Saturday, December 27, 2008


Last month I tore apart the first book in the Black Cop series by Holloway House hack Joseph Nazel (writing under the pseudonym “Dom Gober”), so I had pretty low expectations when I sat down the other day to slog through Billion Dollar Death, number one in his Iceman series, published the same year (1974) under his real name. It’s better plotted and more imaginative than Black Cop, but ultimately witless garbage more offensive than any so-called blaxploitation movie of the period; instead of a Green Beret, cop or private investigator, Nazel’s action hero is a Harlem pimp who operates a high-tech whorehouse in the desert fifty miles outside Las Vegas. Since prostitution isn’t a crime in Nevada, the Iceman was considered an ”entrepreneur” and these books passed with a clean bill of health while movies like THE MACK and WILLIE DYNAMITE (in which the criminal protagonists are served heaping portions of humble pie at the end) sparked public outrage and a backlash from the NAACP.

Henry Highland West is “The Iceman,” who went from being the youngest and most successful pimp in New York to the owner and operator of The Oasis, a multimillion dollar adult fantasyland of pleasure and recreation that’s equal parts Caesar’s Palace casino, Disney World hotel and Bunny Ranch brothel. Because he’s an arrogant s.o.b. who every criminal in the country would love to cut down to size, the Iceman has equipped The Oasis with more security than Fort Knox and even has the whores he employs doing double duty as his private army of martial arts-trained guards! But even with the guards, dogs, closed-circuit TV, electronic sensors, radar, electrified fences and patrolling helicopters supposedly keeping the place safe, someone still manages to detonate a half ton of TNT under the bed of Mafia chieftain Mario Valducci as he enjoys the services of the Iceman’s favorite employee, the luscious Beverly [insert “bang” joke here]. Super pissed that his super security has been super breached, Super Henry – er, I mean The Iceman – sets out to nab the ones responsible for making him look like a chump and, um, for blowing up a fine piece of moneymaking tail like Beverly. Main suspects are Johnny Palermo, Valducci’s injured bodyguard, and Angelo Pettreno, next in line behind Valducci to take over the west coast Mafia operations. Next is J.J. Brown, a friend of the Iceman’s from back in New York, who is working off gambling debts by singing in The Oasis lounge, and his dizzy girlfriend Gloria, one of the Iceman’s former whores who blew the stable for the “straight life.” Let’s not forget Umoto, the prime minister of a small African nation, who’s a guest at the Oasis and has a diamonds-for-weapons exchange going with a seedy U.S. senator.

At first glance, Billion Dollar Death seems to be an attempt by Holloway House to create the black equivalent of Pinnacle’s adventure paperbacks, but it’s too shallow and clumsily written to be of much interest to fans of the Destroyer or Penetrator novels. I have the strange suspicion that Nazel never bothered to read or even pick up one of the Pinnacle books before banging out this tripe, and instead based his series on the Mego toy commercials that were on TV at the time. The description of the Iceman’s subterranean surveillance control room – called The Brain Center – reminded me of the deck of the Starship Enterprise, only not the one from the TV series but the Mego toy version that one of my friends owned (I went for the Little Rascals clubhouse instead). Holloway House most likely had plans for an Iceman movie, but as pictured on the front and back covers, the character resembles a Mego doll of Jim Brown rather than Jim Brown himself. When a few Mafia gunmen get into a helicopter dogfight with the Iceman, the overlong setpiece is so poorly staged and unbelievable that I kept hoping Nazel would reveal it to be the playacting of two 8-year-old boys running around a backyard with toy helicopters in their hands. Even the cover art is more suitable for Mego or Matchbox toys than the front of an action paperback. Makes you wonder what the series would be like if a couple of kids had created it and not a committee of jaded publishing house editors. Maybe the Iceman would’ve been a real hero instead of a cold-hearted pimp.

1 comment:

Temple of Schlock said...

Thanks, Kalise. How are things in the city of Rocky Mount, North Carolina this evening? Working late, are you? Guess what -- tomorrow's the Mega Millions drawing. How about I play your IP address, and if I win I'll send ya a care package from Holloway House?