Thursday, December 18, 2008

Havana Hit by Mike Barry

Havana Hit by Mike Barry
#5 The Lone Wolf
Berkley Medallion, Copyright 1974

Barry N. Malzberg used the pseudo Mike Barry, for the fourteen Lone Wolf paperback novels he authored. Malzberg always seemed to find work. He wrote volumes of SF short stories that were published in magazines and anthologies. In fact, some are in book collections containing only Melzberg stories and these are very good. I recall three, “The Many Worlds of Barry Melzberg,” “The Best of Barry Metzberg,” and “Malzberg at Large,” as having some amazing SF stories. He also has a good number of novels in his bibliography. Besides SF, Malzberg dabbled in mysteries, adult sleaze paperbacks, and novelizations. In 1973, he started writing the Lone Wolf adventure series, introducing ex-NYPD cop Martin Wulff. From the four page introduction in “Havana Hit,” Wulff quits the force after his girl was killed by a deliberate overdose, and he becomes a one man wrecking crew that uses unrestrained violence to destroy drug kingpins and anyone that gets in his way. Alone, he built up quite a reputation, and now has the drug dealing organizations and the cops after him. Mean and obsessed, each adventure takes him to a new location where he leaves a large body count and extreme mayhem.

"Have you ever seen a seven-year old junkie? Have you ever seen a little girl holding a doll and so strung out on junk that she didn't know her name? Have you ever seen the soft men who peddle the stuff, the soft men in their houses on the bay, far away from all this, laughing at it, shielding themselves from what they've done, taking the money, filling the vein..."

It seems this story continues from where the previous one (#4) ended. Martin Wulff is flying out of Las Vegas on route to NYC with a valise full of heroin worth over a million dollars. Somehow this heroin was removed from the NYPD evidence room and got into the hands of organized drug traffickers. And during his last escapade in Vegas, Wulff went on a killing spree and blew up a hotel casino to get it back. The plane is hijacked and forced to land in Cuba. Taken into custody by a Cuba official named Delgado, Wulff’s valise is seized and he is sent to be executed. Delgado plans to keep the uncut heroin, sell it, and leave Cuba to live it up. But Wulff escapes and sets out to get the valise back. With a little help from a wimpy American helicopter pilot, he kills Delgado along with scores of other people and destroys the headquarters building. But the valise of heroin isn’t there. Delgado turned it over to DiStasio, who is the head of Cuban Intelligence. DiStasio has the same plan as Delgado had, take the heroin and get out of Cuba. Wulff hightails it to DiStasio’s estate and eliminates him to get the valise back. Then the wimpy American helicopter pilot gets enough courage to hold a gun on Wulff and attempt to steal the heroin himself. Of course Wulff outsmarts him and the American pilot ends up with a bullet in the spine and then one in the head. Martin Wulff races to the airport, hijacks a helicopter and off he goes, 90 miles
north to the USA.

This one was painful. About a third of the way through, I said “it has to get better.” Halfway through, I realized it wasn’t going to get better. And once I finished it, I said “Thank God its over.” As an action novel, this one is lacking. The few scenes that have the explosions and gunplay are weakly described and there is no thrilling effect. The dialogue between characters tries to be hard, but comes off as tinny. And there are these constant-preaching rants by the character, mostly around how illegal drugs are destroying civilization. The only reason these rants seem to be in the novel is to fill it up to reach 192 pages. You get the impression that the whole idea around the Lone Wolf series was to quickly spit these novels out, and cash in on the popular 70’s genre of these numbered paperbacks featuring a violent crime crusader.

I got as much enjoyment reading this, as I would have listening to a Yoko Ono record album. This is the only Lone Wolf paperback I own, and I’ll probably not seek another. But I will not give up on Barry Malzberg’s SF stories. There are some good ones out there.

As for the scantily-clad maiden on the cover, no such female character is in the story. I hate when they do that.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Me, too. Promise nothing on the cover you don't deliver.

Scott D. Parker said...

Wonder if this was Malzberg's answer to The Executioner? Sounds similar. Thanks for the review. I'll steer clear.

Cullen Gallagher said...

At first I thought this might be a continuation of Louis Joseph Vance's LONE WOLF series, but quickly realized they just borrowed the name.


Anonymous said...

I just noticed the new cover of the month, A CORPSE FOR CHRISTMAS by Henry Kane. I've been feeling a little depressed this holiday season but this cheers me up and puts me in the proper Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, fellow crime lovers and collectors!

Juri said...

I've talked with Mr. Malzberg about this series and he said it was meant as his answer to the Executioner craze and he meant to criticize the whole phenomenon. I've read only the first part of the series, so I can't really say. He also wrote some suspense novels with Bill Pronzini that some say are good.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

The covers would most likely be generic images the publishers had on file.

Anonymous said...

I believe the cover painting is by George Gross.
I also believe it's pretty honking cool, but I'm a flat-footed sucker for pulpy cover art.

I came of age when the stands were plastered with Executioners, Destroyers, Death Merchants, Penetrators and Butchers, but I never found any of these series that really rang my bell. Still wonder if there's a truly satisfying one out there that I just missed.

John Hocking