Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: DR. DEATH

I'm pretty sure that this was the first Nick Carter, Killmaster paperback that I ever read. Back in the late Seventies, there was a local couple who ran a used bookstore out of their barn, about three or four miles from my house. In the Summer, I would often ride my bike there, spending sweltering afternoons in that ill-ventilated barn, exhaustively examining the packed bookshelves before carefully selecting my purchases. Initially, it was the science fiction section that demanded most of my attention, but once I had exhausted that, I discovered the men's adventure shelves.

God help me.

This thick volume, which claimed to be the hundredth installment of the long-running series, contained three complete novels! My allowance was meager, so such a bargain greatly appealed to me. I was even more pleased with my purchase when I discovered that the sexual content of these stories – well, in Dr. Death, anyway – was considerably more graphic than any I'd yet read. Far more so than in the James Bond or Matt Helm books! My healthy teenage imagination found that especially titilating, and helped inspire me to purchase many more Nick Carter adventures.

This book contains three stories. The first is Dr. Death, the 100th Killmaster spy thriller. This is followed by a reprint of Run, Spy, Run, the very first Killmaster book from 1964. The third, however, is not a Killmaster story; instead it features the original, dime novel incarnation of Nick Carter, an American Sherlock Holmes imitation that made its debut in 1891. The story is "The Preposterous Theft," a short detective mystery from1895.

I recently re-read 1975's Dr. Death, and was reminded why I got hooked on the series in the first place. It starts with a bang, as N3 meets a French agent – an old friend called Remy – in a seedy nightclub whose main attraction is a gorgeous belly-dancer. Turns out that a French scientist – an explosives genius nicknamed "Dr. Death" – has been kidnapped by a terrorist group, and Remy could use Carter's help. Before he can complete his briefing however, two thugs with Sten guns enter the place and start spraying bullets. Remy gasps something about a volcano with his last breath, and Carter escapes, taking the belly-dancer with him. Good thing, too, since she's the scientist's daughter!

The search for Dr. Death takes Carter and the girl from Tangiers to New York (where a mysterious Chinese girl joins them for reasons of her own) to San Juan (and a close call inside a leper colony), and finally, after commandeering a yacht belonging to a candy-obsessed millionaire named Sweets, to the Caribbean island stronghold of the aforementioned terrorists.

Of course, there are the usual double crosses, but Nick Carter completes his mission, saves the world and ends the book with the right girl.

Dr. Death is fast-paced and action-packed. The writing is polished, with clean, descriptive prose that reads very quickly. The characterizations are colorful and fairly fleshed out, and Carter himself is quite likable in this one – charming, confident and professional, without coming across like an arrogant dick.

Dr. Death was my first Killmaster book, and it's still one of my favorites.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The third, however, is not a Killmaster story; instead it features the original, dime novel incarnation of Nick Carter, an American Sherlock Holmes imitation that made its debut in 1891"

Actually, Nick Carter debuted in 1886. Sherlock Holmes debuted in 1887.