Thursday, January 09, 2020

3. Crown: Macao Mayhem by Terry Harknett

I had high hopes for this book.  Unfortunately, the ratio of cover coolness to content was excessively high.  I mean check out that cover!  Plus Hong Kong, you can see how I would snatch this up.  I found it at the Rennaissance thrift store on the more eastern side of ave Mont-Royal which I should probably check out more.

I was expecting there to be a good deal of colonial ignorance and possibly even racism and took that into consideration.  Macao Mayhem takes place in Hong Kong and Macao in pre-handover 70s HK when the British were still in charge.  The two characters on the cover are a pair of Royal Hong Kong Cops:  rigourously honest but of course refuses to play by the rules Senior Superintendent John Crown and his long-suffering more humble but still wisecracking partner Inspector Po Chang (who is Chinese but was raised in Australia and tends to speak english more than Chinese).  The plot is a bit of a muddle and begins with a high-level call girl leaving an assignation at a wealthy Portuguese businessman's house and then of course getting killed and brutally disemboweled (in that order).  It eventually ends up in a plot to kidnap an important American politician but this takes at least 80% of the book to get there.  The reader does not really know where we are going besides getting a lot of aggressive banter, car chases (which are decent) and some pretty good action scenes.  The fights are probably the one highlight of the book, as the moves are quite specifically detailed and the actions somewhat satisfying.

However, because we don't really have much direction, I found myself pretty disconnected.  Worse, it never actually gets as extreme as it threatens.  It's really crude, both in the narration and in dialogue, but never actually gets extreme. We always hear about the male character's sexual appetites but their fulfilling of them is always done offscreen.  There is some gore, but never due to human cruelty (which I appreciated).  The writing is sort of bald and none of the characters too likable.

The worse disappointment for me though was Hong Kong itself.  All the roads and locations are geographically detailed, but it feels like he just got it out of a map.  None of the descriptions are very evocative and we get very little of the local colour.  Harknett's bio says nothing about him living in Hong Kong, so it could be that he indeed read it all from a map.

Now my dilemma is do I put this beautiful but unfun read on the shelf?

Addendum:  I just did a bit of research and learned that Harknett was a prolific pulp author, who cranked out over 200 books.  Makes a bit more sense!  Even crazier, there is a copy of it for sale for $600 on Abe Books!!! Bro, I'll sell this copy for $100 and a random pulp fiction book of your choice. :)

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Well, I was just blocked by a pompous academic for raising this point, but paperback writers aren't pulp writers for writing paperbacks. And pulp isn't inherently bubblegum, trash or even flashy action fiction. But, be that as it may, never trust the folks who are Aspirational on inflated prices on ABE or Amazon or the like...they are simply hoping they can find a sucker rich and/or desperate enough. They ain't exactly playing the short con, at least in terms of making the quickest possible buck.

Sorry it was disappointing.