Showing posts with label Penetrator. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Penetrator. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Penetrator #03 - Capitol Hell

We've covered the first two Penetrator novels, authored by Mark K. Roberts (odd numbered installments) and Chet Cunningham (even numbered installments) using the pseudonym Lionel Derrick. This was a long-running men's action-adventure series published by Pinnacle in the style of The Executioner and The Butcher (among others). Mostly, this is just fun escapism that's completely disposable. The series is available in audio book format through Books in Motion, narrated by Gene Engene or Kevin Foley, which is typically how I enjoy this series, and in digital by Wolfpack.

In the series third novel, Capitol Hell, Mark Hardin (The Penetrator) witnesses a car crash involving a Mob goon. The criminal's dying breath whispers the word “SIE”, which leads Hardin to a special Washington D.C. club called Societe International d'Elite. This reminded me of Ian Fleming's Moonraker, when James Bond is invited to join the posh club at Blades in London. Hardin not only wants to learn more about the club and its relation to the dead mobster, but also who assassinated the press secretary to the President of the U.S., which just so happened to be Hardin's buddy. 

There's an oddball cast of club members that have established a secret club within the club. They dress in robes, partake in weird chants, and have obligatory plans to take over the world. This club nonchalantly provides hypnotic drugs to the VP and have a strategy to blow-up Airforce One, which is utterly ridiculous. Also, once the club takes control of the U.S. (and I guess the Speaker of the House, Senate leader, and Secretary of State) they will force more military chaos in Latin America to increase their profits.

For the most part, Capitol Hell is a fun ride filled with outrageous moments of unintentional hilarity and wild action-adventure. Hardin is nearly indestructible, gets laid by two women, and fights this clandestine cult-club on a golf course and in old Williamsburg, Virginia. His tools of the trade are his trusty Colt Commander .45 and a dart gun (1 dart for sleepy, 2 for death!). These books tend to connect to each other in small ways, and Capitol Hell connects to the last two events in Los Angeles and Vegas. It isn't necessary to read them in order I suppose, but why not? If you are taking the trouble to track down the series, buy them in sequential order. 

Get the eBook HERE.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Penetrator #02 - Blood on the Strip

With the success of The Executioner, Pinnacle began creating titles that captured the action-oriented, vigilante feel. In 1973, the publisher released The Target is H, the first novel of The Penetrator series. It ran a total of 53 installments under the house name of Lionel Derrick. The odd numbers were written by Mark K. Roberts and the even installments by Chet Cunningham. I enjoyed the series debut and wanted to revisit the character. The second entry, Blood on the Strip, was published in October, 1973.

Cunningham begins the novel with an eight-page prologue recapping the character's origin story and events from the first book. The series can be read in any order and features hero Mark Hardin as a Vietnam veteran fighting crime vigilante style. He's aided by two behind-the-scenes allies in Professor Hawkins and a Native American named Red Eagle. This opener explains that Hardin destroyed a California mob family and he's now prowling Las Vegas searching for his next mission.

The book's opening chapters has Hardin detonating charges at a talent agency called Starmaker. After, he heads to Professor Hawkins and Red Eagle to summarize events in Vegas. Thus, his recount to them makes up this entire novel and explains the sequence of events that led to Starmaker's fiery destruction. I like when books start with the conclusion and then map out how these events developed. It's like starting with the Oreo stuffing.

Hardin meets a young woman named Sally Johnson, an aspiring model and actress trying to earn a living in Vegas. At a restaurant bar, she advises Hardin that the talent agency she is using wants her to begin stripping and prostituting. When she refuses, they issue violent threats. When Hardin attempts to escort Johnson to her car, he's jumped by enforcers of the agency. Sally is cut to shreds and left to bleed out in the parking lot. Thankfully, she's rushed to the hospital and Hardin begins assembling a plan of attack. 

Cunningham's narrative keeps a steady pace as Hardin investigates the agency and its owner. In what will become a familiar formula, the investigation leads to some hit and run tactics destroying parts of this immense criminal empire. The villain behind the agency is like a knockoff female nemesis of James Bond. She keeps sex slaves locked in cages and eventually captures Sally to lead Hardin to her enforcers. Readers know how the story ends, but the ride is a lot of fun.

