Monday, July 28, 2014

The Butcher #27 - Kill Them Silently

Her long blonde hair was an explosion of taffy. The alabaster skin was instant luminosity. It glowed like 5000 watts. Her aristocratically straight nose was offset by a mouth so lush and high cheekbones so symmetrical that only the flash of enormously well-formed teeth could take the action away. But finally, inevitably, it was the woman's eyes which topped the bill and delivered the ultimate, finishing stroke to any male within ten feet of her. They spelled out sex and come hither and orgasm. And yes. They were the ocular striptease...Mona Mars, the Golden Girl, was a walking, living piece of ass.

Pinnacle Books, July 1980, cover illustration by Fred Love
This late adventure featuring The Butcher and written by Michael Avallone (under the house name Stuart Jason) clearly has one of those covers that is just about impossible for a paperback fan like me to pass up. The novel itself...well, that's a great cover credited to Fred Love!

Actually, the novel is okay, being pretty much what the cover delivers, assuming that bikini-clad babe with the come-hither look is Mona Mars, the "walking, living piece of ass" herself. And the slimy looking dude there smoking a coffin-nail is chief baddie Malcolm Liddy, who is the brains behind a drug company promising sexual potency renewal to all the silver-cropped future Rush Limbaugh fans out there in middle-America. And yes, Mona Mars is their spokesperson...hell yeah! The thing is, Butcher's outfit, White Hat, isn't buying it, especially after a whistle-blower from the FDA rings their alarm. Butcher's job is to meet Dr. Norma Keating from the FDA and see exactly what it is that has her alarmed about Hanover Health, Incorporated.

Butcher is supposed to meet Dr. Keating at an art-film screening at the MOMA. He's told he'll recognize Dr. Keating because she'll be carrying a hardback copy of the novel Jaws. Of course things don't turn out to be so easy, as Dr. Keating never arrives. Butcher leaves the museum only to find Dr. Keating crawling from an alleyway, the victim of multiple stab wounds. In a vain attempt to save Keating's life, The Butcher comes face-to-face with a shiv-wielding freak described as having an "eagle nose." It's a fight to the death, with The Butcher kicking Eagle Nose's ass, until he's cracked over the head with a loaded lead pipe from behind.

Butcher wakes up in a basement room, where he meets Eagle Nose again, along with Wo Ling (the cat with the lead pipe) and Mona Mars. Mona Mars decides that the Butcher must 'fess up to why he was planning on meeting Dr. Keating, and spill about who he works for. What follows is about 30 pages of Mona and the boys stripping the Butcher and torturing him in an electric cage. But before they commence with the torture, Mona Mars has to make repeated comments about how well-hung The Butcher is, and what a shame it is to waste a prime piece of beef on torture and death. But have no fear, my friends, because it turns out that The Butcher has in his arsenal of secret weapons exploding chewing gum. That's right! All he has to do is convince his tormentors to give him a piece of gum so that he's able to spill his guts without a dry throat. Of course, they provide The Butcher with his gum, and boy are they sorry...all except for Mona Mars, that is.

After killing Eagle Nose and Wo Ling, the Butcher takes Mona Mars back to his hotel, where he threatens to kill her, after an all-nighter of mind-blowing sex. Trouble is, The Butcher, for those fans who've read these novels know, is a marked man with a million dollar price tag on his head courtesy of the mob. There is a whole backstory to catch those readers up who've never met The Butcher before, about how he climbed to the top ladders in the Mafia before chucking it all and walking away. The thing is, no one walks away from the Mafia and lives. But never mind all that...the Butcher and Mona Mars are banging the hell out of each other while trying to figure out the best way to make the other give up the goods, while old enemies from the mob circle off-stage.

Meanwhile, The Butcher's outfit White Hat is poring over the notes that were retrieved from Dr. Keating's files and notebooks, including papers found in the novel Jaws that she was carrying at the time of her murder. And hell yes! there's way more to Hanover Health Inc's pep pills than sexual potency.

I had fun reading this novel. I'm a fan of Michael Avallone's Ed Noon novels, the few that I've read that is, and am pretty certain I've read some of his Nick Carter books as well. I've got a couple more Butcher novels in my stacks of paperbacks to yet read, but I'll probably give them some time before diving in. One can only handle so much testosterone in their literary diet.

On to something by Henry James next...or maybe not!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Planet Stories - The Golden Amazons of Venus

He broke off as the door behind the throne opened and a woman came into the room. It was Olga Stark, now wearing a long gown of shimmering green. Metal strands of the same color were braided into her dark hair, which was crowned by a circlet bearing the design of a rearing serpent. All the officers and courtiers raised their arms in salute. The woman walked over and stood beside Lansa’s throne, looking down at Gerry with a cold and impersonal scorn. It had not taken Olga Stark very long to fit herself into the role of the queen of Giri-Vaaka!

Planet Stories - November 1939 
Boy howdy! That sounds like my kind of dame!

