Tuesday, November 6, 2012

He's Deadly - He's Daring - He's Dynamite!

No, not that guy running for public office (insert whatever name you want here) whose attack ads make you insane. Instead, we're talking about Cabot Cain, "the deadliest vice-avenger of all time" as quoted from the cover of Assault on Kolchak by Alan Caillou, the first of six Cabot Cain adventures, published in 1969.

Avon Books - 1969

I picked this paperback up at a used bookstore for a dollar. I knew nothing about the author, Alan Caillou, nor the character from the cover, Cabot Cain. Instead, I grabbed it purely from the crazy cover, especially with that wild psychedelic tie flying over his shoulder, probably just before he's about to kick some Nazi bastard's throat in. One of the things I learned about our six-and-a-half foot hero Cabot Cain, is that he doesn't carry a gun. He prefers to work with his hands. That and he's a martial arts expert and all-around genius.

For example, in an early scene in the novel Cain is presented with a magnificent Hungarian necklace from the 16th century. After looking at it for a moment he recognizes it as part of a collection from King Ulaszlo the 2nd, and that the collection of jewelled pieces from which the necklace is from had been been broken up some two hundred years ago. When his client comments on Cain's remarkable knowledge of obscure Hungarian history, Cain simply replies that it's all on record for anyone who bothers to read. Oh, and he identifies a fake jewel by its chemical compound. Nifty trick, that.

But I'm sort of getting ahead of myself here. The plot of the novel involves these missing jewels, stolen from the Zrinyi family during World War II when their palace was occupied and looted by Nazi's. Now, some twenty five years have passed, and pieces of the Zrinyi collection are finding their way into the black market. Cain is hired to retrieve the rest of the collection, and assassinate the man responsible for the crimes inflicted on Zrinyi family, the evil and twisted Vladimir Kolchak. It seems that Kolchak has also left his mark on the Zrinyi family by siring the beautiful Leda Zrinyi after raping her mother. It is assumed that Kolchak, having disappeared after the war, is in hiding somewhere in South America and is maintaining his living standards by selling off his ill-gotten gains. With this all quickly established in the first few chapters, the adventure begins.

Eventually Cain finds Kolchak, in a mountain fortress in Brazil. Kolchak is as vile as ever, having surrounded himself with luxury, wealth and a small private army of willing soldiers and assassins ready to follow his command. He's also got a sadistic kinky streak a mile wide. One he's all too ready to use once he discovers his own daughter, Leda, is in Cain's corner. Cain's got his hands full on this assignment.

I really enjoyed this novel by Alan Caillou. At first Cain might come across as a bit of a pompous arse, but you quickly get to like the guy and root for him. His obvious talents are usually described with a neat dose of irony. In one instance, after swimming part of the Amazon, clearing jungle traps, and climbing the side of a cliff, Cain tells us he's out of breath, and that he must make a point of keeping himself in better shape. No kidding! And Cain often refers to a bit of arcane knowledge in his grasp from when he taught just such a subject at Stanford, or Oxford, or some such place. And the action is plentiful, as is the suspense, I found myself reading each chapter looking forward to what came next. All in all, it was a pretty fun read. Enough so that I went back to that old bookstore and snapped up the rest of the Cabot Cain novels they had. Good find!


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