The daring TEEN agents’ hunt for Dr. Death and his political plotters plunge Chris and Geronimo into a dangerous chase in an eerie cone-studded volcanic valley which holds a fantastic treasure and a world-terrifying secret!
Background: So, it’s been a while since we last looked at Jack Lancer’s Cold War relic of a boys’ series, featuring the completely baffling spy adventures of Ivy League golden boy Christopher Cool and his stealthy, Indian-y roommate Geronimo Johnson, in the employ of the Top-Secret Educational Espionage Network (TEEN):
This hush-hush corps of bright young students had been specially developed by the CIA on the theory that its members would be less open to suspicion than older agents.
In the last book you may recall that Chris was mostly repeatedly rescued by Geronimo and feisty (duh) redhead (of course) co-ed agent Spice Carter. At least when he wasn’t being totally inconspicuous by donning blackface and wrapping himself up in the living room drapes as a “disguise” and getting chased by bats.
In this edition Chris and his highly punchable face are off to battle terrorists in the middle east, which I am sure will be handled with due care and cultural sensitivity.
The Plot: I don’t even know how to begin describing what happens in this book, because even after reading it I’m not too sure what happens in this book. There are Islamic terrorists. There is an escaped Nazi named Dr. Death. There are ghosts. There is an “atomic rocket”. But the particulars are all pretty hard to sort out.
The book opens with Chris and Geronimo being summoned to a Turkish restaurant in darkest Greenwich Village:
A wailing din of Oriental music struck the boys’ ears as they entered. The smoky, dingy restaurant was filled with a Saturday night crowd of patrons. All were men, and from their faces, seemed to be mostly Turks, Arabs, and other Middle Eastern types. Some were puffing on hubble-bubble water pipes.
So, yeah, this is page 2.
While awaiting the rendezvous with their contact, they are entertained by the “Circassian Slave Girls”, one of whom is Spice Carter IN DISGUISE, who flashes the message BEWARE SCIMITAR in Morse code from one of jewels in her bazooms. This will be Agent Carter’s only appearance, and she gets one line of dialogue (“I may not be able to wear a bikini after this. I’ll be black and blue all over!”)
Chris is summoned into the back of the restaurant, where we learn he speaks fluent Turkish, and is promptly knocked out with poisoned gas. Awakening at some latter point in time he karate-chops his captor, incapacitates the restaurant’s owner with a “Sleepy Sliver” dart, ransacks the office, finding only a suspicious strand of prayer beads…
Then a startling realization hit him. Geronimo was gone!
Nothing gets by Christopher Cool, TEEN Agent.
Next, he gets hypnotized by an 8-track cassette the villains left in the stereo in his Jaguar. In a very confusing scene he is menaced by a Turkish agent who tries to use more hypnosis to get Chris to give up the information he knows (talk about trying to get blood from a turnip…) but Chris shoots himself up with adrenaline hidden in his fraternity pin and then does something called The Dance of Eight Directions all over the enemy agent, at which point Geronimo rescues him.
It may seem like that Chris is not a very good spy, but the CIA knows that he’s just the man they need to send to Turkey to fight Nazis. Q literally spells it out for him:
“Ever hear of Dr. Herman Tod? The name is spelled T-o-d, but in German that’s pronounced Tote as in ‘Tote that bail’.”
A small bell rang in Chris’s brain. “Wasn’t he some sort of Nazi bigwig?”
“Quite right. He was Hitler’s Mad Genius- a fanatical but brilliant scientist who worked on all sorts of Nazi war projects… Tod means ‘death’ in German, you see, so eventually he became known as Dr. Death to Allied Intelligence.”
At this point the plot gets ever-more bewildering, as Chris and Geronimo are sent to Turkey, where they immediately start getting lasers shot at them. They are ordered to meet with Nilufer Gursel, the college-aged niece of an antiquities professor… for reasons that are never quite clear. It doesn’t seem like she’s a spy or anything. Still, let’s leer at some locals:
The co-eds, like most Turkish girls, were highly attractive.
“There she is,” Geronimo said presently, nudging Chris.
“Trust old Hawkeye to spot a squaw!”
The girl paused and gave him a friendly smile. Big, glowing amber eyes- a real Turkish delight, this one!
There is an Air Force Major named Jack Kane, who the boys randomly run into when he’s getting mugged for a Moon Goddess statue he just acquired, which gives Chris a chance to show off his ancient Lydian (yeah right).
“Something’s cooking, choonday. Better get here fast! Kane’s having a secret powwow with someone. I think he’s smoking pipe with Dr. Death!”
We learn that Maj. Kane is stationed at a local NATO base and are kept updated on his status as he goes AWOL… but then he never comes back into the story. Is he working as an enemy agent? WHO KNOWS!!!!
“You took the words right out of my mouth, Indian boy. By all means, let us powwow with the bird soldier and find out what he’s doing in the enemy camp.”
Geez, give it a rest, Chris.
Chris and Geronimo are also trailed through the entire country by Herkimer Nutley, who claims to be a vacationing ex-police chief from Nebraska. Is he a spy? WHO KNOWS!!!!!
Chris accidentally gives Nulifer’s uncle a heart attack. There are ghosts. The CIA lets Chris have a helicopter. Are they still supposed to be fighting Nazis at this point? I forget.
They end up in Cappadocia, where they literally stumble upon the treasure of Croesus. Dr. Death finally turns up and Chris gets to actually say “Dr. Death, I presume.”
He explains that he’s going to fire a missile over the border into Russia, who will blame the U.S. and retaliate by firing on the U.S. Air Force base at Izmir. Chris and Geronimo use their Rocket Hopper shoes to foil the plan. Some adults finally show up so Chris doesn’t accidentally start World War III. The End.
Sign It Was Written In 1967 Department: Seriously? I mean, apparently Grosset & Dunlop was holding out hope that the young people were still thinking that it would be “cool” to work for “The Man” as a CIA Agent.
Not James Bond Department: Once again, all of the spy gadgets have terrible names. In addition to the Sleepy Sliver poison dart and the Rocket Hopper jet boots, Chris and Geronimo are issued infrared SnooperScopes and grenades code-named “Light’s Out” and “Curfew”.
Author Notes Department: “Jack Lancer” is a pen name for James Lawrence, who wrote for a number of G & D series, but is probably best known for his work on the James Bond and Friday Foster comic strips (the latter of which was adapted as a movie for Pam Grier). Under his own name he also wrote the trashy, semi-pornographic Dark Angel series (…which coincidentally I recently wrote about for a forthcoming publication! Stay tuned for updates!)