Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trouble In Tokyo

Agent OSS 117 #9 (#60 in France): “Trouble In Tokyo” (French title “A Tout Coeur A Tokyo”) by Jean Bruce. Agent OSS 117 is American CIA agent, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, stops in Tokyo after leaving Hong Kong, Sitting the Tokyo office of his company, the local boss asked him to wait while he interviews one of his secretaries. Eva Davidson has reported to her boss that a Japanese spy is blackmailing her to obtain secret information on the American military in Japan. His boss, Henry Babcock, wants secret agent Hubert to work on the case while he’s in Tokyo. It’s obvious that all his agents are known already, so Hubert should be able to uncover the spy. So pretending to be Eva Davidson’s husband just arrived from America, he tags along with her on supposed meetings. Unfortunately, everything seems to be going wrong. Well, really, this was a fun read, with an interesting plot and mystery. If we didn’t know it by his name, reading the story will quickly identify the author as French.  We read that he swims in the girl’s eyes; he kisses her fingers; licks her palms. He is a black belt in judo and karate, so we do get some martial arts in this yarn. The reader won’t have much problem tagging the killer and spy, and solving the case, something a good intelligence agent would do, if he wasn’t “swimming in the girl’s eyes” all the time. This Fawcett Crest edition was released in the U.S. in 1965, but the French edition was published in 1958, which means this novel takes place about the same time as Earl Norman’s “Kill Me In Tokyo”. Very odd, but I doubt if either author knew the other. The series ran for 255 issues in France, but only 16 were translated into English and published in the U.S. They were short and fast reads, as well as fun. A shame more were not released in English.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Buddha's Money

Sueno & Bascom #3: “Buddha’s Money” by Martin Limon. While working the Itaewon red light district in Seoul looking for black market activity, CID agents Sergeants Sueno & Bascom are contacted by business girl (prostitute) Sooki, who tells them a nun has been attacked. She leads them to an alley where they hear a fight in progress and stop a black American soldier from beating a Korean nun. The American escapes, and the boys take the nun to the KNP police station, but locals think they are the ones that beat the nun up. There is a big problem now with locals angry at all American soldiers. While at the police station, a retired sergeant grabs them, and reports his adopted Korean daughter has been kidnapped. This leads them to discover there is more going on than meets the eye. The attack on the nun and the kidnapping has something to do with Lady Ahn and an antique skull that once belonged to the Dragon Throne of China, and her ancestors. The skull was used by Kublai Khan as a drinking vessel, and has a map to the burial place where much of his treasure was hidden. Buddhist monks are also after the skull. The writing is smooth, the plot is good, and the characterization is topnotch. The author knows Korea. It is fun reading about places that I once knew, and hearing Korean words I once knew. My main problem with the series is the main characters. They are supposed to be Army CID agents, but are nothing like the many CID agents I knew in my twenty-year career in the military police. Sueno & Bascom act more like private detectives than military investigators, doing what they want when they want. They merely report to a 1st Sergeant, basically when they want. In reality, the CID office consists of agents under the command of a warrant officer. Jobs are assigned, and they work hand in hand with their superiors and local police, when necessary, fellow agents, and the MPs. Something that really turned me off in this story is the office Staff Sergeant. Evidently he has the combination to the safe, but gets so drunk someone gets the combination from him and breaks into the office and steals something from the safe. The next day it was like, well, gee, these things happen. No, they don’t! If that SSGT had a drinking problem he would not have been the one in charge of the safe. As it was he would have lost a stripe over such lack of responsibility, but nothing is even said to him about his dereliction of duty. This is the Army, and the CID is better trained and organized than any of these characters are in this series. I love the setting, and the idea of CID agents as the main leads. I can even accept Sueno & Bascom as Army goof-offs who get involved in mischief – but not as CID agents. Another problem is the man in charge of the armory giving them unregistered weapons and ammunition when they want them. That doesn’t happen in the MP or CID weapons armory. All weapons and ammunitions are strictly accounted for. All of this makes for a good story, and the setting is honest. If Sueno and Bascom were anything but CID agents, it would have worked for me.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Enter The Dragon

