Here we are with the fourth and final novelization from UK publisher Target Books. I highly doubt the author, David Deutsch, is the noted Israeli physicist of the same name and is instead, like the authors of the last three volumes, likely just a pseudonym. As with the past three, this book adapts two non-sequential episodes of the series, with the common link that both deal with a woman from each of our heroes' pasts.
"Murder is a Novel Idea" - Cop turned mystery novelist Stefanie Craig, an old flame of Jesse, goes on a scandalous media blitz over her latest book, which promises to name the guilty party in the rape and murder of a co-ed from 20 years ago. Which doesn't sit too well with construction tycoon C.L. Howe and his accountant, John Littman, both of whom committed the crime.
"Hot Target" - When Mercenary John Slade is made head of security of Marpell Industries - noted for its laser technology - he secretly kills the CEO and takes control of the operation, auctioning off high-tech laser weapons to foreign governments. Jesse and Norman investigate by meeting up with Mona Williams, an ocular laser researcher and an old flame of Norman's.
Both stories are adequately adapted with little in the way of alterations, the biggest of which is Norman struggling with a cheap rental car after his station wagon goes over the cliff. Hell, there's very little in the way of an attempt to provide a connection between the two. "Murder is a Novel Idea" had the recurring plot thread of jewel thieves that Jesse was always one step behind catching. Aside from their initial appearance, they've been replace with federal alerts over mysterious arms deals, which kinda leads into John Slade's operation in the second half of the book. Other than that, there are no ties between the stories. The first half still ends with Stefanie Craig promising to unmask the identity of Street Hawk, but neither she nor that promise are heard from again. The second half has Jesse learning he has to write a speech for Altobelli, which could have easily been drawn back into the first half, but the episode divide remains.
I'm also a little surprised that, for Jesse's "old flame" story, they decided to go with the rather bland "Murder is a Novel Idea", especially since the threat is just as underwhelming on the page as it is on the screen. Sure, Howe now has a backhoe instead of a bulldozer in the climax, which gives him a big arm to shake angrily at the motorcyclist who won't get off his damn lawn, but it's still avoided and taken out with ease. No, I'm really surprised they didn't instead go with "Chinatown Memories", which had a much more gripping and weightier romance that left Jesse on a poignant note of uncertainty, and has plenty of meat for a novelizationist to chew on in the form of the criminal web or the history of the emperor statue that keeps changing hands. In my last piece, I noted that they seemed to be avoiding episodes where Jesse actually kills his opponents, and that might be why they settled on the much lighter "Murder is a Novel Idea", as "Chinatown Memories" literally ends with Jesse slaughtering six people in the span of a few seconds in one of the show's most powerful moments.
In the end, I enjoyed all four of these novelizations, but wouldn't recommend them to anyone aside from fans of the show, and even then, only those with a die-hard collector's mentality. Aside from a few juicy snippets, they don't really add anything to the experience of the series, and now that the show itself is so easy to find on DVD, there's really no need to track them down. But if you are interested in all things Street Hawk and/or a fan of novelizations in general, give 'em a read. Especially the second one, Cons at Large, for how it fixes a lacking episode with a bit of revising by taking a villain from an earlier story and giving him a worthy sequel.
I'll end this review with an excerpt of my favorite Hyperthrust sequence from the books, which came in chapter 16 of this volume. Tony and I will both be back next week with our final thoughts on Street Hawk.
Seated at the master control board, Norman studied a diagram on his monitor. His fingers flew frantically over the computer keyboard as he plugged in the necessary information.
"Just a second," he assured Jesse. "I'm locking in the coordinates..."
The computer went speedily to work digesting the input. The whirring of drives and the video images shaping up on the screens told Norman the data was being processed. Finally, letters took shape on the screen.
"HYPERTHRUST - CLEARED - "
"You've got it," Norman informed Jesse.
The computer screen flashed the countdown.
"10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - "
Meanwhile, the digital readout in Jesse's helmet was ticking off the seconds.
"6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - "
Jesse prepared himself mentally for what was to come. The seat behind him elevated to form a back brace. Just as the computer had checked out all systems on the bike, Jesse was running through a quick personal inventory. His reflexes were fine-tuned. He was ready. The numbers continued to flash before his eyes.
"2 - 1 - 0."
Jesse felt himself propelled by the force of the thrusters. The blast of the engines penetrated his insulated helmet, blinding his ears to all other sounds. Time and light seemed to bend as Street Hawk shot forward, as if he had been expelled from a cannon. The buildings and trees - mere blotches of color that ran together - came at him like a river, bending around him like the current flowing around an island. Norman was in complete control now. It was moments like these, when Jesse was suspended in time and space, that he became acutely conscious of how much he trusted his partner with his entire being. His life in the hands of Norman's technological wizardry, he had an inkling of what the astronauts must have felt on their way into the heavens.
The readout verified the sensation of speed which Jesse was already feeling.
Street Hawk hit the high end of its spectrum. Jesse hoped to God that Norman knew where he was, because Jesse hadn't the vaguest notion.