February 25, 2012

Street Hawk, novelization #3: Golden Eyes

Noel

Sorry. I said last week I was hoping to get through both the third and fourth novelizations in time for this post, but I was only able to get through Volume 3. Yet another release by Target, this installment was written by Charles Gale instead of the Jack Roberts who wrote the initial pair. Like Roberts, I can't find any information on Gale, who may very well be a pseudonym. As with the second book, this adapts two episodes from the series out of sequence from how they aired.


Up first is episode 5, "Dog Eat Dog". Deborah Shain finds herself the target of a professional hitman when her abusive boyfriend/manager is gunned down soon after giving her a video tape that incriminates his boss in a murder. This is a pretty straight forward adaptation which adds nothing really new to the story beyond some padded lines of dialogue. The hitman, Bingham, comes off just as ineffectual on the page as he does on the screen, with an overhyped buildup squandered by clumsy tactics. The book takes his eventual defeat at the hands of Street Hawk one step further with the humiliating passage:

And in the center of the Western street, Bingham stood, lonely and defeated. His guns lay in the dust beside him. He'd never realized what he was; he'd always been too good. No one had ever got the drop on him before, the way Street Hawk had. But now he had been tested, and he had failed the test. He'd looked into the depths of his soul and realized that he was, and always had been, a coward.

Bingham wept.
As with the second book, there are some attempts to bridge the two episodes, but they're awfully meek compared to how that volume completely rewrote its second half to discard a useless character and replace him with a followup of a more awesome individual. Here, the only continuing threads are Jesse being all giddy over having a date with Deborah, which we never see, and constantly humming her hit song "Golden Eyes", to the annoyance of Norman. Also, the anti-drug ad she films is held off until the end of the book.

The second episode adapted is the series finale, "Follow the Yellow Gold Road", where Street Hawk's computer system crashes just as he finds himself dealing with both a string of gold depository robberies and a vigilante group led by Phil Simkins, a Vietnam vet plumber tired of the rise of crime in his neighborhood and the increasing difficulty of getting the police to cover every street corner.

Again, this is mostly a straight-forward adaptation, with the occasional addition, like Norman wading through bureaucratic red tape to sort out the computer issues and Jesse seducing some police radios out of the requisitions department, which is manned by an old flame of his. Surprisingly, an entire thread from the episode has been excised. There, the gold thieves catch on to how Simkins distracted the police from foiling their robberies and use this to their advantage, planning an attack on him that runs simultaneous to their operation. Here, it's entirely gone, and I'm not sure why. That actually seemed like the key thread that held the story together as this group of misfits that the baddies are manipulating becomes a genuine thorn in their side come the climax. As it is, the story loses some of its dramatic heft. There is, however, an actual moment between Street Hawk and Simkins following the devastating climax that almost got the man killed. Just before riding off, the masked motorcyclist tells the plumber, "Don't be a local hero. You can't take care of your family if somebody shoots you." It's not "I'm not wearing hockey pads," but it'll do.

There's another attempt to bridge the two books by establishing Simkins during the "Dog Eat Dog" adaptation, with Altobelli constantly raging about this blowhard and his anti-police press conferences that have been winning a lot of coverage. The book takes this further by having Jesse encounter Simkins in a newly added scene, which feels redundant given that it doesn't add anything we don't get in their later confrontations, which are still there. This brings me to a problem I've noticed with a lot of novelizations, where the author sometimes feels so desperate to add in some backstory that they'll fill in details before it becomes relevant to do so in the narrative. Another example is Deborah Shain. Early in the book, we learn the backstory of why she hates cops for getting in the way of her trying to escape an abusive father, which completely blows the dramatic reveal of the scene where she opens up and relates this info to Jesse. It doesn't ruin the whole book, but the moments are jarring when they happen.

Overall, this is another fun adaptation. Gale, or whoever he really is, does a good job balancing the humor, the drama, and the action, and always keeps things moving and stays true to the series. It's a fine book and worth tracking down for fans.

Also, given the way they've been selective about what episodes they adapt, it's amusing when one of the gold thieves says he isn't worried about Street Hawk because the vigilante has never killed anyone. In this continuity, they're discounting the body count of 14 that Jesse mounted up by then. In fact, I'm wondering if those earlier, grittier, bloodier episodes were intentionally avoided by the novelizations simply so the younger readers these books were aimed at wouldn't be coming to their parents with uncomfortable questions following Street Hawk blowing up a helicopter full of people or gunning down half a dozen goons on a dock.

Anywho, I'll bring this to a close next week with the fourth and final novelization, "Danger on Target".

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