Thursday, January 13, 2011
Review: The Green Hornet Chronicles
The Green Hornet has been on my radar since the 60s, when the Van Williams/Bruce Lee series was spun-off from Batman. Some years later I was heavy into cliffhanger serials. Then it was Old Time Radio. And round about 1990 I was reading a cool series from Now Comics.
But I didn’t fully appreciate the character - didn’t come to feel I really knew them - until I read this Moonstone book, The Green Hornet Chronicles. Now, at last, I’m more than a casual listener, viewer, or collector. I’m a fan.
For that, I owe a debt to editors Joe Gentile and Win Scott Eckert. They assembled a fine group of writers and put together a collection of stories that draw the reader into the Hornet’s world as never before. We finally get inside the heads of Britt Reid and Kato and see what makes them tick.
The book transports us back to the 60s, where folks are trying to come to terms with Flower Power and the Vietnam War. We ride along in the Black Beauty on a tour of Detroit’s mean streets. We see the Hornet and Kato through the eyes of other characters. Over the course of the book, they emerge from the shadows of The Lone Ranger and Tonto - and Batman and Robin - and stand as distinct and compelling heroes in their own right.
I enjoyed all nineteen tales. Here’s the complete line-up, with brief comments:
The Night Car - Will Murray
- If Lester Dent wrote a Hornet story, it might go just like this!
I Had The Green Hornet’s Love Child - Greg Cox
- A floozy claims to have the Hornet’s baby - and everybody wants it.
Weakness - C.J. Henderson
- Can the Hornet coerce a crooked politician into going straight?
Topsy-Turvy - James Chambers
- A phony guru gives pipe dreams to naïve hippies.
Nothing Gold Can Stay - Richard Dean Starr
- The lowdown on how Kato the boy became Kato the man.
Just a Man - Thom Brannan
- An ex-marine sniper challenges the Hornet as The Green Viper.
The Cold Cash Kill - James Reasoner
- Britt Reid gets a shock - as dirty deeds are going on under his nose at the Daily Sentinel.
Flight of the Yellowjacket - Howard Hopkins
- When Reid meets a babe named Cavendish, you just know she’s bad.
By Scarab and Scorpion - Mark Ellis
- The curse of an ancient Egyptian queen plagues Detroit.
You Can’t Pick the Number - Rich Harvey
- A tale of redemption involving a crooked cop and the numbers racket.
Eyes of the Madonna - Ron Fortier
- Cold War antics with Russia and Cuba, with Detroit’s Crime Lord headquartered in a building called The Pulp Factory (Hey, isn‘t that the name of a blog?).
Stormy Weather - Patricia Weakley
- A lady private eye who speaks Texan goes on a Hornet hunt.
The Auction - Terry Alexander
- A nod to the radio show. When the Hornet’s domino mask is lost, he gets his old-style mask out of mothballs.
Go Go Gone - Robert Greenberger
- A clandestine treasure hunt, with clues hidden in books!
Mutual Assured Destruction - Bill Spangler
- A bout with white slavers brings Britt’s feelings for Lenore Case to the surface.
The Crimson Dragon - Mark Justice
- The Hornet faces a brutal new adversary, while Kato is hardpressed by two martial arts masters.
Fang and Sting - Win Scott Eckert
- A trip into delves into radio history, with a villain from the Manhunter show. (Manhunter was a Striker & Trendle production that gave its life, and its time slot, to make way for the Green Hornet show. Mike Axford, in fact, was a Manhunter character who made the jump to the new program.) This one’s also a Wold Newton treat, reminding us that Kato and the Hornet inhabit the same fictional universe as such folks as Doc Savage, James Bond and Fu Manchu.
The Inside Man - Matthew Baugh
- A Native American trying to escape reservation life is caught between two evils - and one of them is the Hornet.
The Soul of Solomon - Harlan Ellison
- In which it is revealed that Mr. Ellison is at once both an old man and a seven-year-old geek-boy. Heck, he always has been. That’s why he’s always been one of my literary idols.
PLUS, the stories are sandwiched between an Introduction by TV Hornet Van Williams and an interview with TV Black Beauty designer Dean Jeffries. AND, each story features a full-page illustration by Ruben Procopio. How cool is that? Very.
And there’s more good stuff to come. Editors Gentile and Eckert are already assembling a follow-up collection called The Green Hornet Casefiles.