Showing posts with label Robert Randisi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Randisi. Show all posts

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Nick Carter: Killmaster #181 - The Decoy Hit

The 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' series was one of the post popular and enduring titles in men’s adventure fiction with 261 installments between 1964 and 1990. Robert Randisi remains one of the most entertaining and highly-regarded authors in the private eye and western genres. The promise of these two successful brands colliding in Killmaster #181: “The Decoy Hit” from 1983 was too intoxicating of a combination to pass up, so here we go.

In 1983, the Defense Intelligence Agency used human couriers to transport sensitive information from Point A to Point B. The paperback’s premise is that a someone is killing these intel deliverymen en route and stealing their top secret paperwork. The U.S. national security community turns to the super-secret government agency called AXE that employs our hero, Nick Carter. The agency chooses Nick to deliver a package to a missing scientist in London for the purpose of locating the man and smoking out the courier assassins.

Along the way Nick encounters Stephanie, the sexy daughter of a murdered DIA courier also seeking to learn the truth about her father’s demise. Of course, this leads to the trope where the professional spy is forced to team up with the erotic, bumbling amateur. Nick and Stephanie’s investigation keep them bouncing from Washington to London to Paris to Switzerland to Rome.

Randisi wrote this installment using the same winning formula he employs in his popular ‘Gunsmith’ series of adult westerns - extremely short chapters, propulsive action, and lots of dialogue. This makes for a speedy and never-boring read, but it felt more like a mystery than a pure spy novel. Randisi was stuck with some of the dumber traditions the Killmaster series forced upon him, including the proper names given to Nick’s knife and gun (Hugo and Wilhelmina), but those elements of the story were largely just background noise. One upside is that Randisi also brings his knack for graphic sex scenes to “The Decoy Hit” - kid’s stuff compared to ‘The Gunsmith’ - but more explicit than Ian Fleming ever dreamed.

Overall, “The Decoy Hit” is not a masterpiece of espionage genre, but it’s a fun action-mystery from a talented author working with an established franchise. Most importantly, it’s a very good installment in the wildly inconsistent ‘Nick Carter: Killmaster’ series, and is certainly worth your time.


The Killmaster series employed a deep bench of authors writing under the Nick Carter house name during the 26-year publication history. This made the continuity, quality, and writing style a bit of an inconsistent mess. The best way to navigate the series is to go straight to authors you know and trust. Robert Randisi is one such writer who can always be counted on to deliver a quality product. His Killmaster titles are as follows:

#152: Pleasure Island (1981)
#155: Chessmaster (1982)
#169: The Mendoza Manuscript (1982)
#173: The Greek Summit (1983)
#181: The Decoy Hit (1983)
#184: Caribbean Coup (1984)

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, January 6, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 25

On Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 25, the guys take a deep dive into the world of Nick Carter: Killmaster. Tom introduces listeners to James Howard’s obscure Steve Ashe series, and Eric reviews the nautical heist classic, “Hell Ship to Kuma.” Check it out on your favorite podcast app or listen online at Stream the show below or on any podcast service. You can also download the episode directly HERE. Listen to "Episode 25: Nick Carter: Killmaster" on Spreaker.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Gunsmith #446 - Deadville

‘The Gunsmith’ series of adult Westerns by Robert Randisi (writing as J.R. Roberts) is the most enduring - and the last man standing - of the mega-successful adult western titles. It’s also the most consistently good, thanks to having one author and visionary at the helm rather than a rotating cast of hired guns writing under a house name. The series started in 1982 and new installments are still released on a regular schedule, so I decided to check in with a 2019 episode, “Gunsmith #446: Deadville.”

Clint Adams is The Gunsmith, a drifter hero and gunfighter who rides from town to town finding adventures and getting laid in the Old West. Over the years, Randisi has played with the idea that Adams has achieved a kind of folk hero celebrity status in the untamed American West. This has made for a fun premise in several different novels, and provides the motivation for the villains of “Deadville.”

Mayor Tom Simon of Wentworth, Nebraska has cooked up a scheme to make his crappy, dying village into an 1800s boomtown. He’s studied the success of towns like Deadwood and Tombstone and believes he’s cracked the code of their success. These towns have benefited from the violent deaths of famous gunfighters - such as Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood. His plan is to entice the famous Clint Adams into town, have The Gunsmith killed in a dramatic fashion, change Wentworth’s name to Deadville, and a tourist Mecca is born!