Things have been a bit busier in the summer months for me, so my reading has dipped into some good old-fashioned space adventure pulp lately, in particular a reprint of Planet Stories from November 1939 featuring the “The Golden Amazons of Venus”, described as “A terrific novel of outer-space worlds.”

Of course, I’m not reading the original publication of this story, but a reprint from Adventure House. I have no idea how much the real issue of Planet Stories would go for today, but I’m sure for more than I can afford.

John Murray Reynolds had stories that appeared in Weird Tales, in addition to stories featuring Ki-Gor found in Jungle Stories. Ki-Gor was one of the better Tarzan influenced pulp heroes, and after enjoying “Golden Amazons of Venus”, I’ll have to check out some of the Ki-Gor adventures. 

This tale of “outer-space worlds” is a ripping yarn of the second manned expedition to Venus, aboard the space-ship Viking. The crew of the Viking is led by square-jawed Gerry Norton, along with his 2nd in command Steve Brent.The chief engineer is Angus McTavish, a wily bearded giant Scotsman with an eye for the ladies. His appreciation ends at chief navigator black-haired and ruby-lipped Olga Stark however. Right off the bat it’s hinted that Olga Stark is less than trustworthy in that she’s finagled her way into joining this expedition to Venus. The purpose of the expedition is to determine what happened to the first manned expedition attempted by the space-ship Stardust, commanded by Captain Walter Lansing. That ship disappeared mysteriously without providing any clues as to what happened. Did it reach Venus? Did it get struck by an asteroid? Did it go off course to be lost forever in the depths of space? It’s a pretty good bet that Gerry Norton and the Viking are going to find out.

To set the scene, it’s several centuries from now and space travel among the planets has been established. Colonies have been set up on Mars with Earthlings living among the Martians. Martians are even members of the Interplanetary Fleet, which comes in handy as we’ll see when our gang lands on Venus. That’s right; they make it to Venus in a matter of weeks. Venus is pretty much what you’d expect in a pulp adventure: a planet covered by clouds, with wide oceans and expansive continents with snow-capped mountains and lush jungles. Our crew finds an area to land and do some exploring. Lucky for them the air is breathable, so no one is hampered by awkward space helmets and breathing tanks. It’s not long before our crew finds themselves in the middle of a race of “golden Amazon” women, naked except for their golden-coned bras and crimson loin cloths. Our Venus gals are in a heated battle with these repulsive scaly gray humanoid beasts armed with some type of gas powered guns. Trusting his male instinct, Gerry and the gang immediately let loose their ray guns on these beasts, referred to from now on as Scaly Ones. You can’t blame Gerry. There’s no question, right? Beautiful vs. Ugly and you know who is going to get the benefit of the doubt. After chasing off the few surviving Scaly Ones, Gerry is introduced to the lead Golden Amazon named Closana. This is where the Martians in the crew come in handy, because it turns out that the Golden Amazons of Venus speak an older version of Martian, and since most earthlings are also versed in Martian the two races can easily communicate.

With that out of the way, Closana requests that Gerry and his crew come to meet her father, King Rupin-Sang at the City of Larr. Within the City of Larr we learn that males of the species are being born at a rate far out-numbered by females. The few males alive hold high places in the court at the City of Larr. There, Rupin-Sang tells Gerry and his crew that their arrival has been foretold in a prophesy that warns “when a red-skinned man and a dark-haired woman and a ruddy bearded giant will come together to the city from afar and that within a month the Golden City of Larr will crumble and return to the dust.” And furthermore, Closana also thinks Olga Stark is a bitch.

Things take a sudden turn when our friends, along with Closana, are captured at a banquet celebrating their visit. They’re whisked away into the underground sewers beneath the Golden City of Larr by an armed force of the Scaly Ones. After several days and nights journey, which includes transportation via submarine pieced together with remains of the missing space-ship Stardust (you remember, the one missing from the first manned expedition to Venus?) our friends are taken the Land of Giri-Vaaka to meet torture and death at the hands of Lord Lansa!

Lord Lansa, it turns out, happens to be Captain Walter Lansing, commander of the ill-fated Stardust. The space-ship Stardust had crash landed in the land of Giri-Vaaka. Walter Lansing and the survivors were discovered by the Scaly Ones. Lansing discovered that the Scaly Ones were prone to manipulation and exploitation, and immediately set himself up as Lord Lansa after having his surviving crew members tortured and killed. And wait, there’s more! Lansing had used the Stardust’s communication transmitter to secretly communicate to one Olga Stark on Earth, recruiting her into his evil plans to lure the second expedition, Viking, into his trap! Now, he and Olga can take over Venus, and with their hordes of Scaly Ones, become rulers of the Solar System! But before that happens, Olga Stark is going to get to torture and kill the beautiful Closana! (Yes, I’m aware of the exclamation points!)

It’s everything that made pulp fun! I had a good time reading this. “The Golden Amazons of Venus” is packed with action from beginning to end, with a fair amount of sex and violence (allowed for, considering it was published in 1939) to spice things up along the way. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for more reprints by Adventure House from now on.