Author: Mike Newton
Publisher: Worldwide Gold Eagle
Book No. 133
Based on characters created by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy
To suggest that I am an expert on the Destroyer series, after only reading two books, would be the height of arrogance. So accept my comments as broad generalisations. Yesterday, I looked at a book, The Head Men, which was written in 1977. Troubled Waters was written in 2003, and not so surprisingly, in some ways is a very different beast to the earlier book.
Most of this has to do with politics – not so much who was running the country, although The Head Men dealt with the US presidency, but the political and social climate of the day. In the seventies, the US was still dealing with the last vestiges of the hippie movement, and recovering from Watergate. The ‘noughties’, as today, are much more homogenised – well, at least on the surface anyway. There are possibly even more lifestyle choices, but political correctness insists that we are all the same.
It is my impression that the Destroyer series often mined these political landscapes as sources of humour, particularly black humour. The 1970’s were ripe for the picking and a well placed jibe could say a lot about society. But now observational black humour is much harder to present, without being labelled racist or sexist (or any other ‘ist’). The Head Men was rather sexist.
Therefore Troubled Waters is not as humorous as The Head Men. But there is humour, obviously the banter between Remo and Chiun, and a view jibes at female body image (things like breast augmentation etc.) But while the humour quotient in the story may be down, the action adventure element is up. It is worth noting here, that like the Executioner series, Destroyer moved from Pinnacle Books to Gold Eagle, and although a different style of book, could almost be considered a stable mate for the Executioner. It is also not so surprising that some of the authors that worked on the Executioner, would also work on the Destroyer.
Mike Newton is the author of Troubled Waters, and I have talked briefly about Newton before. I thought Paramilitary Plot was, well to put it politely, a very clunky piece of action adventure writing. However I thought Troubled Waters was quite okay.
For the writer, I think that one of the hardest aspects of writing a Destroyer novel would be about getting the pacing right. The problem is that Remo and Chiun are literally supermen. They can do anything. And if they were to discover the villains of the piece straight away, the story would be over in a flash. So the story has to be dragged and teased out, which if done well can be highly entertaining. But if not, the banter between the two heroes is not enough to appease action adventure fans. On this level, I think Troubled Waters succeeds, whereas The Head Men sort of meandered towards its climax. At least Troubled Waters throws up a few odious minions for Remo to intimidate and baffle with his Sinanju skills, on his way to the final confrontation. Of course, the result is never in doubt.
This story is essentially a pirate story. As the novel begins, a woman who has been held captive by a cadre of modern day buccaneers, escapes from their island in a small boat. Without food and water or navigational equipment it seems like she is done for, but miraculously, at the last second, she is discovered and saved.
It turns out that she is the daughter-in-law of a US Senator. And his son was killed by the pirates when they attacked their boat as the couple cruised around the Caribbean. The daughter-in-law is hospitalised after the trauma of being in captivity, and being used and abused by the pirates. The senator uses his clout to hunt down the pirates, but the regular authorities have no luck.
Then CURE is called in. Remo Williams, the Reigning Master of Sinanju, and Chiun, Reigning Master Emeritus of Sinanju, are assigned to cruise around the Caribbean, appearing as potential wealthy targets, hoping to draw the pirates out so they can put an end to their bloody reign of terror.
The fly in the ointment, however, is the US senator’s daughter, Stacey Armitage. She is a headstrong girl who chooses to avenge the death of her brother by hunting down the pirates herself. Of course, she gets in over her head. When she is nearly raped by four hoodlums in a seaport, Remo comes to her rescue and is reluctantly convinced to allow her to join their party as they search for the pirates.
The pirates themselves up throwbacks. These are not modern, high-tech pirates. They live the old ways – eye patches, cutlasses, raising the Jolly Roger, and a goodly amount of raping and pillaging. It will come as no surprise that the author has given them names such as Kidd, Morgan and Teach.
There are other characters, and plot contrivances along the way too, such as a boat load of rich kids who are captured by the pirates, man eating sharks, and an angry Colombian drug lord to contend with. But they are merely potholes on the road to the final confrontation.
Over time, I will read more Destroyer books. However they are different to the other blood and bullets men’s action adventure series. They have a different flavour. And, if you are like me and are only just now discovering the series, you may find adjusting to the slightly more comical, and less bullet riddled adventures of Remo and Chiun, a bit disconcerting. Don’t write them off though, just expect something different.