The Penetrator #39: Cruise Into Chaos

The Penetrator #39: Cruise Into Chaos by Lionel DerrickThe Penetrator 39 front
Pinnacle Books, 1980
Price I paid: 75¢

Modern-day pirates in World War II U-boats are slipping stealthily through the peaceful waters between Los Angeles and Acapulco, attacking and robbing unwary cruise ships—completely eluding the Coast Guard. But Mark Hardin picks up the scent as he goes about demolishing one of the deadliest and best-planned Mafia scams of all time.

Once again it will take more than the impossible to daunt the Penetrator as he strikes out to prove that he too has the power to make waves.

I can’t believe it! I actually found another Penetrator book!

If you’re a new reader and haven’t felt the need to scan the archives, back in March I reviewed a particular piece of Man Fantasy starring Mark Hardin, the Penetrator. In particular, I read the twenty-ninth book in the series, called Aryan Onslaught. If you want to jump back and read that review real quick before diving into this one, go right ahead. I won’t be offended.

The Penetrator, you might recall, is a man who gets things done. He’s a one-man army who lives with a scientist and a Cheyenne Indian and he has all sorts of guns and things like that, as well as magic Indian powers like seeing in the dark and turning off his pain receptors. This particular book doesn’t give us a lot more information about the man than we picked up in the last one I read, but there are a few new developments.

In particular, the Penetrator hates the Mafia. I mean it. He’s dealt with them in other books, apparently, and throughout the book it’s made clear that the Mafia knows who he is and is not pleased to see him coming. They’re also suicidally stupid when it comes to him, because man, you’d think they’d remember all the things he’s done.

One thing I like is that this book mentions, right in the text, that the Penetrator has had exactly thirty-eight adventures before this one. For a second I thought it actually broke the fourth wall.

Other facts about the man we learn are that he was orphaned at a young age and that his father’s name was Thomas Lloyd Hardin, whose first and middle names are dangerously close to my own. I honestly had to re-read that sentence a few times to make sure I didn’t hallucinate it in a Phillip K. Dick kind of way.

Oh, and like four times over the course of two pages the text mentions the Penetrator’s “full lips.” A bit more information than I needed, even once.

The story, though, is a good one, in that thoroughly stupid way I’d come to expect from this series. The Mafia, you see, is up to some big schemes in the Pacific Ocean. They’ve acquired an antique U-boat straight out of World War II, and they’re using it to be pirates. Submarine Mafia Pirates. Is that gold, or what?

I call dibs on that band name.

The Penetrator, catching wind of this scheme really quickly, decides that the best way to put a stop to it is to infiltrate the Mafia. He finds a guy who looks a lot like him, knocks him out, steals his identity, and heads straight for the local Mafia HQ. The guy he’s pretending to be is named Danny Bonelli.

This book, being about the Mafia, is full of names like that. Seriously, almost everyone’s a Bonelli or a Fratelli or a Donetti. I’m throughly surprised at how many names can end in a double consonant followed by an I, and keeping them straight was a bit of a task unto itself.

Anyway, as soon as the Penetrator shows up at the Don’s house things seem like they’re about to go hilariously wrong. I mean it, as soon as the door opens the guy goes, and I’m quoting here, “You’re…you’re the Penetrator!” My ass is somewhere under the couch right now, because I literally laughed it off.

This unfortunate turn of events is short-lived, though. The Penetrator basically says “Yeah, I get that a lot” and proceeds to show off his credentials proving that he’s really a Mafioso. One of these credentials is of note.

Apparently Mafia guys in this universe are also blood donors, because the book makes a point of establishing Danny Bonelli’s blood type. The Penetrator shows the guy his donor ID card, as well as the bit of Mafia jewelry that for some reason also has his blood type on it. This is where things got interesting.

Danny Bonelli’s blood type is, apparently, the “very rare” AO type. I had never heard of that before, being that I’m from the real world.

I got curious, though, and looked it up. The Internet was as empty on such information as I was, with the exception of talking about the genetics of the whole deal. Blood types A and B are co-dominant genes, which is why a person can be both. O, however, is a recessive gene. A person can have a genotype of AO (an A gene from one parent and an O from the other) but in terms of phenotype that’s exactly the same as being type A.

So I decided to consult a medical professional about it. I figured that maybe, since this book was written in 1980, there was a now-defunct classification system for blood types. Like maybe AO was an older term for A-negative, or something like that.

The medical professional I consulted has been a registered nurse for almost thirty years, so she would have been in nursing school about the time this book was written. She’s also knowledgeable as all get-out, and I trust her implicitly on all matters of a medical nature.  The response of this health care professional was

No. I’ve never heard of that.

So there you have it, folks. The author of this book had no idea how blood types work.

And yes, this health care professional is my mother, and this post is going live on Mothers’ Day, so I just want to say thanks, Mom. I love you very much.

Using the proof of a nonexistent blood type, the Penetrator manages to convince this Mafia guy that he is, in fact, Danny Bonetti. He heads up to talk to the Don, who tells him all about the situation with the submarine and would “Danny” like to be its new captain.

The Penetrator dwells on this for a while, and in the meantime meets the Don’s daughter. Massalina. Massalina is beautiful and walks around like a cat in heat. She wants the Penetrator in the worst way, but the Penetrator is having none of that. For one, he knows that messing around with the Don’s daughter is going to bring down a whole world of hurt on him. Also, she’s seventeen, and the Penetrator is nothing if not a man of ethics. He’ll brutally murder dozens of people, but he’s not the kind of man who’ll bed an underaged girl. In further addition, she’s engaged to marry Tony Prio, one of the other guys in this Mafia group.

