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David St. John (2)

Autor/a de Diabolus

Per altres autors anomenats David St. John, vegeu la pàgina de desambiguació.

David St. John (2) s'ha combinat en E. Howard Hunt.

11 obres 91 Membres 1 crítiques

Obres de David St. John

Les obres s'han combinat en E. Howard Hunt.

Diabolus (1971) 16 exemplars
The Coven (1972) 15 exemplars
The Sorcerers (1969) 10 exemplars
Return from Vorkuta (1965) 9 exemplars
The Towers of Silence (1966) 8 exemplars
The Venus Probe (1966) 8 exemplars
The Mongol Mask (1969) 7 exemplars
No Heaven (1985) 6 exemplars
One of Our Agents is Missing (1967) 6 exemplars
Festival for Spies (1966) 5 exemplars
All's Well 1 exemplars


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I read The Mongol Mask upon deciding to dip into some old paperbacks I bought mostly for the pulpy covers. This cover is pure grade-A insanity—a chained man (with erect posture) surrounded by three nude women, one of whom… wow. The cover text promises “Atomic sex and a deadly game of overlove” while the back cover warns of “Ravenous Chinese Amazons” and “A Race Against Time Beneath the Polar Ice Cap”. So if you want to read a book with a pulp cover, The Mongol Mask is up there.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) for the reader, Dell Books would not have won any truth in advertising campaigns with this cover. After reading it, I still don’t know what “atomic sex” and “overlove” are. I will only wonder for the rest of my life if I am missing out on atomic sex. The “Amazons” make only a brief appearance, and nothing about Mongolian masks was featured as far as I can remember. The cover image, let’s say, is fairly conceptual.

The weirdest thing about this book, though, is how weird it isn’t. Given the cover image and text, the narrative is modest almost to an extreme. The book begins sort of in the same way a Bond film would, with an unrelated mission sequence to present the character. We are introduced to Peter Ward, who for a spy (according to the cover, a “CIA superstud”) is actually a relatively normal and restrained man. When he reports back to Washington, D.C., he boards with his sister’s family, takes his nephew fishing, and plays with his dog. He is a widower, but his feelings about what happened to his wife are only briefly touched on.

The mission Peter (codename Seraph, like the angels) is sent on is vague. A Chinese complex near the Gobi desert has “disappeared”, and he is sent to investigate. The main challenge is to infiltrate to the site all the way from Hong Kong, smack in the middle of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. To help with the travel, Peter recruits a fairly random Chinese woman, Mei-tang (she is the daughter of the brother of a man who his dead wife’s brother thought might be able to help, or something.) She isn’t trained as a spy or anything, but she is like four times as ruthless and five times the spy material that Peter is. Not only can she run over soldiers with a truck, on a whim, without batting an eyelash, she knows enough to throw some mud on the license plate afterwards. My kind of girl. But as cool as that sounds, the narrative is told in such a straightforward, stoic manner that the pulp elements don’t sizzle the way I would have liked.

Still, they are there, and that counts! (SPOILERS AHEAD) I understand that in actuality luck and chance play a huge role in covert operations. But when the “Chi-Coms” are transporting you to prison in an armed convoy, what are the chances that a band of pissed-off Mongolian widows are going to go guerrilla warfare on the army and annihilate your captors? Or that the Chinese officer you randomly decide to kill coming out of the mess hall has in his pocket a personal diary noting what he ate for lunch, that he misses his family, and, oh yeah, the launch dates for the super-secret underground missiles? And in what other book will you find a fat, force-fed, benevolent male Russian sex-slave to guide you on your way to saving the world?

There are a few severely awkward moments where you can tell the author didn’t know what to do with a particular character, so he just kills the character off. Hate to say it, but if you happen to get fatally shot from 200 yards away by the last surviving Chinese soldier (of an exploding compound) who is suffering from radiation burns to his face, it means the author has no clue what to do with you next.

Now, to the seriously bizarre: During my reading I became curious about the author and looked him up. It turns out that David St. John was a pen name for none other than E. Howard Hunt! If you aren’t familiar with Howard Hunt, he is infamous for being a member of Operation 40 (the early 1960s CIA black ops/assassination squad) and for bugging the DNC at Watergate. Knowing this actually took the reading experience to a new level of sublimation. It was disturbing. This guy Hunt is running around overthrowing Guatemalan presidents, having his name show up in connection to events surrounding JFK’s assassination, forging U.S. State department cables…and writing pulp books under the name of David St. John about the Chinese trying, as the crux of a global power grab, to melt all the ice in Greenland. Which is stranger, truth of fiction?

As disturbing as Hunt’s career was, and as crazy as the plot is on paper, The Mongol Mask is a surprisingly tame, straightforward read. Or maybe I read it on it’s own terms, and it just felt tame.

God help me, I halfway enjoyed reading The Mongol Mask, a book wherein E. Howard Hunt, the man who did almost three years on conspiracy charges stemming from Watergate, brings you the sentence: “Concealed between the sheepskins of Arslan’s bed he found a sizeable dildo and a short, sharp dagger.”
… (més)
crunky | Jun 8, 2012 |


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½ 3.3

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