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.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Friday, November 4, 2016
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
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” 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.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Sueno & Bascom #2: “Slicky Boys” by Martin Limon. Army CID agents, Sgt. George Sueno and Sgt. Ernie Bascom work out of 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. In this second case, Sueno is now a corporal. Maybe he lost a stripe after the last case, but Bascom is still a sergeant. Still, it’s Sueno who leads the investigation. Bascom is merely a sounding board, and sometimes not even that. He really adds nothing to the cases. Plus, they are back together and back in Seoul, after separated and shipped to the DMZ when the last case was over. This time they are rooked into carrying a message to Cicil Whitcomb of the British Honor Guard for Miss Ku. When Whitcomb turns up murdered it throws suspicion on the CID boys, and they are hell-bent to solve the case. Even to the point of disobeying military orders and disobeying the Korean National Police. It is a good mystery, with lots of twists, but I just can’t accept these men as actual CID agents. I’ve known many from Korea to Europe, and the US in my twenty-year career as an Army military police NCO, but none acted like this pair. It’s almost like these men are civilian private detectives, doing what they want, when they want, and no one can stop them. The CID is better organized than this, and their agents work together, not against each other. Plus, they would have a superior Warrant Officer in charge of them, not the 1st Sergeant. Okay, with that said, if you like a good mystery, you will like this. Just don’t mistake these slouches as real CID. The “slicky boys” organization does play a small part in this yarn, but they’re not the real focus of the mystery. The killer is a rogue American naval officer (AWOL), a well-trained SEAL, acting on his own for the North Koreans. And the plot - to pass on top secret information on placement of atomic bombs in mountains between the south and north by the American Forces, to use in case North Korea again crosses the 38th into South Korea. I should say, unguarded nukes, at that. The locations are only known by the general command – unless the killer can get the info north. Can you imagine unguarded nukes between the north and south, and just how long that would remain secret? Please. America’s power is in its delivery system, not left unguarded where someone might – and could – stumble upon them! The author knows Korea; I’ll give him that. It is said that you must suspend your imagination to enjoy fiction. Perhaps, but I prefer some semblance of reality to any world I enter. Good mystery, good characterization (just not accurate), and will keep the reader turning the pages.