shipment of white death into New York. 

This Narc debut is an effective, gritty 1970s action vehicle. While the beginning is clearly the best Olden has to offer, the average continuation of the storytelling is worth the price of admission. With Olden's writing style I was reminded of the equally good The Liquidator run by Larry Powell. It's a similar character with both authors writing in the same vein. Quick, punchy with equal shares of dialogue and action – Narc is definitely a good start to a well-respected series.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, March 5, 2018

Black Samurai #01 - Black Samurai

When African-American author Marc Olden began his fiction writing career in the early 1970s, he juggled two different action-adventure series characters. As Robert Hawke, the nine books in his 'Narc' series spanned from 1973 to 1975. Meanwhile, his 'Black Samurai' series lasted eight installments - all released in 1974 and 1975, a heavy production schedule for a relatively new author. 

“Black Samurai #1” is a terrific introductory novel from an author who clearly understood the genre. The story opens in 1973 with an action-packed massacre at a Samurai training camp outside Tokyo. After being banished from the U.S. Army for Vietnam war crimes, Colonel Leo Tolstoy (an odd literary reference never fully explained), along with a group of rogue commandos and a pack of attack dogs launch a bloody raid on the Samurai encampment. 

The slaughtered Samurai students and master in the camp were all Japanese with the exception of the one survivor, our hero, Robert Sand. The reader is quickly presented with a few flashbacks that explain how an American Black Guy became a Black Samurai with a paperback series of his own. 

As a character, Sand is not exactly brimming with personality, but he sure knows how to kick ass. The action sequences featuring Sand’s quest for vengeance are really well-written. They are the perfect blend of bloody martial arts fighting and gory gun-play. Sand is an earnest man of honor who is intelligent, gallant, courageous and highly-skilled in every martial arts discipline. 

However, this inaugural 'Black Samurai' novel really succeeds because of the addition of two key characters: an outstandingly diabolical villain and a powerful billionaire benefactor. 

First the villain: Colonel Tolstoy is one of the best bad guys ever appearing in 1970s numbered paperbacks. His suicide squad of lethal toadies includes an Arab terrorist, an IRA gunman, a Vietnamese torture specialist and an American black militant - all lead by a U.S. Army officer bent on revenge. He is a growling, loathsome, genocidal maniac and the reader really becomes invested in his eventual downfall. 

Early in the novel, the reader is also introduced to its most interesting character, former two-term U.S. President William Baron Clarke. He was responsible for discharging Colonel Tolstoy from the Army following atrocities in Vietnam, and now uses his money and influence to save the world behind the scenes. He’s a brash Texan running an off-the-books intelligence apparatus and sponsoring capable action heroes to prevent global tragedies. His working relationship with the Black Samurai is the richest relationship in the short novel. 

The plot is extremely well-executed and structured similarly to an early Mack Bolan novel. Good guy scenes and bad guy scenes alternate leading to a satisfying and violent conclusion. Blood is shed. Women are laid. Ethnic stereotypes abound. But it’s a formula that works because Olden is such a good writer who can spin a tale filled with interesting characters, vivid action and creative bloodshed.  Book one of this series will definitely make the reader want to tap into future Black Samurai adventures. 

After Olden’s death in 2003 and the subsequent digital fiction revolution, the author’s heirs did something very smart: they kept his work alive by making his books available on eBook and audio platforms at affordable prices. It’s astounding that more rights-holders haven’t gone this route to monetize and preserve genre fiction stories from this era. Modern readers who want to explore his fiction don’t need to scour used bookstores for scarce and decaying paperbacks. For 'Black Samurai', some great action is only a click away.