A few months later, The Gunsmith is lured to Wentworth under false pretenses - stopping to get laid along the way. Now, Mayor Simon’s toadies can’t just shoot Adams in the back and expect Deadville to be the next OK Corral. The killing of Clint Adams requires some drama and theatricality to make the story go viral, so he enlists the help of a gunfighting local outlaw named Bad Tony Bacon to lay the groundwork for a staged killing within city limits.

There’s a cool vibe in “Deadville” that reminds me a bit of the movie “The Truman Show.” Many of the citizens and leaders of Wentworth understand that they are creating theater to set up the sequence of events leading to The Gunsmith’s murder. The only one without any knowledge of the gag seems to be Clint Adams himself. Randisi’s writing is forward-moving and breezy with lots of dialogue and short chapters making the pages fly by. The sex scenes are graphic and very explicit, but they can be skipped or skimmed if you’re the type to blush easily.

What we really have here is a mystery where The Gunsmith attempts to understand what Mayor Simon is planning before Adams starts catching bullets with his body. Randisi is a seasoned writer of both mysteries and Westerns, so he’s on familiar ground here - particularly after authoring over 500 adult western novels. The story was very compelling but there wasn’t a lot of action outside of the bedroom until deep into the paperback. Overall, “Deadville” is formulaic as hell and probably not a great selection for your wife’s book club, but the story is a lot of fun with tons of sex and a likable stalwart hero. What’s not to like?

This book was discussed on the fifth episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast: Link

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Lady Gunsmith #6 - Roxy Doyle and the Desperate Housewife

Thanks to the guiding hand of creator and author Robert Randisi (writing as J.R. Roberts), the Gunsmith series of Adult Westerns has the most consistently high-quality stories of the genre. Not coincidentally, it’s also the only long-running series still around today. In 2017, Randisi launched a spin-off series starring Roxy Doyle, the ‘Lady Gunsmith’, and two years later, we are now six installments deep into the series.

Book six is playfully titled “Roxy Doyle and the Desperate Housewife,” and the plot initially leans on the series’ central thread - Roxy’s search for her missing bounty hunter father. She finds herself chasing a rumor to a small Wyoming town where dad was allegedly headed. This being an Adult Western, Roxy wastes no time getting laid as soon as she gets off the trail before settling in to wait for her father’s arrival. 

While Roxy is on the lookout for Dad, a woman named Jane arrives in town looking for Roxy. Once they meet, Jane discloses that she’s been married to Roxy’s elusive father for a few months, and they live just a short ride away. The next morning Roxy rides to the town Jane described, and no one there knows anything about Jane or Roxy’s dad. Why would this strange woman give Roxy a bum steer? Is she really Roxy’s step-mom?

The mystery moves to Idaho and is unraveled over subsequent chapters among traditional Western action. I won’t spoil the details here, but it involves a ton of cash from a bank robbery and a gang of outlaws seeking to recover the loot. There are double-crosses galore culminating in a satisfying conclusion leaving Roxy to ride another day. 

Lady Gunsmith #6 is a quick and entertaining read - short chapters, lots of dialogue, plenty of graphic sex and explosively violent action. Randisi is a seasoned literary entertainer, and he’s got the Adult Western formula down pat. His series books are crafted in such a manner that they don’t require sequential reading, so “Roxy Doyle and the Desperate Housewife” is as good an entry point as any. Recommended.

Purchase this book HERE

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

High Stakes

The intersection of gambling and crime is fertile ground for fiction writers and serves as the theme for “High Stakes,” a 2003 anthology of eight short stories edited by Robert Randisi. Three of my favorite authors are among the contributors, so I decided to read and review the stories by Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, and Randisi himself.

“Let’s Get Lost” by Lawrence Block

Block’s contribution features his popular NYC private eye Matt Scudder, the hero of Block’s most acclaimed series of novels. This particular story originally appeared in the September/October 2000 issue of “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.”

“Let’s Get Lost” is a throwback to a time when Nixon was president, and Scudder was a married NYPD detective who drank too much. One night watching a baseball game at home, Matt is summoned to the apartment of a prostitute with whom he has a personal relationship (Elaine becomes a significant character in later books of the series). As a favor to a client, she needs Matt to clean up a mess at a home poker game in a Manhattan brownstone.

The mess in question involves one of the poker players who winds up with a switchblade buried in his chest - dead by the time Matt arrives. The unusual circumstances of the murder cause Matt to advocate staging the crime scene along with the poker guys to create a more coherent story for the soon-to-be-responding officers. Is Matt being a crooked cop or does he have an ulterior motive?

