Review: Nick Carter #53: The Arab Plague

This is the 53rd in the extremely long-running Nick Carter, Killmaster men’s adventure series. The book was originally published in 1970 and was released in the U.K. as “The Slavemaster” which is probably a more accurate title. Given the title, I had been expecting the plot would involve some Middle Eastern biological weapon but that’s not quite what we get here.

The 261 Nick Carter, Killmaster books are always described as having been written by “Nick Carter,” which was used as a house name; the books were written by a wide variety of authors, as you might imagine, and the Spy Guys & Gals website lists the author of this one as Jon Messman, citing the reference work Action Series and Sequels: A Bibliography of Espionage, Vigilante, and Soldier-of-Fortune Novels by Bernard A. Drew (published by Garland Publishing in 1988). I have no additional information to either confirm or contradict this, but I do plan on locating this reference work because it has a lot of potential, though it has likely been superceded at lest in part by Brad Mengel’s Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction: An Encyclopedia from Able Team to Z-Comm (McFarland, 2009).

Plot spoilers follow.

Nick Carter is Agent N-3 for a secret U.S. intelligence agency called AXE. He is a James Bond-type who is sent to Saudi Arabia because a long-term U.S. government operating in the region has become erratic and unreliable and has been deemed a security risk. It seems as though he may have become a double agent and Carter must figure out what’s going on. Carter uncovers a slavery ring operating in Saudi Arabia. As bad as this is, it turns out that the slavers have access to some brainwashing techniques which they use to control beautiful Western women who are in turn used to have sex with important Western government and business leaders, thus providing the slavers with plenty of blackmail material. The slaver is a Saudi man who is served by a half-dozen gigantic eunuchs straight out of Central Casting. Nick Carter, predictably, ends up destroying the whole operation. Oh and oddly enough, the book includes a swimming pool battle-to-the-death between Nick Carter and a half-dozen giant snapping turtles who are used by the slavers to dispose of bodies.

Carter’s operations are, as always (in my view) clumsy and about as subtle as an axe. Don’t read this one expecting to see even remotely plausible descriptions of how an intelligence officer might work in the field. The book is also a product of its time. All the Nick Carter books have, by 2010 standards, fairly tame descriptions of sex and this one is no different. One of the characters has been blackmailed by the slavers and photos of him are taken while he has sex with two women at once, in several different sexual positions, and the like. (Gasp, shudder, swoon, etc.) Carter and another character see the photos and remark how kinky and “far out” this is, and I just had to laugh. In any case, I don’t think contemporary readers will be too shocked by anything they read here.

I give the book 3 stars out of 5, but then again I’m not a particularly big fan of the Nick Carter books. They’re extremely fast reads but not terribly interesting. In any case, if you like the Nick Carter series, this isn’t a bad one, but it’s not all the great either. Middle-of-the-road in terms of quality and utterly forgettable.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers

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