HOUSE-KEEPING: First off let me say sorry for letting the blog lie dormant for a while. At the end of last year, I was finishing principal photography on the first full-length crime-filled film I wrote/produced called Arrive Alive (coming 2024) and I also got a paying gig at Fathom Press to write reviews of vintage horror novels. So, please go check that out! Plus, I finished my first novel (of course it's action-packed) that will be published. All of that unfortunately has kept my leisure reading at a minimum. But I'm here to rectify that.
And I'm going to have some spoilers in this post, you are WARNED.
There's a couple of books that hit me at the right time and place and lit a fire under my ass. It's usually something I read that puts flame to the creative fire that turns into a screenplay or (so far) unpublished books. One such back in my young days was The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley, which really started my hardboiled mystery reading. Then there was a week where the one-two-punch of Jonathan Latimer's Solomon's Vineyard and Philip Jose Farmers vastly underrated Nothing Burns in Hell fired up the little grey cells. Both of those were instrumental in some of my first (unmade) feature-length screenplays that had any merit.
Then, up there high on the peak of my adventure fiction mountain is The Death of The Fuhrer. It's one of those "infamous" type of books. Bill Pronzini mentioned it in his Gun in Cheek book about "questionable" fiction. Paperback haunts like Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot and Glorious Trash have told tale of the wonders of the book and spread its laurels through the fans of Men's Adventure field. That's where I heard of it and immediately wanted to read it.
See, I hate Nazi's. I hate old Nazi's, new Nazi's and Illinois Nazi's. To me they're THE cliched villain for simple fact that they are best. There's no good willing-Nazi. I never tire of reading or watching about people punching Nazi's. Great stuff, keep up the good work. If you have other ideas about this, we can step outside, and I can introduce you to my fists The Hamburglar and The Grimace.
As you might have guessed, The Death of the Fuhrer is about Nazi-killing. It's mostly set in 1951 and Karl Gisevius is our hero here; he's sort of a jackass who does jackass-things but with the best intention: to kill the still-living Adolf Hitler. He doesn't hesitate in his goal to kill Hitler, as soon as he finds out he's on the way to kill Hitler he's on the trail. See, Hitler has lost his brain after the war. They left his body in the bunker, but his brain is now in the body of someone else. Karl is on the trail of his old buddy from before the war who was the brain surgeon who unscrewed Hitler's head, scooped out the brain and put it back in the body of someone else.
This leads Karl to motorcycle jump through the gates of a castle and the introduction of a mess of Nazi's. Karl has dinner and gets the hots for The Baroness of the castle. Later he has sex with her, and we discover that Hitler's brain is in the sexy lady Baroness. BIG SURPISE and wildest thing I have ever seen in a widely distributed paperback, in this case a Fawcett Gold Medal book. I can see this kinda oddball thing being in a Manor or Major or Canyon book, but a Fawcett Gold Medal? Then it takes a pit-stop into a weird section of mind-controlled hero stuff, including the other infamous scene where Karl makes sweet love to a sofa. After that it's full-tilt boogie as Karl fights his way through the castle, eventually finding himself killing a guard without THE TOP OF HIS SKULL OFF, trying carefully to not spill his precious brain juice. He patches up the old noggin and finds a German Luger and starts the big Bond-ish finale.
Roland Puccetti wrote three books as far as I can find, this one, one called The Trial of John and Henry Norton and a non-fiction book entitled Persons: A Study of Possible Moral Agents in the Universe. Neither of these books seem to be in the same spirit as The Death of the Fuhrer. But all of them dealt with the brain. The Trial of John and Henry Norton seems to be a quasi-Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type novel and then his non-fiction work was also mind-related. So, I guess you can say he had something on his mind. He was born in Illinois and died in Canada in 1995. And that's all I know about him.
The Death of the Fuhrer was actually originally published as a hardback before the Fawcett edition. It was published in England as a hardback and had a paperback edition by Arrow. It's a little pricey now that it has a small cult following but shouldn't set you back too much for the Fawcett. All the editions have wonderfully different and sometimes spoiler-ish covers, you really can't go wrong.
Why do I like this book so much? It's a rip-roaring time of a novel. It's slightly stilted and oddly seriously written which adds to its funky flavor with its hint of authorial madness that lurks behind each page. Puccetti most have LOVED the Men's magazines at the time, this is one of the few books that matches the flavor of the sweat mags. Nazi She-Devils, mad doctors, daring escapes, torture, sex, gunfights, it's full of it all. It really seems that Puccetti indulged in whatever vice was his (hey, it was the 70s) and tried to top every story he'd ever read in an issue of Man's Life or All Man.
And, dude, he did.
I think the shear level of creativity and out-sider art feel of the books is what ultimately full engrossed me. There's no other book like it then or now and it seems like a pure distillation of Puccetti's interests and obsessions, so it's either completely honest or it's all just a lark of a book where Puccetti was just trying to push the boundaries higher and higher to make himself laugh. Because I do think he's tongue was in his cheek when he wrote it, at least a little bit. Hopefully.
It's a book full of ideas that gave me a bunch of ideas and not a cookie-cutter novel that was trying to be like every other Alastair MacLean rip-off. I love Men's Adventure series where it's comfort food, you can read about 'ol Mack Bolan and know there at the end Mack will be fine and ready to go killing Mafioso's in the next book. It's comfort food for a blood-thirsty soul.
But every now and then you need to shake that up with something truly unpredictable. This is on the first in the Men's Adventure field to make me want to go out and find the weird stuff. I can't help but think of the weirdo-writers like our own Joseph Rosenberger or John D. (Hal Bennett) Revere or Doug (Loup Durand & Pierre Rey) Masters. That's enemy terrorist, where anything can happen.
What can I say? I'm an oddball and it's a book after my own oddball heart.