Back in the mists of time, well, July, I was offered a book as part of a blog tour. It was billed as similar in style to Jack Reacher and I thought, hmm, wouldn’t it be interesting if I persuaded my son and Mr Litlove to read the book and comment on it? Wouldn’t that make a nice change from me giving you the same old same old? So I spoke to my son and he said, sure, sounds intriguing. And I asked Mr Litlove and he laughed and said yes, he’d read it. And we were all set.
Well the book arrived and the tour itself was ages off. When my son visited, I gave him the review copy and he took it back to London. Not many days after this, he found his job in the pub and so the book sat, unread, on his shelf. As August turned into September, it became apparent that not much reading was happening in London, nor indeed was it likely to happen, and getting the book back looked like a sensible idea. As it happened, there was going to be a family party and we arranged to transfer. The night before the party, my son put the book in his bag so he wouldn’t forget it. In the morning, just before going to get the train, he decided he didn’t need to bring his bag with him… And so no book. Now time was getting short.
Okay, so the company Mr Litlove works for has an office in London, where my son worked for a while earlier in the summer. Often people travel back and forth between London and Cambridge and we figured someone wouldn’t mind carrying a book with them. My son was going to call in, leave the book and Mr Litlove had an employee visiting the city who would bring it back. Last Monday Mr Litlove called me. ‘We’ve got a problem,’ he said. ‘The guy isn’t coming back to Cambridge tomorrow after all. They’ve told him he needs to be at a convention.’
The next bit was a little garbled. ‘He’s going to Mexico?’ I asked.
‘No, the convention is called Demexeco.’
‘So where’s he going?’
Right. My son had dropped off the book by now but we had no courrier. Mr Litlove gave another of his employees headed for the London office a stamped addressed envelope. I hadn’t seen the book for so long I wasn’t sure how big it was. We fretted over the postage costs for a while, erred on the side of caution and hoped for the best. Finally on Wednesday morning, the book arrived safely. But then Mr Litlove seemed very busy with work.
Guess who ended up reading it?
I may have had one eyebrow raised in irony as I read about a secret service organisation called CURE whose brief was to undermine all organised crime syndicates in the USA. I had a dim view of the power of organisation per se at that point.
So anyhow, The Destroyer is a series of novels written by Warren Murphy from the start of the 70s onwards, the last one published in 2012 making a whopping 150 titles altogether. Apparently there’s a film adaptation on the cards, hence this recent re-issue. Created, The Destroyer is an enjoyable piece of hokum about ex-Vietnam vet and cop, Remo Williams, who is waiting on death row when the novel opens, framed for a crime he didn’t commit. The thing is, Williams was spotted during his Vietnam days, when he made something of a reputation for himself as a man able to undertake difficult and dangerous intelligence missions and complete them with success. He had a talent for subterfuge and an even more useful knack for killing people.
CURE needs to recruit a reliable killer, and has been given the curious condition that the man cannot exist. What better solution to the problem than someone who is officially dead? As the electric chair beckons, an unusual monk slips into Remo Williams’ cell and gives him a pill to bite, telling him not to do so until the last possible minute. When Williams comes to he is in a medical facility. He has his life but at the cost of his freedom. He’s to be trained as an assassin and boy does it sound fun. ‘I promise you terror for breakfast, pressure for lunch, tension for supper and aggravation for sleep,’ his new boss tells him. ‘Your vacations are the two minutes you’re not looking over your shoulder for some hood to put one in the back of your head.’ If he lasts a year, it will be a miracle. (Though we all know now that he lasted 40 years and ought, by rights, have been fighting crime long into his retirement.)
He’s then trained in the subtle yet deadly art of Sinanju karate by a wizened Asian, which is all quite good fun, and of course he masters these ancient techniques in the space of a fortnight or whatever, and then he’s on his way, sent on the trail of a baddie. You can imagine where it goes yourself. This is light reading, no need to chew, quick-fix fiction with a soupçon of brutality and love interest in the vein of James Bond – the lone female character is the only real indication we’re in the 70s here. It rattled along at a good rate, held together well and was entertaining to read, even if the prose sometimes made Lee Child look like a poet. I thought it was very similar to Reacher, only what he does in 500 pages, Remo Williams does in 200. They were less verbose in those days. It’ll be interesting to see what the film is like – now that’s a mission that I daresay my menfolk will undertake more willingly!