CAPER AT CANAVERAL
Make no mistake – Caper at Canaveral may have a ridiculous plot about a Commie-backed kidnapping of a rocket scientist and the rakish public relations man who risks his life to rescue him (in between healthy helpings of improbable sex, of course), but it is really a book concerned with the "missile gap" and national security. At least that is what the hyperbolic text on the front and back covers of this 160 page pulp suggest. Then again, the cover of the novel also has a naked woman and an obvious phallic symbol (blasting off, no less), so we weren't exactly expecting a reasoned, Buckley-esque critique.
The story – "bolder than today's headlines!" – begins in a Florida hotel room with PR pro Gary Vincent wining, dining and providing other entertainment for Dr. Karl August Richter, famous German scientist. Richter is the inventor of "Hotlox," a "miracle" rocket fuel formula that sounds more like an item one would find on a delicatessen menu. Vincent works for the defense contractor Rockitronics and he has a $10,000 bonus coming his way if he can sign the good doctor up – exclusively – to complete his research and testing of Hotlox with them.
In order to sway the scientist to Rockitronics, Vincent has procured the services of a buxom blonde to help with his sales pitch. The scientist is giddily impressed with the recruitment effort as these passages reflect:
'Ach du lieber!' Dr. Karl August Richter was resorting to his native German at the ribald antics of a half-dressed blonde who plopped beside him on the couch in Gary's suite. 'I... am too old a man for this. But...maybe I need another drink, eh?'
The author of Caper at Canaveral, Roger Blake (nom de sleaze for John Felix Trimble*), was a radio broadcaster as a teenager and in the military, so it is not surprising that his fictional hero, Gary Vincent, was an Armed Forces newscaster during his hitch in the service, too. This becomes semi-relevant when the reader is introduced to his friend, Warren Miller, a local Cape television personality and old army buddy. It is Miller who first informs Vincent of the dire international incident that he is involved in by handing him (poorly written) wire service copy as they share a drink at a bar:
KEY WEST, July 6 (AIP). – Fidel Castro announced this morning in a triumphant broadcast monitored here from Havana Radio, that the eminent German-American propulsion scientist, Dr. Karl August Richter, has defected to Cuba. In a highly jubilant mood, the dictator claimed the developer of Hotlox, the miracle liquid fuel which will speed up missile development by years, has gone to work at a top secret propulsion laboratory in the mountains of central Cuba. There, the cigar-chomping head of Communist Cuba says, he will work with other technicians from Latin America and the Soviet Union toward the ultimate advance in rocket propulsion short of atomic energy. Scoffing at the United States, who forced out his Russian missiles only a short time ago, Castro boasted that Cuba would have her own super missiles, developed and produced on Cuban soil, and capable of hitting any target in the western hemisphere.
In a convenient twist that only happens in these types of novels, Vincent gets picked up by a beautiful young woman in a convertible sports car seconds after he has run out of the saloon after assaulting his friend:
'Hop in, I'm going to Merritt Island,' she told him with a happily lilting voice as a brisk gust of sea breeze swept through the open car and lifted the flared skirt to a breathtaking view of bared legs, 'I hope you're going my way.'
Once in Cuba Allison is used in a savage gambit to try and get the recalcitrant doctor to reveal his formula. She is to be raped in front of her father by a hulking, retarded Cuban brute named "Torpe" if her father does not comply with spilling the secrets. Vincent is mystified as to why the doctor refuses to do so in the face of such a horrific ultimatum. But then it comes to him in a flash after he manages to discuss the matter briefly with the fantastically self-sacrificing Allison the evening before her scheduled rape (the Cuban Major managing the torture spectacle gives Dr. Richter a night to consider his options):
'He hates the Commies more than he loves his daughter?'
"It was last night... when I see that Dr. Richter will die for this Democracy of yours...would of his own choice sacrifice his child to save this Democracy for the world...then I know I have maybe found something which is truly good."Gary Vincent also undergoes an interesting character transformation during the course of the story. When the reader first meets him, he is a capitalistic gigolo having affairs with various women including his boss's wife. He is overdrawn on his bank accounts because he needs a fancy sports car and a Piper Cub plane to enhance his business image (or so he claims). He has his pulp epiphany courtesy of the evil of Castro's Cuba and the selflessness of the German rocket scientist and his daughter. Vincent's exposure to this kind of steely patriotism changes him and he falls in love with Allison.