Since this was Cunningham's first Penetrator novel, I think this installment is a feeling out process. Hardin doesn't necessarily behave in the same manner in future novels and it becomes less elementary and neanderthal. Roberts had a better version of the hero in the debut, but Cunningham eventually finds a connection to the character and delivers equally enjoyable installments (so I've been told). If you love  the 1970s men's action-adventure genre, The Penetrator is in the upper echelon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Penetrator #01 - The Target Is H

Powerhouse publisher Pinnacle capitalized on its own success with 'The Executioner' with a wildly successful, over-the-top vigilante series entitled 'The Penetrator'. Beginning in 1973, the series launched with “The Target Is H”, the first of 53 installments published under the house name of Lionel Derrick. However, the series was masterminded by journeyman author Chet Cunningham ('Avenger', 'Pony Soldiers'), who wrote the even numbered volumes. The odd numbers were penned by Mark K. Roberts ('Soldier for Hire', 'Liberty Corps.'). I decided to check out where it all began - Penetrator #1: “The Target is H”.

The novel introduces series protagonist Mark Hardin and the events that led to his war on organized crime. Hardin excelled in sports, eventually lettering in wrestling, basketball and football in high school. On the cusp of a lucrative NFL contract, Hardin refuses to cooperate with gambling junkies during his last collegiate game and experiences a horrific back injury that ends his athletic ambitions (there's more to the story but I'm no spoiler). Hardin then joins the U.S. Army and finds that he is a remarkable soldier. After numerous medals, Hardin's military career ends with an exceptional record and an honorary discharge.

While hoping to find the gambling junkies that ended his sports career, Hardin and his girlfriend Donna Morgan run into a heroin distribution ring in Los Angeles. Too close to the fire, Donna is murdered and Hardin finds himself aligned with her uncle, Professor Hawkins, and a talented Native American named Red Eagle. As a trio, they launch a crime-fighting crusade from a desert fortress called The Stronghold.

This series debut consists of a number of guerrilla firefights between Hardin and a mob family led by Don Pietro Scarelli. Mark Roberts writes like Don Pendleton's clone, firing off an admirable Mack Bolan knockoff in Mark Hardin. Despite the book's cover (and most of the series for that matter), Hardin isn't some suit-wearing spy that's chasing brutes and babes. In fact, I was surprised that Hardin is mostly concealed in black fatigues without any bodacious beauties. It's all action, from car chases on windswept, desert roads to infiltrating the mob in a slick ambush. Roberts presents three distinct firefights that were above average for a 1970s vigilante paperback...and that's saying something.

Overall, “The Target Is H” was a stellar first entry in what would amount to be a tremendously successful run of men's pulpy action-adventure novels. This one is a must read and thankfully Chet Cunningham's estate have made the first 26 installments available as affordable ebooks.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Penetrator #24 - Cryogenic Nightmare

The Penetrator series was a Mack Bolan knock-off written by Chet Cunningham (even numbered installments) and Mark K. Roberts (the odd ones) under the house name of Lionel Derrick. The books are generally mind-numbing, escapist fun of varying quality. The cover of the 24th installment, “Cryogenic Nightmare,” promises a Florida setting, and who doesn’t like some fun in the sun to fight the winter blues?

The Penetrator is Mark Hardin, an American Vietnam vet action hero with Native American blood, a fat bankroll, a fortress of solitude and a passion for wasting bad guys. His vigilante missions have made him a fugitive, and the FBI likens him to Robin Hood in the paperback’s prologue. His target selection and assignments are managed through a college professor who also provides analytical support to Hardin on his missions.

In this installment, The Penetrator’s target is Preacher Mann, an organized crime figure with tentacles stretching into all sorts of badness, but pimping seems to be his true passion. Cunningham gets right to the point by describing Mann as a “vegetarian negroid” and shows off the pimp’s opulent lifestyle by explaining that Mann owns a Betamax hooked up to a 48-inch TV screen. Even in today’s world, one would have to control a substantial criminal empire to achieve such entertainment-system decadence.

