Friday, January 06, 2012

Axel Kilgore: The Terror Contract

For some days now I've been reading Six Seconds by Rick Mofina which is only remotely interesting, though it got off to a good start. After a while I got bored with Mofina's over-anxious way to make his humans alive and four-dimensional and his a bit too obvious story about Muslim terrorists, and as I was going through some boxes here at my study I came across a copy of  men's adventure paperback from 1987: The Terror Contract as by "Axel Kilgore". (The Finnish title of the paperback is Tappava enkeli that means "The Deadly Angel". The series title was translated literally as "Palkkasoturi".) I thought: "What the heck!", and as there was some leisurely time at my hands at the moment I started to read the book. It was way better than Mofina's.

Axel Kilgore was really Jerry Ahern, who's better known for his science fiction series called The Survivalist. I've pretty much avoided them, but The Terror Contract seemed so well-built that I might try one or two Survivalists one day. The hero of The Terror Contract and the whole Mercenary series is Hank Frost, one-eyed freelance spy, a tough guy who really knows his way in a battle. The book is about helping a Leftist terrorist to elope the Eastern Europe - there are lots of complications, though, and plenty of shoot-outs. The book is very fast, with no empty holes in it, and the action scenes are crisp and not overtly long, though they can go on for pages. Seems like this type of thing was something I missed.

There are many differences between The Terror Contract and Mofina's Six Seconds, even though they are aimed at similar markets (of course in totally different times). Mofina tries very hard to be convincing and make his people feel personal to the reader whereas Jerry Ahern couldn't care less, but with this gesture I care more about Hank Frost than anybody in Six Seconds. There's a longer story arc in The Mercenary books in which Frost seeks his girlfriend who was killed in a terrorist bombing, which makes for some melodramatic reading, but then again it's pretty nice compared to the lukewarm and forced emotionalism of Mofina. The Terror Contract is honest in its crudeness and simplicity, while Six Seconds is a mediocre attempt to bring depth into a simple spy thriller.

Having said all that I must add that I'd never share Ahern's political views. But then again he doesn't go on and on about them in The Terror Contract. There's also lots of gun porn, which seems like Ahern's trademark, but I can live with that. At least the action usually starts from the next page after Frost has described his weaponry.

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