ENTER THE DRAGON by Mike Roote (Leonore Fleischer, according to Hawk’s Author’s For Book Collector’s, 1992 edition). A novelization of the popular action film starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon, and Jim Kelly: Han is gathering martial artists for his tournament on an island near Hong Kong. Roper (Saxon), Williams (Kelly), and Lee (Bruce Lee) have received invitations. At the Shaolin Temple the Master has suggested that Lee accept the invitation, as Han has dishonored the Shaolin temple. Then Lee learns there is another reason he must attend; Han’s men were responsible for his sister, Su Lin’s death three years ago. Braithwaite, head of F.A.D.E. offers help if Lee discovers unlawful acts on the island. The problem is, there is an army of martial artists under Han’s command, and one man may fail if acting alone. There is a girl all ready on the island, placed there by F.A.D.E., Mae Ling, but she has not been heard from. Lee must find her, and maybe get assistance from Williams and Roper, if they are not recruited into Han’s army. This novel followed the film fairly closely, but not totally. Many of the fight scenes in the film were different from the book, as were many other things. But it was a fun book, even if I knew the outcome from the movie beforehand. I was curious about some of the names in the story. They almost tie in with another series, THE GIRL FACTURY, featuring Su-Lin Kelly, but the author of that series remains a mystery, as far as I know. The author’s name (Robert Franklin Murphy) isn’t listed in Hawk’s 1992 edition. Roote and Murphy were both writing during the same time frame. Just curious.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Sergeant And The Queen

Sergeant Corbin #2: “The Sergeant And The Queen” by Robert Crane (Con Leslie Sellers). This takes place in 1963, ten years after the first story “Sergeant Corbin’s War” that was set in the final months of the Korean War. In this story, military leaders in the South & North plan to put a queen on the throne of Korea, bringing the divided Koreas together once more. A descendant of a former queen has been found in America, Helen Min (Min Kilja), her ancestor had ruled Korea before her, and Korea would follow a new queen of the same bloodline. It was Corbin’s job to infiltrate North Korea with her, where their counterparts would plan her rise. Corbin is no longer an American soldier, but works for ROK General Pak Son Ap and Sheldon Shapiro of G-2 (Army Intelligence). He is known as The Butcher; he kills North Korean infiltrators and hangs their heads on poles as a warning to the North. The son of ministers who were killed by the Japanese, Corbin quotes the Bible, but knows no god. He was born in Korea, and has a Korean wife, so is a man of two countries. But his sympathies lie with Korea. The story has a good plot, but was slow. When there was action, it was fast, violent, and well-written, just not enough action to move the story along, so there was a lot of drag. Corbin loves his wife and wants to be faithful, but he finds Helen Min attractive sexually, and we have to read about this attraction page after page, along with the hatred of his parents and their religion. As a soldier who served on the Korean DMZ in 1959-’60, I enjoyed the familiar towns and areas described in the book. The author was probably more interesting than his fiction character. He served in two wars, was also a newspaper correspondent in Korea. He was a boxer, holding a title, and trained boxers. Again, a good story, it just needed more action, and less meaningless feelings he has of his parents, wife, and lust for Min Kilja.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Fever Tree

“The Fever Tree” by Richard Mason. The author of “The World of Susie Wong” returns with a similar novel that takes place in India and Napal instead of Hong Kong.  Major Ronald Birkett of England is a cad. He uses people for his own gain. Ex British military, now a secret communist, he is a professional writer (the main character in Susie Wong was an amateur artist); he is also an assassin, and his job is to kill the Nepalese king. While in Delhi, India he meets Lakshmi Kapoor, an unhappy married woman looking for a fling with an Englishman. She falls in love with Birkett, who dismisses her affection, not relishing the idea of love. However, he slowly begins to fall in love with the beautiful Indian girl, and she becomes a distraction, while British intelligence might be on his trail. He sets up the kill using a local Indian Embassy official, a young married man, and father of two, with communist ties. The plan is to have the young man assassinate the king while he, Birkett, is elsewhere. The fever tree is Birkett’s dream of the African plain where he is a cheetah, a sleek, strong predator. This was another interesting story by Mason, but lacks the beauty of “The World of Susie Wong”, as well as the unforgettable characters from the earlier book. More literary than men’s action novel, it is still a good read.