Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spy Killer

This past week I read the audio version of L. Ron Hubbard's Spy Killer. Hubbard is probably best known as the founder of Scientology, but before that he was a pulp fiction writer and storyteller. Evidently, the 150 stories Hubbard penned are being released as paperbacks for new readers. Here's how publisher's weekly described the book:

In this fast-paced short novel of espionage and intrigue from pulp master Hubbard, Kurt Reid, bucko mate of the tanker Rangoon, jumps ship to avoid a murder rap. His goal is the city of Shanghai because behind it lay all of China and a fair chance for escape. Instantly, Reid is drawn into a plot involving a beautiful Russian spy, Varinka, and the sinister Gen. Lin Wang and his executioners known as the Death Squad. The equally beautiful Anne Carsten complicates the romantic equation. While not as polished or prolific as Max King of the Pulps Brand, the future founder of Scientology carved a solid career as a contributor to the popular magazines of his day. This action yarn first saw print in the April 1936 issue of Five-Novels Monthly—the bright primary colors of that original cover, reproduced here, add nicely to the timeless pulp appeal.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Now my take.

I listened to an audio version that attempted to give the feel of radio theater, but while listening to the groans and clunks, stomping footsteps and gun shots I had a hard time at first discerning whether this was supposed to be radio comedy a la Garrison Keillor or the silly antics of Firesign Theater. After a while I realized this was supposed to be a straight story. Fortunately, it is two discs in length and I found the writing so bad it was amusing.

Seven of the reviewers on Amazon.com gave Spy Killer a five star rave, and the other two crashed the party with four star ratings. Is there no one who can recognize good writing any more? Cliche ridden, characters with absolutely no depth, violations of the basic rules of fiction writing such as show, don't tell.... Hubbard's spy fiction doesn't hold a candle to Iam Fleming's Bond, James Bond. Ennyman's Spy Killer rating: one star.

Alas, it is what it is. Hope I'm not popping anyone's balloons.

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