After receiving his assignment from the professor, The Penetrator heads down to West Palm Beach, Florida and begins a lot of pretty standard gumshoe work investigating Mann’s business interests and shell companies. These scenes have some decent gunfights but go on much too long. Readers want to see the sexy, frozen babes we were promised on the cover art and synopsis.

It’s not until well into the second half of the paperback that Hardin learns of Mann’s diabolical plan to kidnap super-hot chicks and cryogenically freeze them for future consumption as high-price call girls. Hardin eventually penetrates Mann’s hidden island lair where the villain is kind enough to fully explain his creative and moronic plan in painstaking detail to our hero.

“Cryogenic Nightmare” is really a prose comic book with fun action set pieces building towards a final showdown between The Penetrator and the evil Preacher Mann. The novel owes a lot to corny, 1930s-style pulp fiction where bad guys experiment on damsels in distress in underground island hideouts until the swashbuckling hero can save the day. The pacing of this installment wasn’t great, but you don’t read The Penetrator for literary greatness. Mostly, it’s a fun read as long as your expectations are under control. 

Purchase a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Penetrator #14 - Mankill Sport

Chet Cunningham remains one of my favorite authors of pulpy men’s adventure fiction, but I’ve had trouble connecting with his popular series ‘The Penetrator’ written under the pseudonym of Lionel Derrick. The series ran for over 50 installments and was launched to capitalize on the success of Don Pendleton’s ‘The Executioner.” Cunningham’s take on the serial vigilante genre was mostly silly and over-the-top and usually not very good. For me, it’s always been a challenge to remain focused on the written page when I’m so busy rolling my eyes.

“Mankill Sport” from 1976 is the 14th installment in the series, and I was seduced by the plot synopsis which touts the book as a 1970s take on Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” in which a hunter stalks men through the deep woods as prey. It’s a premise that has been re-worked dozens of times over the past century, and I was curious to see what Cunningham would do with the concept. The book review is below and a discussion of the novel was featured on the Paperback Warrior Podcast on July 8th, 2019 (LINK).

For the uninitiated, Mark Hardin is The Penetrator, a half-Cheyenne former U.S. Army killing machine with a brilliant mind and expert marksman skills. As “Mankill Sport” opens, Hardin is two-and-a-half years into his one-man war in crime and has achieved folk hero status among millions of groupies worldwide. Early in the paperback, he receives an assignment from his mentor to target a Detroit drug lord and big game hunter named Johnny Utah.

At his best, The Penetrator recalls Detective Comics’ Batman - no super-powers but well-resourced, violent, and quick access to cool gadgets. The first half of “Mankill Sport” has Hardin following Utah’s trail across North America to force a deadly confrontation. Because it’s disclosed on the book’s cover, I’m comfortable telling you that Utah’s hobby is kidnapping innocent people and hunting them through the thick Canadian woods like animals, and the climax of the novel finds Hardin in the role of Utah’s prey. Can The Penetrator turn the tables and transform the hunter into the hunted?

I’ve read several paperbacks in ‘The Penetrator’ series, and this one is the best of the batch I’ve sampled. The premise is derivative as hell but it’s extremely well-executed and ultra-violent. Moreover, the entire series is available for purchase on your Kindle for super cheap. I can’t necessarily endorse other books in the series, but “Mankill Sport” is essential reading for men’s adventure fans.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, July 8, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 01

It’s the debut of the Paperback Warrior Podcast! In this episode, we’ll provide an introduction to our hosts Eric and Tom. Together, we look at the show’s primary focus on vintage fiction and our introductions to the genres. We’ll discuss the goldmine of paperback treasure, the famed Chamblin’s Book Mine in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as two novels - "Sins of the Fathers" by Lawrence Block and "Penetrator #14" by Chet Cunningham. Plus we look ahead at the upcoming episodes and highlight some content featured right here on our flagship site, Stream the episode below or on Stitcher. Android users will find us on the Radio Public app. You may also visit us on the following services:

Spreaker, Soundcloud, YouTube, Direct Download, Castbox Listen to "Episode 01: Welcome to Paperback Warrior" on Spreaker.