LIONEL DERRICK – The Penetrator #10: The Hellbomb Project.

Pinnacle, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1975.

THE PENETRATOR #10 Lionel Derrick

   I havenít double-checked this, but according to one source on the Internet, there were 53 books in this hard-as-nails menís action-adventure series. While all of them were credited to Lionel Derrick, Mark K. Roberts wrote the odd-numbered entries while Chet Cunningham wrote the even-numbered ones.

   Menís adventure series were extremely popular in the 1970s and on through the 80s. Only the long-running Destroyer and the Executioner are still going today, but I suspect their sales have plummeted badly. I donít think publishers think men buy menís action-adventure fiction any more, and theyíre probably right. There arenít any to buy.

   In any case, Iíve accumulated several hundred books in this particular genre over years, very few of them new, mostly at library sales or from eBay sellers, if I found them in nice enough condition, and it occurred to me last week that maybe I might try reading one or two of them.

   My mistake. Iím sure that The Hellbomb Flight has everything in it that was expected of it, to the person who bought it originally, but the 182 pages of very large print had nothing of interest to me, either major or minor, except possibly very minor, perhaps.

   Mark Hardin is the Penetrator, an ex-Vietnam War veteran whoís come home to fight crime and corruption, and working surreptitiously for a bigwig in the Justice Department, itís usually on a big scale, given Hellbomb Flight as an example. It seems that a former NASA scientist has cracked up big time and intends to take over a Russian communications satellite he suspects of being secretly armed with a payload of hydrogen bombs.

   Funny thing is, Dr. Orlando Fitzmullerís right, but the payload is even more deadly, if thatís possible. What he doesnít know is that his low budget undercover operation has been infiltrated with Mafia types who intend to use his technical expertise to their own ends.

   And thatís it. The whole story right there. Thereís a lot of blood thatís shed along the way, but in comparison, Mark Hardinís love life is rather tame and mild. Lots of arteries blasted away by bullets, skulls split open with the thonk of ripe melons, and rifles and guns and firearms of every shape, make, model and caliber, all lovingly described and I assume correctly, too.

   Iíll sell my copy on Amazon. Or at least Iíll offer it for sale there, but Iím afraid there’s going to be a lot of competition.

PostScript. I was wrong. There were only 13 copies offered for sale on Amazon when I went to look, with prices ranging from a penny to ten bucks. The discouraging thing, though, is that the book has no sales ranking, indicating that Amazon has never sold a copy through third party sellers such as myself. Mineís in Near Fine condition, with remainder lines (I think) across the top edge but otherwise looking unread, even though Iíve obviously read it, but carefully.

   I’m offering my copy at $3.45. If and when it sells, Iíll come back with an Update and let you know.

[UPDATE] 05-18-10. I’ve changed my mind. Thanks to everyone who left comments who helped persuade me, and to Bill Crider and Bill Pronzini, whose reviews from 1001 Midnights of three other men’s action-adventure novels I’ve just posted.

   What I’ve been convinced of is that there may be some small semi-precious gems stored away in these boxes of paperbacks I have, and if you look at them in just the right way, perhaps even a diamond or two. If Bill Crider can say that the Executioner books marked the beginning of a “real American phenomenon,” then I cannot disagree with him.

   Bill Pronzini says there is humor to be found in the Death Merchant books, and from the lengthy quote he provides, I cannot quarrel with that statement either.

   And if the Lone Wolf series was written by ďĎMike Barry’ […] a pseudonym of Barry N. Malzberg, a writer of no small talent,” as Bill Pronzini also points out, and that the entire series is “quite remarkable,” and that there is more to the 14 books “than meets the casual eye,” I cannot doubt him at all — all the more so when the very same sentiment has been shared by several of you who have left comments.

   So I’m keeping all of the men’s action-adventure books I’ve accumulated over the years, as I say several hundred of them. Alas, I was planning on using that space for something else, or I was hoping to. I’ll reclaim the Penetrator book from Amazon’s listings, and admit defeat. I know when I’m licked. Once I own a book, it is difficult to let go of it, no matter how hard I try!