Tuesday, October 28, 2014

White Witch

You never know what you'll turn up just digging through the miscellaneous record bins in the used stores. For example, a couple of weeks ago I found this cool relic from the past.

White Witch - Capricorn Records - 1972

The second I saw this cover I pretty much knew that I had to buy it. And at $5.99 it was over and done and sold. Later on I looked White Witch up online and discovered that they're from my hometown of Tampa Florida. I was in grade school when this record came out, so anything White Witch was doing at the time went way over my radar. I did have a have a favorite babysitter who might have been into them, who knows...she kind of had her finger on the pulse of the rock scene at the time. (No wonder I had a crush on her, but that's another story.)

Released in 1972 on Capricorn Records, White Witch is Ronn Goedert: lead vocals, Buddy Pendergrass: organ, piano and mood, Buddy Richardson on lead guitar, Beau Fisher on bass guitar and Bobby Shea on drums.

Musically, they're all over the map on this, their first of 2 albums. I've seen online that many people prefer their second album to this one. This record does his its "swing for the bleachers" feel about it, but you can't blame the band for that. Tampa Florida wasn't the sort of place to find fame and glory back then. I understand they opened for Alice Cooper and other big names at the time. From the music on this record it sounds like they would have been a good time live.

So, for your listening pleasure, here is a cut from White Snake named "Illusion". It's a wild one!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Doc Savage - The Red Skull

In stature, he was a giant, although proportional with such symmetry that only his relation to the size of the door in which he stood showed his bigness. His every line—the metallic tendons of his hands, the columnar cording of his neck—denoted great physical strength. The man had the gigantic muscles of Samson.

Bantam, May 1967, Cover art by James Bama

This giant is, of course, Doc Savage himself! The Red Skull by Lester Dent, under the house name of Kenneth Robeson, was the 6th Doc Savage adventure, published in Doc Savage Magazine in August 1933. In it, Doc Savage and his pals Monk, Ham, Renny, Johnny and Long Tom, take face off against a whole lot of skullduggery in the wild desert country of Arizona. It’s through the manic events in New York in the first half of the novel that wind up getting them all there, however. First, Doc Savage and his pals have to deal with assorted dead bodies and kidnappings, thanks to an hombre named Buttons Zortell and the rest of his goons. Buttons Zortell earned his moniker thanks to a pair of button-like scars on both cheeks; souvenirs of a bullet once blasting through his mouth. That’s right, a bullet through the choppers! How’s that for an identifying physical attribute? Also, Buttons and his gang all speak an interesting version of English I’ll call “Goonspeak”. Shakespeare would not be impressed, but your grandparents might.

Like all superhero capers, Doc Savage adventures are only as thrilling as their villains. We all know that Doc always triumphs over evil, so no one reads these wondering how it will all turn out in the end. They read them for the villains. In this outing we’ve got a lot of hooligans (too many!) from the Wild West who deliver each line in a mishmash patois of cowboy-gangster lingo like, “I’m the jasper what’s gonna ventilate your hide unless you spill the beans right quick!” Even Doc himself has to adopt the lingo when disguised as one of the outfit. This tough outfit works under the command of an ornery hombre that goes by the handle of Nick Clipton. Not exactly a name that’s going to put mortal fear on one’s ass, but maybe Lester Dent was running out of menacing monikers to pick from. Regardless, right off the get-go we’re clued in that Nick Clipton is a fake name for the real mastermind behind the dastardly hijinks. Ultimately we learn that only one of three likely candidates is the chief villain: Nate Raff, Richard O’Melia or Ossip Keller. The trouble is, Doc and his pals have all three of these wily tomcats hampering their investigation.

Also tossed into the mix is the gorgeous Lea Aster. Lea is Monk’s personal assistant, secretary and Girl-Friday, rolled up into one. She’s also handy with a high-heeled shoe when it comes to rapping goons on the noggin with it. Unfortunately, Lea also has a habit of getting kidnapped. Still, I liked Lea. I’m a firm believer that the boys need a strong dose of feminine guts and wiles on their side when it comes to taking down evil masterminds. Usually that’s the role that Doc’s cousin, Patricia “Pat” Savage, takes on. I don’t know how often Lea turns up in Doc Savage adventures. For all I know this was Lea Aster’s one shot at glory as this is the only Doc I’ve read with her in it.

