Book Review: Vatican Kill by John D. Revere

Justin Perry, the assassin, is back!

And he’s just as screwed up as usual.

Continuing the theme of the first Justin Perry novel, 1983’s Vatican Kill finds the CIA still battling the evil plans of SADIF.  A Nazi sympathizer named Carl Werner is working as a gardener at the Vatican and masterminding SADIF’s European operations.  Justin Perry’s boss, the enigmatic Old Man, not only wants Werner to die, he wants it to be such a cruel and sadistic death that it will send a message to all of America’s enemies.  Among Werner’s many crimes is developing a nuclear warhead that SADIF is planning to fire at Venus in an attempt to wow the world.  Unfortunately, as a scientist helpfully explains at the start of the book, blowing up Venus will also destroy the universe so the stakes are pretty high!

The reader might assume that, with the future of the universe at stake, Justin Perry might actually focus on his job for once.  The reader would be wrong.  The world’s greatest assassin is just as easily distracted in this book as he was in the second.  When I reviewed the first book, I mentioned my theory that the series was meant to be a satiric.  Justin Perry was just too weird and sex-obsessed to be viewed as anything other than a parody of the traditional, hypermasculine pulp hero.  There are definitely elements of satire in Vatican Kill but, oddly enough, there are also several passages in which Perry sincerely contemplates why he cannot accept the idea of a benevolent God, passages that suggest that the author was trying to make some sort of larger point about the mysteries of existence.  Of course, there are also several overheated flashbacks to a childhood trip to India, during which Perry both lost his virginity and he witnessed a train crash rather than run over a cow.  Just as in the first book, it turns out that everything that happened in his past is connected to what’s happening in the present….

It’s a weird book.  To be honest, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of some of the weird things that happen in Vatican Kill.  Justin Perry is as obsessed with sex and violence as ever while the villains of SADIF continue to come up with with elaborate tortures.  (This book didn’t do much to help me with my fear of dogs.)  I haven’t even gotten into Werner’s demand that Justin Perry assassinate the King and Queen of Spain for …. reasons, I guess.  Just as with the first book, describing the plot of Vatican Kill probably makes it sound more interesting than it actually is.  As over the top as all of the action and the scheming is, the prose describing it is fairly mundane and the author continually gets lost in Perry’s ruminations about God and the past.  I have to admit that I read the book very quickly, first because it was called Vatican Kill and I can only imagine what my Spanish and Italian grandmothers would have thought about that and secondly, because Justin Perry was such a creepy character that I really didn’t want to spend too much time with him.  The book ended on a note so grotesque that I washed my hands afterwards.  Seriously, Justin Perry was one messed up dude!

Book Review: Justin Perry: The Assassin by John D. Revere

About a month ago, as I continued to make my way through the paperbacks that I inherited from my aunt, I read five short paperbacks about a character known as Justin Perry, the assassin.

Who is Justin Perry?  As was explained in the first book in the series, 1982’s Justin Perry: The Assassin, Justin’s name used to be Roger Johnson.  He was raised in a world of wealth and privilege, the son of a general and a socialite.  Like his father, Roger enlisted in the army.  He ended up in Vietnam and, when he saw a friend of his get blown up the Viet Cong, Roger discovered that he had it in him to be a very savage and efficient killer.  Back in the States, Roger was hailed as a hero.  He married the beautiful Bambi and they had a son named Roger, Jr.  But then, Bambi was murdered by a commie spy and Roger went mad.  A mysterious figure known as the Old Man recruited Roger to work as an assassin as the CIA.  Now known as Justin Perry, the assassin lives to kill the nation’s enemies and to have sex with every woman he meets.  Seriously, that’s all he does.

The book not only gives us Justin’s origin story but also presents us with a rather sordid adventure in which Justin Perry tracks down a Nazi collaborator in Europe.  It’s while on that assignment that Justin discovers the existence of SADIF, a secret organization that we know is evil because its acronym sounds a lot like SADIST.  His pursuit of SADIF leads to several over-the-top torture sequences and also the discovery of a huge conspiracy, one that involves almost everyone that Justin has ever known.  We also discover that SADIF has infiltrated the Church and that Josef Mengele is now working as a gardener at the Vatican.  (As an Irish-Italian-Spanish Catholic, I would be offended it wasn’t all so stupid.)  None of it makes much sense but, to be honest, I’m not totally convinced that the Justin Perry books weren’t meant to a parody of sex-obsessed pulp fiction.

When I say that Justin Perry is sex-obsessed, that is literally all that he seems to think about.  He gets an erection when he kills a man.  Every woman that he wants automatically wants him (and, apparently, they’re all into S&M to boot).  One sexual encounter is ruined by an attack by an assassin, which leads to not only Justin’s masochistic lover killing herself with a knife (and getting off on the process) but also Justin obsessing over the fact that some of his sperm ended up on a hotel room floor.  Justin, in fact, is so hypersexual and so obsessed with proving himself sexually that it’s hard not to wonder if maybe he’s killing people because he’s trying to kill something about himself that he doesn’t want to accept.  I haven’t even gotten into the weird torture sequence where Justin and his friend, Bob Dante, are threatened with being sexed to death by a group of SADIF nymphomaniacs and a feet-licking chauffeur.

Actually, I have a feeling (or maybe it’s a fear) that I’m making this book sound more interesting than it is.  Despite all of the insane things that happen, the prose itself is actually fairly dull.  If one takes the book seriously, it’s a celebration of a sociopath.  If one takes the book as being satirical, it’s still just one joke repeated over and over again.  What is interesting is that the next four books in the series were even stranger and I’ll be reviewing those over the days to come.  For now, let’s just be happy that Justin Perry: The Assassin never made it to the big screen.