Jason Striker #2: Mistress Of Death, by Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes
July, 1974 Berkley Medallion Books
The first volume of the Jason Striker series was a clunky Enter the Dragon sort of riff with a few bizarre moments, but this second one is full-on lurid pulp...already within the first several pages we have hero/narrator Striker brutally kicked in the crotch by a towering black Amazon; he wakes up in the hospital after groin surgery to find himself being seduced by an already-nude 16 year-old girl named Amalita, but they’re attacked by orange-eyed, drug-fueled "demons" who raid the hospital room; a fight which sees a bedpan used as a weapon (complete with gross descriptions of urine and feces splatting all over people), after which our hero screws the 16 year-old girl! Did I mention he took her virginity in the previous volume, back when she was only 15?? Man these '70s men's adventure series knew no limits, and that’s just how I like them.
One thing Mistress of Death shares with its predecessor is a shall we say loose approach to plotting. This book jumps all over the damn place, so that it comes off like a series of unrelated snapshots. The grounding theme is a new drug called Kill-13 which is basically like speed for martial arts fighters. Addiction comes quick and users are turned into orange-eyed “demons” who will fight to the death; currently they are carving out their own brutal kingdom in Striker’s still-unspecified home town, all of this occurring “a little over a year” after the first volume.
As for any pick-up from that previous book, there’s hardly any. Amalita is the only recurring character, and as we’ll recall she’s the niece of Vincente Pedro, Striker’s nemesis-turned comrade. Oddly enough, Pedro apparently died on the last page of the previous volume, but we are informed here that not only is he still alive but he’s married Amalita, and they now have a child – though Amalita makes it pretty clear that the boy is actually Striker’s. She also says that Pedro would have Striker killed if he ever found out.
Amalita has a fatal attraction for our boy, though, which turns out pretty badly for Chiyako, a cute Chinese kung-fu lady Striker meets soon after getting out of the hospital – and yes, Chiyako is Chinese despite having a Japanese name! Same for her father, Choji Kija; Amalita has come to the US with the man’s name, as a possible contact Striker could look up to help fight the Kill-13 menace. But this is actually a cheap narrative trick to tie together these various plots, as the old man turns out to have no knowledge of Kill-13 other than the easily-grasped understanding of how destructive it is, both to the user and to society.
Meanwhile we have a long flashback to Striker’s days in Vietnam, where he planted electronic homing signals for bombers…he was captured by VC and tosed in a camp…but he escaped by murdering a girl who turned out to have been there to rescue him…he ends up with monks who train him in kung-fu (suspiciously enough, none of this was mentioned in the previous volume during Striker’s long digressions on kung-fu)…the monks send him on his way and only later does dumbass Striker realize he left his bombing beacon with them! Sure enough the monks get bombed and all of them die, something which Striker rightfully blames himself for to this very day…but damned if I didn’t find it all pretty hilarious. I mean, isn’t that part of everyone’s standard checklist before leaving the house? Wallet? Check. Keys? Check. Electronic bomb-homing device? Check.
Anyway, Striker and Chiyako hit it off while the old man’s out tracking down Kill-13 leads. They end up making it on the dojo’s floor, Striker discovering after the fact that the girl was a virgin, thus bringing his score up to two. But soon it all becomes like a kung-fu soap opera as Amalita comes out of nowhere, engages Chiyako in some verbal sparring, and then the two go at it in a full-bore catfight! This whole sequence is bizarre, but nonetheless entertaining, as the two women fight, Amalita mercilessly so; she smashes a bottle and carves up Chiyako’s left breast, after which Striker finally does something about the whole mess and trounces Amalita, demanding that she return to her husband.
The snapshot storytelling continues as next we go into the long, third-person storyline of Ilunga, the black kung-fu “mistress of death” who nearly unmanned Striker in the opening pages. Her sob story has it that, having been raped so many times as a teen during her walks through a notorious park, she took up kung-fu as a means to get vengeance. Soon she became notorious herself, for hiding in the park and kicking would-be rapists in the crotch, destroying their manhoods!! Getting wind of the hot new Kill-13 drug, Ilunga checks it out as a means to give her more combat power. Soon she’s not only an addict but high in the city’s demon network.
Choji Kija implores Striker to not just consider Ilunga a villain, due to her sad tale, but when Striker confronts her it leads to the inevitable fight. And the fight leads to the inevitable seduction scene, as Ilunga, despite hating men in general, tells Striker as he pins her that she lusts for his “white prick!” I should mention at this point Chiyako’s been captured by the demons, who hold her for ransom, demanding that Striker join them or else. So Striker accepts Ilunga’s offer…sex for info: Ilunga knows where Chiyako might be held, but she wants some quality time with Striker in exchange. (The authors by the way never write any actual sex scenes, always prudishly cutting to the next scene.)
The next plot-jump has Striker venturing back down to Honduras, where he reunites with Vincente Pedro, who understands how nuts his wife Amalita can be, and also ensures Striker that Pedro’s son is not really Striker’s son. Together these two try to track down the Kali cult behind Kill-13, Striker finding out about the worship of the goddess after fighting Ilunga’s superior to the death back in the US.
One thing that becomes more clear with each page is that, when it comes to anything but the martial arts, Jason Striker is a complete idiot. The guy just bumbles around, making countless mistakes, and is even an idiot about things he should know about – when launching a raid on the demons’s Kill-13 factory (which is located inside a lost Mayan pyramid), Striker wonders if they can use grenades to blow the place up. Pedro has to inform him that grenades are solely “man-killing devices,” and would be no use in blowing up the facility. Remember, Striker was a Green Beret in Vietnam.
After this Striker breaks off on his own again, still searching for Chiyako. There follows this arbitrary, pages-filling sequence where an earthquake hits this part of South America and Striker holes up in an abandoned building, biding his time. This whole part is just a head-scratcher in how unecessary it is. Finally Striker gets the lockdown on the mysterious leader of the Kill-13 sect, a well-muscled Shaw Brothers type named Kan-Sen, who has Chiyako captive in his villa.
The action goes through the roof as Stryker attempts to sneak into the place (including yet another gross and arbitrary bit involving feces where Striker, ever the dumbass, trips while sneaking through the sewer lines and ends up swallowing some of the filth!!) but is promptly discovered. He takes on a plethora of demons, and after an induced whiff of Kill-13 he becomes a killing machine. The authors give this sequence almost a psychedelic edge, as a deranged and hallucinating Striker kills with abandon. The gore factor is also quite high, with Striker even ripping out intestines and hurling the viscera at his opponents.
However it all leads to a depressing finale, with our hero half-dead and saved by Ilunga, who has come down here to help him – she fights alongside Striker during the climax and to his Kill-13 addled eyes appears like Kali. Ilunga is now set up to be an important character in the series, which is cool because she’s definitely a Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu type of character. She’s also smarter than our narrator, given that she figures out how to destroy her competitors in the Kill-13 cult and corner the drug’s market for herself.
Anyway, this series, while goofy and haphazardly plotted, is still a lot of fun, mostly due to its heaping helpings of bell bottom fury.