June 17, 2019

Kung Fu (Mace) #2: The Year of the Snake


The grip of terror was so widespread that the family Tongs asked Mace, the Master of Kung Fu, for help.

Mace landed smack in the middle of a protection racket battle and became the new target. He had to teach the kids that street violence was no match for Kung Fu.

But the chain of command went much higher than uneducated youth gangs and it look a lot of savvy to find out how far up the devious smokescreen for control went. . . .

* * * * *

Joseph Rosenberger's second book in the Kung Fu series (written under the name Lee Chang) was published in February 1974, one of 10 books Rosenberger published that year. It hit paperback racks one month after Death Merchant #7 and one month before Murder Master #2.

The Year of the Snake opens with Victor Mace, the "Kung Fu Monk Master", in the middle of a brawl against six members of the Lan Kwai Association. A week earlier, Mace had been asked to come from San Francisco to Manhattan by Wu Chih-p'u, the leader of the Mong Ti Ko Tong, to rid Chinatown of the Lan Wai, a gang of 200 hoodlums (also known as the Blue Devils) engaging in extortion and murder. Mace ends up demolishing 13 men in about five minutes - while also flashbacking on his training as a young boy, which he did about six (increasingly) annoying times in the first book.

After a very thin plot for the first book in this series, Rosenberger employs the exact same blueprint he had been using for his Death Merchant books: He starts with some action, pulls back to set the scene, the hero has three or four more encounters with the bad guys where he kicks total ass, there are a handful of chapters from the point of view of the bad guys, then everything comes together for the big, violent finale (with the carnage described in the most minute detail you can imagine).

P'eng Yi-po (described as "an animated tub of lard"; he's 5-7, 357 pounds) is the secret owner of The House of Kee, a Queens whorehouse staffed by young hostesses, each "mattress-tester" with "a shape that would have shaken the libido of a blind methuselah". John Dong Kee is the front man who runs The House of Kee for Yi-po and Chinese mobster Jan Lee Kumling, the head of the Lan Kwai, reports to Kee.

Harrison "Wild Bill" Hickok operates Fun World in Queens and he has ambitious plans to kill Wu Chih-p'u and make Yi-Po the new head of the big tong and, through him, take over Chinatown.

A few days later, Mace interrupts five of Kumling's Blue Devils in a laundry, while they are making their rounds collecting extortion money. Mace uses some ridiculous voice trick, so that when he screams, the sound impacts the Blue Devils' ears with the "force of a super-charged hand grenade" and kills them instantly. Mace then leaps out a broken window to take on the other 10 Devils in the street. Watching the choreographed mayhem, complete with Mace leaping six feet in the air and somersaulting backwards over the heads of the goons and landing 10 feet behind then, someone named Mike Three-Ducks realizes "any attempt to beat Mace to the ground with bare hands would be as ridiculous as trying to explain the movie Deep Throat and do it in good taste!"

Yi-po meets with Hickok and they decide to hire two karate experts to kill the Ching brothers, with whom Mace is staying, and frame Mace for the murders. It seems to work, as Mace is arrested for the crimes. The room in which Mace is held has "the sweet stink of tragedy, with the special sourness of finality ... after the Computer of Fate has spit out the card of Death".

Mace has no alibi, since when the Chings were murdered, Mace was busy killing a dozen Blue Devils. But he uses "Ch'i" to snap the cuffs (as he did in Book #1) and then he attacks the cops, at one point diving head first down a flight of stairs and executing a back-spring in mid-air and landing on his feet!

Hickok and his partner Efrem Kartlis fear that Yi-po will blab to Mace and then it is only a matter of time before Mace comes for them. Kartlis admits that "the thought of meeting that creep gives me triple chills", so they hire six "non-wop shooters", professionals "who can bow the ass of a flea if they have to".

Mace knows he has to prove who killed the Ching brothers to clear his name. He goes to Yi-po's restaurant supply factory to force him to confess to ordering the murders and reveal who did the killing. But Yi-po was "not the type of man to permit his fear to anesthetize him into a lethargy of inactivity", and he heads off with two bodyguards to Fun World. Mace attacks and we get a play-by-play even though the point of the ambush no longer exists - Mace offs one hood so fast that he "rocketed into Hell so fast the Demon of Reservations was caught unprepared".