The book could have ended with Vincent and the Richters returning in triumph to Florida, but the author felt compelled to wrap up one last loose end: Who compromised Vincent's original wooing of Dr. Richter and engineered the scientist's kidnapping? It turns out that the culprit was one of Vincent's many bedmates over the course of the novel – Debby Loring, self-professed nymphomaniac and Rockitronics secretary (and apparent Marxist).
Caper at Canaveral concludes memorably – and through a fair number of tortured contrivances – with Debby being identified at the landing field of the airport as the mystery traitor. She reacts defiantly by screaming at Vincent, "You...sniveling idiot! Capitalist coward!" She then breaks the rope-line and runs out to several F-104 jets that are warming up. As she runs to the planes, she is described as "still screaming and yelling about her long suppressed Communist loyalties." Because there is only one page left in the novel, the reader knows her grisly demise is imminent and the author milks it for all it is worth:
Perhaps, someone thought later, she had some wild dream of climbing aboard the jet and using her fatal feminine wiles to get the pilot to take her to Cuba. No one will ever know for sure. But as she neared the first plane she waved her arms frantically in front of it. It was too late for the pilot to kill his engine! The powerful ramair intake was centered right on her. And as the earth shocking momentum built up, her clothes began to come away like a fantastic scene from a Ziegfeld strip number. And then Debby followed. Her denuded body was whisked briefly up into the air, then sucked through the tremendous jet intake with a gurgling, coughing sound that Gary Vincent will never forget as long as he lives.Blake's lesson here seems to be that it is OK and perhaps even admirable to be a nymphomaniac, but if you are a nymphomaniac with a Communist agenda, you will wind up as pulverized jet exhaust.
* It turns out that John Felix Trimble (Roger Blake's real name) who was born October 26, 1926 in New Orleans was uniquely qualified to write Caper at Canaveral. As mentioned in the preceding review, Trimble was a radio broadcaster in high school and during his army service. This professional experience lent some measure of realism to characters that didn't really deserve any further rounding. More importantly, however, Trimble was also a bona fide sex authority and his expertise no doubt aided the authenticity of the many sleazy sex scenes in the novel.
According to Contemporary Authors Online (Gale, 2008), Trimble had been "interested in writing and human sexual behavior since World War II." He covered social and behavioral issues after the war where he remained a news broadcaster in Europe. By 1965 he had a Ph.D. from Central Christian College and eventually held memberships in organizations such as the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists.
In addition to writing pulp novels and serious sex education non-fiction books, Trimble was a psychological and behavioral consultant. He also contributed articles to the following (mostly) distinguished publications: "At Home," "Sexology," "Human Digest," and "Playmen." He married Peggy A. Boyette, a newspaper officer on April 20, 1946 and the couple had two children – John R. Trimble and Elizabeth A. Trimble Layfield.
Contemporary Authors Online lists Trimble's political affiliation as that of Republican and his religion as Protestant.
John Felix Trimble died on May 22, 1993 in Annandale, Virginia.
The Blake / Trimble / Sade / Becker Library (a random and incomplete selection)
As Roger Blake:
Caper at Canaveral (Intimate Books / Art Enterprises, Inc. Hollywood, CA, 1963)
House of Wild Women (Nightstand, Berlin, 1963)
As Mark Sade:
Stripped for Murder (Comet, Washington, DC, 1963)
As John Felix Trimble:
Encyclopedia of Abnormal Sex (Brandon House, 1965)
5,000 Adult Sex Words & Phrases (Brandon House, 1966)
The Making of a Homosexual (with Roger Blake) (Apparently, Mr. Trimble needed his alter ego to pitch in on the writing) (Century, 1967)
Pedophilia (Monogram, 1968)
The Group Sex Scene (Pinnacle Books, 1971)
Variations in Modern Marital Behavior (Venice, 1972)
As Jeanne Becker
The Congressmen's Lady (Carlyle, 1976)
SOURCES FOR TRIMBLE'S BIOGRAPHY AND LIBRARY:
Contemporary Authors Online (Gale, 2008)
Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2000 by Allen J. Hubin
CAPER AT CANAVERAL
By Roger Blake
Copyright 1963; Published by Intimate Books / Art Enterprises, Inc. Hollywood, CA
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