Sounds confusing? Well, it sort of is. Events go from an abandoned Native American ruins, to a “subterranean world of red-hot lava,” to a trouble prone dam site. At stake is an “irresistible power that can level mountains!” It’s a pulp adventure that is literally all over the map. But this is why we’re fans of this stuff! It’s wild, wooly and utterly ridiculous. And we like it that way.

Lots of bullets get thrown around in this caper, in addition to fist fights, gas attacks, poisonings, repeated kidnappings of a hot damsel, and…I already said it…skullduggery! In other words, it’s a typical Doc Savage yarn from early from his career. 

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!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Goodbye, Janette - Harold Robbins

With one leap, he caught her arm before she reached the door. He dragged her back into the room. "It seems to me, Janette, that you're acting like a baby. And you know what they do to babies when they don't behave? They get spanked!"

He sat down on a chair and pulled her across his lap face down. His hand rose and fell with an even rhythm. At first there was pain, then she felt a warmth spreading through her buttocks into her loins. Her cries began to turn to a soft moan.

Pocket Books

This dramatic little scene between father and step-daughter occurs early on in Goodbye, Janette. Published in 1981 it got a deserved spanking by critics but still managed to sell well. I ripped through it in one weekend and, while I can't say I didn't like it, I can tell you that if you're going to read only one Harold Robbins novel, this one isn't it.

The action mainly occurs in Paris and is drenched in Eurotrash bad behavior and overflowing with characters with deep pockets and shallow brains. Janette is the daughter of Tanya, a survivor of WW II prison camps. Tanya is brought to Paris by a kindly German officer named Wolfgang, who is jettisoned from the novel rather quickly. In his place is the cad Maurice, who marries Tanya as a business arrangement of sorts. Right off the bat we can see that Maurice is a dick. And so can Tanya. But then she gets a glimpse his certain special (humongous) endowment and goes weak in the knees in expectations. Maurice, in addition to being a cad, is also bi-sexual. And he gets off on sadomasochism.

In addition to having Tanya to get freaky with, Maurice also has Tanya's daughter, Janette, to molest. It's not really clear who Janette's father is, or I missed that part in the beginning of the novel. Anyway, Janette grows up into a sullen teen who shares a twisted relationship with Maurice that eventually results in her becoming a sex slave to him and his transvestite boyfriend, Jerry.

He smiled, "Remember, Janette, without pain there is no pleasure." He put his hands under her buttocks and raised her toward him. 

Janette grows into a beautiful woman, and something of a ruthless headcase, thanks to her messed up childhood. Tanya leaves the novel in a failed attempt at killing Maurice. But before she departs, she gives Janette a younger sister, Lauren. Lauren is saved from the sexual abuse by Maurice by getting to live in America with Johan, Wolfgang's old business partner. Janette, meanwhile takes over control of various business interests involving cosmetics and fashion.

There is a lot of financial skulduggery and kinky sex talk that move the novel along, but none of it particularly interesting. Okay, maybe there are a few lines I might try out the next time I'm at a swingers party, but other than that, not much worth noting. Janette isn't a compelling enough character to make you really care what happens to her. Instead one reads the book mostly to see if Robbins is going to throw more crazy sex stuff into the game like he did in the first sections of the novel. Lauren returns to Paris to visit her big sister Janette, and gets involved with a creepy English fop in a doomed relationship. She also wows the fashion world, but decides that she's not interested in making tons of money like Janette. Instead she'd rather get high on the various recipes of weed her California boyfriend perfects.

All in all, it's rich people living life without consequence, looking for their next high, their next screw or their next conquest. And in the end, it's Harold Robbins looking for his next buck. That said, I did very much enjoy Joe Kenney's take on this novel at his terrific blog, which you can also check out here.