Mace and a couple of others head to Queens, scouting out Fun Word from a nearby cemetery. The park looked empty, "as devoid of people as a derelict's funeral". They knock out three watchmen and cut through the wire fence and slip inside. However, Hickok has armed men hiding throughout the park, and a big battle eventually ensues. (Mace's greatest trick may be employing the "principle of gentleness" while also being "a machine of killing".)

Mace methodically goes through waves of goons, stopping at times to insult them, referring to their mothers as "diseased prostitutes who could copulate only with filthy apes". He actually pulls one guy's heart out of his chest! Mace's spear-hand to the chest landed "with all the force of a sharp ax, the hand actually slicing through clothes, skin, and bones, the long fingers closing around the man's throbbing heart, and when Mace jerked back his hand, the bloody beating muscle came with it!" later on, he kills another goon in a similar way. "It was as though his hand has smashed through an over-ripe melon and he was reaching for the clusters of seeds. Only when the hand withdrew, the fingers were wrapped around several gray-white ropes of intestines!"

Locating Hickok and Kartlis, he ended up tossing them out the window and forcing Yi-po to write a full confession, which Mace pockets just as the police arrive.


Rosenberger ends seven consecutive sentences on page 83 with exclamation marks!

"The Kung Fu Master wasn't worried, knowing he could exercise his option of retreating to the inside of the China Farm. He could, but knew he would not. For that matter, he couldn't."

"a dome as bald as the dirty snow piled along the curb"

"He wondered what it felt like to be dead. A few minutes later he found out."

"Kee's frigid stare would have melted an Eskimo!"

"Mace's death-dealing Nukite had all the final force of a decapitating guillotine blade, his fingers making instant apple juice (unsweetened!) of two Adam's apples!"

"This guy's so stupid he probably thinks an aircraft carrier is a stewardess with V.D.!"

"He barged through the door of the J.D.K. grill faster than a theologian rewriting mythology ..."

"We've got you dead to right!"

"An eerie feeling raced down Kee's spine, little fingers of fear clutching at his brain!"

"Tiny-Boy had the mind of a retarded ant and the strength of an ox dosed with Spanish Fly!"

"The .38 revolver dropped, and so did Buster, as dead as the hope for honest government."

"The john had her squeezed up against the wall and was bread-doughing her boobs! Getting in his feelies for free!"

"Shit fire and save matches! He was as crazy as Mace!"

"Long-dead days that weren't worth a box of new rubbers"

"Well, twist my neck and call me screwy."

"get his pipes blowed for half a bill"

"The apparent 'luck' of the past is nothing more than an oil spread by time, just as adversity causes some men to break and others to break records."

"Okay, man! I didn't mean to put pepper on your balls."

"[Tom & Joey, who] looked as mournful as once-favorite nephews who had recently learned they had been cut out of Uncle's will!"

Ignots "with his beard and long hair, resembled a biblical prophet, with the exception of his clothes. Biblical big-mouths hadn't worn pink jumpsuits and a gold ring in one ear!"

"Such a three-way combination of attack could have been Butcher's day for an ordinary karate exspert, but to a Kung Fu Monk Master, karate was only the first grade in a career that ended with a Ph.D. in mass mayhem!"

"The man might as well have been hit by the United Nations Building!"

"The freak suddenly got the feeling he was about to die! He was! "UGGGGGgggggggg" shot from his throat ... ending his bike-riding days forever!"

"He dropped faster than a wino grabbing a bottle of Muscatel in a supermarket, dribbling blood and brains all over the gear-controls of an automatic screw machine."

"Don't make any mistakes or this deal will turn out to be worse than eating cold spaghetti!"

"Mace always wore the same inscrutable expression, his face as devoid of emotion as the Sphinx ..."

"Yi-Po felt proud of his cleverness. Ah so ..."

"It was obvious to the six Blues that they didn't have a chance - unless they ran like hell. That's what they did!"

"Fuck a duck and cornhole an alligator! Who is that motherfucker?"

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