Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nick Carter - Danger Key

The image on the screen shifted to Julie Baron. She lay strapped to a table. Beside her, Dr. Orff was preparing his surgical instruments. “This will be Dr. Orff’s first opportunity to operate without unaesthetic since Matthausen,” crooned Judas. 

Award Books, 1966
Yikes! Things look dire for Nick Carter’s girl, Julie Baron, in this 16th “Killmaster espionage chillerDanger Key.  Published in 1966 and written by Lew Louderback, Danger Key brings back Nick Carter’s nemesis, Mr. Judas. But wait, there’s more!

In this one, Carter is assigned to clean up the mess after sloppy CIA agent Ralph Benson lets alcohol and loose lips result in the death another CIA agent from a nasty hit and run out on a desolate Florida causeway. The murdered agent was assigned to monitor recent Cuban refugees. The killer being a mysterious blonde seen driving a “speeding white convertible.” A nearby fisherman witnesses the hit and makes it to the dying agent in time to hear his last words uttered through bloody lips, “Pa…okay…” What the hell does that mean? Well, that’s one of Carter’s jobs to find out.

The dead agent had been assigned to trace a certain Cuban refugee who is believed to be Mr. Judas in disguise. Judas is someone whom AXE is familiar with, and with that, Carter is called in. Carter takes over the case disguised as Ralph Benson who has been sidelined. Carter’s job as Benson is to investigate the murder of the dead agent while making enough obvious mistakes to lull the enemy agents, especially Judas, into revealing themselves and their dastardly designs on the free world.

As Benson, Carter makes the rounds of Big Pine Key, and ends up in a fisherman’s bar where he allows himself to be picked up by a wild party girl name Ingra Brand. Ingra was the girlfriend of the guy killed in the hit-and-run, and the main suspect in his death. She also drives a sporty little white convertible. Ingra’s companion is a spooky cat introduced as Dr. Orff. Carter learns that Orff is personal physician to Professor Brand, Ingra’s father, who lives in a guarded estate in a community known as Senior City. Ingra seems to swing wildly from lusty party girl to sullen wallflower, and it’s Carter’s luck that he meets her at the peak of a bad case of hot-pants. She takes him out to a lonely spot on the beach where they screw each other silly in the sand and surf. And it’s stuff right out of a bodice-ripper:

Each movement was a stab of ecstasy. She gasped suddenly, tore at his lips with her teeth. Her fingers clawed his chest. He swore softly and pulled her arms away, pinning them at her sides without losing his stride. Her movements quickened convulsively in time with his, and then in one last crazed moment they both forgot the hard sand beneath them, the distant surf, their separate identities—all but the exquisite bursting inside them as their whole beings seemed suddenly ignited, then liberated and free, floating away from the world on wave after shuddering wave of ecstasy…

Meanwhile, the two of them have been followed by the local sheriff and his deputy. They wait for Carter and Ingra to finish bumping fuzzies before pouncing. Carter manages to dispatch the deputy quickly enough with a karate chop to the throat, but has his hands full with the sheriff, who it turns out, is an expert sumo wrestler! Ultimately Carter is taken down, arrested and drugged with some kind of truth serum that makes him reveal that he’s not the real Ralph Benson. After recovering from his drugged state, Carter jumps the sheriff and kills him, and in the process discovers that the sheriff was in fact an Asian agent in disguise and not the corn-pone boob he presented himself as.

Later, Nick Carter finds the real Benson has been murdered. Worse than that, Carter also learns that while drugged up, he’d also been injected with a weird serum that enables his enemies to follow him via some kind of radioactive isotopes in his bloodstream. Senior City seems to be one of those wrinkled cities full of retirees that dot the Florida coast, but instead turns out to be chock full o’ Chinese agents disguised as chrome-topped old Caucasians thanks to plastic surgery. And all this in the first 40 or 50 pages!

As you can see, there is more plot in this novel than you can shake a stick at! In the space of 156 pages there are murders, karate chops, disguises, plenty of hot sex and cold blooded killings to go ‘round. There are also more than enough villains to fill half a dozen novels. Everything from an agent nemesis to a wheelchair bound professor, a kooky-possibly-psychotic nympho, an evil twin (yes, an evil twin!), villainous senior citizens, a reclusive billionaire with an appetite for live porn and, last but not least, an evil Nazi bastard with a taste for medical torture! Man, take your pick for a favorite evil cliché and you’ll likely find it here in Danger Key.

Luckily Carter has his main squeeze, Julie Baron show up to help him take down the bad guys. I would have liked to have seen more of Julie Baron kicking ass and taking names, but back in the 60s it seemed that women spies were used either as honey traps, or disguised as secretaries to snoop in filing cabinets. And she does her part in getting captured by the Evil Nazi, forcing Carter to go and rescue her.

It’s all in good fun! Cool 60s spy stuff for the inner spy in all of us!


  1. As always I really enjoyed the review. I've been on a "Killmaster Kick" for the past few weeks and have read a few of them, raning from early ones to very late ones. The other year I tried to read "The Judas Spy," a late '60s installment that was so boring I stopped reading it. But it supposedly featured Mr. Judas as well, I just didn't get to him. So anyway, is there anything special about that guy -- like a metal hand or etc? I keep seeing his name mentioned in reviews of early Nick Carters, and have wondered if he's like a Blofeld type or something.

    1. Hi Joe - No there really wasn't anything special about Mr. Judas in this novel to boost him into the ranks of Blofeld, or even Dr. No. I know that he shows up in several of the earlier novels, but this is the only one that I've read with him in it. It seems that Louderback had a hard time choosing which villain should be the star of the novel, so he just threw a handful of bad guys, including Mr. Judas, into the blender and hit puree.