Tuesday, May 19, 2015

COBRA 1 - The Heroin Connection by Joseph Rosenberger

The Heroin Connection
by Joseph Rosenberger
1986 Critic's Choice Paperbacks

Been looking for this for a while since reading that it's more violent and morally ambivalent than the Death Merchant series.  This ends up being true, and the series is definitely stronger for it.

COBRA stands for Counter-Subversion Operations Bureau of Resistance and Action.  It's funded by, but doesn't answer to, the NSA, and is so secret nobody knows it exists.  Which kind of begs the question, if they don't answer to anybody, it kind of stops being a government organization.  But don't worry about it too much.

COBRA consists of 250 agents and is divided into Eagles (the men, who pracice traditionally spycraft, i.e., shooting stuff) and the Doves (the women, who practice "sexpionage").  The Eagles look down their noses at the Doves for being prostitutes, but I'm guessing Rosenberger is just hamfistedly setting up some character development where the men grow to respect the women.

Our story follows a ten agent team:

Johnathan Victor Skul - Nam vet, ex-Green Beret, ex-CIA, PhD in Abnormal Psychology, divorced, an orphan with a soft spot for homeless children, has a drinking problem, disrespects women but might come around enough to want to have sex with them, hobbies include astronomy and clock repair.

Deborah Miles - A dove, and the Lois Lane of our piece.  Despite being a lady in peril in need of rescue, she's plays an active role in the action.  Has a masters in parapsychology and a pathological hatred of all things left-wing.

Ann Brandon - "A very attractive Black girl who was three-fourths white - a quadroon who never slept in a bed unless she was with a man."  Keeping it classy, Rosenberger.

Karsten Lindley Hayes - Retired Harvard professor and cook.

Douglas Almaine - Former CIA case officer and chemistry buff, with politics to the right of Hitler.

Henry Kowitt - Another Black.  Weapon and underwater demolition expert.  Former military, joined COBRA instead of the seminary.  Slips into a Stepin Fetchit routine now and again, either out of irony or because Rosenberger can't figure out how else black folk talk.  He dies first.

Alister Bates - Locks and security expert.

William Holbrook - Former Green Beret team leader, vehicle expert.

Christopher Shinns - Sneak thief and burglar.

Barry Bob Arden - Communications expert.

Now that we've got the OK Cupid profiles out of the way, on to the plot.  The KGB is giving free heroin to the New York mafia to destabilize America.  The mafia in turn is pushing the product via black gangs in Harlem.

COBRA's mission?  Kill every Italian, Russian, and Black person, including their wives.  Two wives get knocked off, not by accident, not because they were in the line of fire, but shot down in cold blood just because.

COBRA does better than the Death Merchant books (btw - they're in the same continuity) in that it doesn't get bogged down in planning and regurgitating facts from Rosenberger's stack of National Geographics.  We've got five full action sequences: a raid on a Mafia mansion, a raid on a Harlem nightclub, COBRA's safehouse being raided, a raid on a KGB apartment building, and a raid on a ship in harbor, which features as a bonus Debbie Miles wielding an assault rifle topless.

The lesson here, ghost of William Johnstone, is that it doesn't matter how morally indefensible your Men's Adventure is, as long as you keep slamming Hydra Shok rounds through commie brains.

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