Tony’s pretty mad about Massalina sniffing around the Penetrator, but oddly enough, once he realizes that the Penetrator is going to do the right thing, he’s really cool about it. He’s accepted that Massalina is a bit of a whore and as long as “Danny” keeps his distance, he’s all right in Tony’s book.

This is stretched to a bit of an extreme later, when Massalina once again tries to get the Penetrator into the sack. The Penetrator not only tells her flat-out no, he insults her and tells her to get the hell out. Her response is what you might expect if you’ve ever read the Old Testament and know the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Or if you’re just a misogynist.

In the end, the Penetrator just explains what really happened to all the Mafia guys and they totally believe him. Dames, right? Been pulling this stuff since Bible days.

The Penetrator blends in well with the Mafia guys, learning how to use the U-boat and getting ready to take it over. Then, suddenly, somebody else accuses him of not being Danny Bonelli and boom, the chase is on.

He’s captured and thrown into prison, where he manages to escape because he concealed an insanely sharp knife. He flees into the desert and hides a bit, showing off his survival skills learned in Vietnam and Native America, while the Mafia hunts him down with a helicopter. What’s the Penetrator do about that? He kills the Mafia guys and steals the helicopter and flies it to Mexico.

One of the things about the Penetrator series, I’ve learned, is that there aren’t much in the way of drawn-out action scenes. The Penetrator is so good at killing people that there’s never really any contest. Dudes show up and start shooting at him, he shoots back and they die. It’s quick and its dirty and it’s sort of unsatisfying. At least once a book, though, he gets shot or stabbed or something himself, just to add a bit of tension I guess, but at the same time you can’t diminish the fact that he’s not just a tough guy, he’s the toughest guy, so he just shrugs off the wound and starts killing some more.

So it turns out that the Penetrator’s plan to infiltrate the Mafia, which took up three-quarters of the book, didn’t actually work out. It sort of made me wonder what the point was. I mean, now he knows who and what he’s dealing with, but in terms of the actual Mafia plot, he knew about as much at the beginning of the book as he does now.

Wait, no, I’m wrong. He now knows the location of the Mafia’s hidden base. So he rents a bomber and, well, bombs it. Straight up, no fuss, lots of muss.

Apart from that little aside, though, there wasn’t much point to the first…most…of the book.

His new plan is probably what he should have done all along. He pretends to be a rich dude and books passage on an expensive luxury liner. Shockingly, it turns out that Massalina is on board as well. She tries, one last time, to seduce the Penetrator, even knowing who he actually is. When he snubs her yet again, she tries to kill him twice and fails miserably. She’s evil, but she’s incompetent.

There’s a great bit where the Penetrator’s eating dinner and a stand-up comedian is doing his bit. There’s a noise outside and the comedian is all like “Haha, it must be those submarine pirates we’ve been hearing about! Am I right? Am I right?”

He’s right.

The Penetrator is prepared, though. He’s got a huge damn arsenal on board with him that he somehow managed to sneak around with. This book, like the other one I’ve read, goes into a lot of detail about each individual weapon, where it was made, who designed it, what it’s for, and so forth. Even the knife he used to escape earlier had a backstory. So this bit took a while.

When the sub attacks, Massalina escapes over to it.

In the meantime, the Penetrator has gotten aboard one of the ship’s lifeboats or something like that and is heading toward the submarine, hell-bent for leather. He’s firing away with a grenade launcher, and the fight ends with what I think is the greatest thing ever.

On the deck of the submarine stands Tony Prio, shooting at the Penetrator and no doubt saying something insightful like “It’s…THE PENETRATOR!” One of the Penetrator’s grenades hits Tony right in the midsection, blowing him right in half. His buddies flee but half of Tony gets stuck in the hatch as the ship starts to descend into the ocean, therefore allowing the U-boat to take on water and sink to the bottom like a stone.

Holy. Crap.

So the day is saved and the Penetrator goes back home, but not before giving a Coast Guard guy one of his flint arrowheads, the calling card of…the Penetrator.

The very end of the book features the Penetrator explaining what happened to his scientist pal and then heading off to relax and recuperate. This is where the book really surprised me, though. In the end he’s thinking about what he needs to do. Head off on another adventure? Take a break? He gets to thinking, not for the first time in the book, that it’s, well, been a while. So he thinks to himself that he needs to find a lady friend. Who does he think of? None other than Angie Dillon, the damsel in distress from Aryan Onslaught, the only other Penetrator novel I’ve read. I mean, it’s surprising enough that there’s that much continuity between these books, but man, referencing the one other book I know? If I believed in stuff, I’d say that stuff was happening here.

So there you have it. This book was only slightly less enjoyable than Aryan Onslaught, but only because that one was so damn stupid. Cruise Into Chaos was pretty stupid, too, but this one was stupid in more of an awesome way. Submarine Mafia Pirates, man. I mean come on.

It surprised me that our hero never had any sexytimes in this book. He had ample opportunity, but each time we had to learn that he’s actually an honorable fellow and that he’s got more pride than that. At the same time, it mentioned repeatedly how it’d, you know, been a while. I suppose that makes it even more impressive that he was able to survive the feminine wiles of a Mafia Don’s beautiful teenage daughter.

He didn’t use any of his magical Indian powers, either, now that I think about it.

Apart from that, we don’t really learn much more about our hero that we didn’t already know from the other one I’ve read.

I fully intend to read more, though.

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