Sunday, December 22, 2019

Jon Messmann's "A Bullet for the Bride"

Jon Messmann was a journeyman pulp writer who could crank them out and fill the pages up. Seriously his pages are dense with words. He seemed to put effort into his work, which isn't always the case for writers that very often wrote under established house names and who's covers had numbers on them. Quite often there's a lot blank space on pages, but Messmann seemed determined to give you bang for your .95 cents. Apparently he got his star writing comics in the 40's before moving onto books. He created a couple good series in "The Revenger" and "Jefferson Boone, Handyman" and worked in the Nick Carter world and the short-live Hot-Line books. Then turned his gun-sights towards westerns and coming up with the super long running "Trailsman" series of adult westerns. That's a damned fine run of writing books.

Along the way he wrote "A Bullet for the Bride" for Pyramid books. First off it's got a terrible lack-luster cover for the kind of book it is, making the book look like a tame mystery when it's a rip-roaring sea-faring secret agent adventure. Also it's from he 70's, designed for men and has boats in it so it obviously has mention of Travis McGee on the cover which was a prerequisite it seems. It's also suffers from the 70's phenomena of explaining zero about the contents of the book on the cover instead just having a excerpt of a sex scene. I bought the book on a whim because I enjoyed Messman's other work and figured it was worth the 4 dollar eBay risk. The paperback god were smiling upon me. It's even more surprising that I read it nearly as soon as I got it. Books usually languish on my To Be Read Pile for weeks (or months or years or decades) but the stupid bride and groom on the cover called out to me, I guess. Pyramid had some great covers on Joseph (Terry Harknett) Hedges' Stark series and Michael Kurland's War Inc. books, if "A Bullet for a Bride" had some decent artwork it might have sold more. Not that I have any idea how it sold being a guy who was born well after the book was first published and having no idea if any records likes that is kept. It's just that the book is obviously Captain Ed Steele #1: A Bullet for the Bride but just without any more books to follow.

Hard-case Captain Ed Steele is a vet who skippered a boat with his CIA buddy Bryon on missions during the Korean War. After the war the CIA pays for his super cool boat The Squid; that's built like a brick shit-house but looks like an out-house on the outside and got him to pay it off by doing dirty jobs for the company. The boat is described in great detail. I know nothing about boats so I don't know if it's actually well described or just made up. I assume Messmann knew his stuff cause it all sounds like boat things. Not that I care about boats. Ed is a dick in the way that a lot of Men's Adventure fiction heroes, but not unbearable. Messmann has character habits his heroes are often a bit introspective and classically read. Jefferson Boone and Ben Martin aka The Revenger are pretty similar. Messmann knew the kind of guys he liked to write about.

Pretty rich girl, Cam hires Ed to find out if the woman her father is about to marry is really evil. Ed doesn't want the job but gets talked into by his old CIA buddy Bryon and he doesn't even buy Cam's story. BUT SURPRISE the soon-to-be-evil-step-mother is actually evil. So Ed's in hot water with killers, wins a big boat race, sleeps with Cam,gets mugged, drinks a lot of gin, rents a convertible, sails through HURRICANE and sieges a island fortress full of baddies. Along the way he picks up his buddy Domino who acts as his side-kick, shipmate and Meyers to Ed's Travis McGee.

The book is full of enough fun and color to breeze right on by. Messmann is a seasoned pro and it's obvious that he cared about this book, the boating is big part of it and while I'm not the biggest fan of nautical adventures Messmann makes these scenes thrilling, particularly the boat race at the beginning. I loved the combo of the espionage/sea adventure it was an interesting concept that could have supported a lot more salty tales. Its not without it's faults, Cam the female lead is stupid and does all the wrong things at the wrong time. The finale and the evil plan is a bit rushed bit too easily stumbled upon. But even with these few detractors it's a helluva fun book that's packed with action and some wiseacre humor. Also keep an eye out for his Handyman and Revenger series both of which are a lot of fun. He also wrote MY ALL TIME FAVORITE Nick Carter: Killmaster book: The Sea Trap.

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