Matt Scudder stories - long or short - are always fantastic, and this one is no exception. The Scudder P.I. novels contain many references to his days on the NYPD, but it’s interesting to actually read a story where Scudder is on the job as a cop and Elaine was just his favorite hooker.

“Breathe Deep” by Donald E Westlake

Westlake’s entry in the anthology first appeared in the July 1985 issue of Playboy where you also could have seen Grace Jones naked if you had $3.50 burning a hole in your pocket.

Chuck is a Las Vegas blackjack dealer standing at attention behind a $10 table with no players at 3:30 in the morning. Out of nowhere, he is approached by an old man that Chuck suspects is a derelict who wandered into the upscale casino on the Strip.

The conversation veers toward the urban legend (which may be true, for all I know) that casinos pump oxygen onto the gaming floor to keep the gamblers energized and awake. The story poses the question: what if someone wanted to use that knowledge as a weapon?

Westlake is always a good author, but at seven pages, this story was too short to really build up any momentum or tension. And without spoiling the ending, I’m not sure that the violent plan being executed would have actually worked in real life.

“Henry and the Idiots” by Robert J. Randisi

As the creator of several highly-regarded mystery series characters (Miles Jacoby, Nick Delvecchio, and Joe Meough, to name a few) Robert Randisi knows his way around a good crime story. “Henry and the Idiots” appears for the first time in the “High Stakes” anthology and has also found a second life as a $2 Kindle eBook.

While playing Caribbean stud poker on board a Mississippi riverboat casino, Henry Simon wins $257,000 in one hand and plans his escape from his miserable nag of a wife and her idiot brothers who all share the same trailer. Instead of going home with the money. Henry takes the cash and splits on a tour of casinos west of the Mississippi en route to Reno.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer, Henry’s wife dispatches the idiots to find Henry and figure out why he didn’t come home from the casino the night before. When she catches wind of Henry’s big gambling win, she’s ever more motivated to find her husband - and the money. Things come to a head in Reno once the idiots catch up with Henry and the security of the money falls into serious jeopardy.

The lighthearted story ends up with some fun twists and was a nice way to kill a half-hour.

The other five stories in “High Stakes” were written by Leslie Glass, Jeff Abbott, Judith Van Gleason, and Elaine Viets, and I’m sure they are all solid mystery tales. Based on the three stories I read, this fun anthology is an easy recommendation. Nothing revelatory, but some enjoyable short stories from a handful of the genre’s modern titans.

Buy a copy of "High Stakes" HERE

Friday, February 2, 2018

Lady Gunsmith #01 - The Legend of Roxy Doyle

Legendary western author Robert Randisi (writing as J.R. Roberts) introduces a new series character in “Lady Gunsmith: The Legend of Roxy Doyle”. This fun, sexy novel ties in nicely to Randisi's other successful adult western series, ‘The Gunsmith’. However, you don't need to have read any of ‘The Gunsmith’ books (there are well over 400) to enjoy Lady Gunsmith's origin story. The book was released in March of 2017 by publisher Speaking Volumes.

The novel introduces us to Roxy Doyle as a child on a wagon train journey westward in 1866. Violent events transpire that culminate in a separation of Roxy from her father. Roxy's growing into adulthood and the quest to find her dad serve as the driving action propelling this story forward. Along her journey from town to town, Roxy meets wary sheriffs, bounty hunters, rapists, famous outlaws, criminals, sex partners (plenty of those, by the way), and Clint Adams, the hero of ‘The Gunsmith’ series. Roxy is a likable character who takes charge of her own sexuality and independence. She's constantly overcoming the burden of her own beautiful looks and sex appeal. There's plenty of violent gun-play and intrigue to keep the reader entertained.

Randisi wrote a short-lived series in 2012 called ‘Angel Eyes’ with a sexy female character mining much of the same territory. That series ended too soon, so we can be thankful that many of the same concepts are being explored here. There's nothing really negative to say…it's an easy read with short chapters and lots of dialogue. You'll never feel lost or confused. By now, the author has got this genre well figured out. My only caveat is that this is an adult western, so there are many scenes of graphic sex interspersed with the explosive action, mystery and gun-play. If sex scenes bug you, this book is not for you. For the rest of us, we can all celebrate the launch of this great new series. With many of the adult western series titles (‘Longarm’, ‘Trailsman’, ‘Slocum’) now cancelled, Roxy Doyle is a great new addition to the genre.