The Invisibles

Author: J.E. MacDonnell
Publisher: Horwitz Publications
Published: 1970

From the Blurb:

It was a hell of a way to die!

“You are a tough man, Mr. Hood,” Bula said.

“Thank you,” said Hood. “Now what do you do?”

It seemed that Bula meant to do nothing. He remained where he was, while his eyes held Hood’s with the basilisk steadiness of a snake’s. And then Hood felt the oddest sensation in his life – as if his will were being sucked out of his brain. A trance like cocoon seemed to be enveloping him; invisible, intangible, yet as palpable as a python’s coils around his arms and legs.

His medical training warned him that it was some form of hypnosis and although he strove to avert his eyes, he found he could not. He stood there helplessly as if his hard-trained body had turned to putty, and watched Bula coming for him.

His great shoulder heaved and an iron fist exploded against Hood’s stomach. Hood reeled back as if he had been clubbed. “I am annoyed with you, Mr. Hood.”

The second blow landed over Hood’s heart. He gasped in an attempt to get some air down into his system.

“And because I am annoyed … I will punch you to death … instead of using the knife …”

As a boorish, parochial Australian, I was determined to go out and find a true Aussie spy series. Well I found one. It’s not actually Australian, but written by an Australian, J.E. MacDonnell – not to be confused with John D. MacDonald, author of the Travis McGee books – or Ross Macdonald, who briefly went by the name John Ross Macdonald before changing it to plain old Ross Macdonald, in order to avoid confusion with John D. MacDonald. Er, Ross Macdonald is the author of the Lew Archer novels, but I have veered off track once again.

J.E. MacDonnell was a prolific Australian author who specialised in naval adventure stories, but he also turned his hand to churning out a series of loose and fast paced espionage novels featuring a secret agent named Mark Hood – not to be confused with secret agent Charles Hood, who appeared in a series of spy adventures written by James Mayo (Hammerhead was made into a film starring Vince Edwards). I may be wrong here, but I believe that The Invisibles is the twelfth book in the Mark Hood series.

As the story opens, Intertrust Agent, Mark Hood is posing as a wealthy playboy, when in fact he is on a highly secret and dangerous mission. It starts in February on an un-named island in the Caribbean. Hood is driving his rented Buick convertible along a coast road from his villa near the city of Mahame to the town of Ruijas. As he rounds a corner, in the headlamps, he sees a body lying on the road. Hood stops to investigate and gets out of the car. As he approaches, the body springs to life and produces a rifle, which had been tucked away under the body. The aggressor points the rifle at Hood and pulls the trigger. As the gunman made the shot, Hood had already leapt forward and the bullet misses to the left hand side. Hood delivers a karate chop to the aggressor’s neck – killing him. Next, Hood tosses the body over a cliff. As he gets back into his car, in the distance he can hear the low murmur of a voodoo drum.

Next Hood meets the resident Caribbean Intertrust man, Jimmy Sangster (no not the Hammer screenwriter). This guy is in his sixties with a limp. Hood explains why he’s on the island – it is believed that someone on the island is attempting to build an atomic bomb. The prime suspect is a revolutionary leader named Shango, who also happens to be a Houngan or Voodoo Priest. He operates out of a fortress, on top of one of the highest mountains on the island. (Can you guess where the climax takes place?)

As Hood drives back to his villa, as if summoned by some demonic force, a mini tornado chases him along the road. It picks up his car and tosses it, as if it were a toy, into the sea. Trapped in the car, Hood rides it down until it hits a rocky undersea shelf. Then he unfastens his seatbelt, and thanks to his scuba diving experience, he surfaces, just as currents push the car off the shelf and down in the darkened depths of the sea.

That’s the thing about Hood, and the incidents that happen throughout this novel – whatever the situation, Hood can handle it, because he has had prior experience. I am sure that the guy has done everything, from piloting helicopters and gunships to advanced medicine and surgery. Hood can do it all. And he can do it better than another popular literary spy. And the book goes to lengths to point this out. They can be summed up in one small passage. Hood’s boss, Fortescue says, “This job is too important to have you boys pussyfooting around playing 007’s”.

But Bond references aren’t enough for a story like this. Dear reader, I know what you really want – and that’s a fat slice of Voodoo action, and this book delivers a few of them. Here’s one from pg. 73.

‘But now all attention, and Hood’s was concentrated on a slender girl who had stopped her circling to face the post. Her head craned far back, her legs were together, and her arms outstretched. She was naked. In Hood’s tautened mind her brown sweat gleaming body formed the shape of an obscene cross.

The drum beat swelled even fiercer and the girl began to dance.

Hood had never seen anything like it. Although her feet barely moved, the gyrations of her hips and shoulders made her seem as if she were leaping in a frenzy. they shivered and twisted, then undulated with a serpentine sinuosity, and then rolled and coiled and thrust themselves forward and back in abandoned sexuality.’

Ah, that’s enough of that you pagans! The Invisibles is action packed from the word go, and at only 126 pages long, it is never intended to be anything more that a quick and slight slice of throwaway entertainment – much like the Nick Carter ‘Killmaster’ novels. But one of the sad things about these ‘throwaway’ novels, is exactly that – they are being thrown away. In a world where I can walk into practically any bookshop in the English speaking world and find exactly the same books on the shelf, it’s a terrible shame that the books of the past are treated as a disposable commodity. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first in line for the next Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly or Jeremy Duns novel, but at the same time, I wonder if my son will ever know who Alistair MacLean is?

From the back cover:

They were as ancient as Evil itself – but armed with the nuclear power of tomorrow.

Intertrust Agent Mark Hood faces the shadowy terrors of the supernatural when he is sent to the interior of a remote Caribbean island to break up a black market in atom bombs.

The sellers? No one knows. The buyers? THE INVISIBLES – Voodoo priests with a fiendish plan to make a human sacrifice of the entire world. Hood’s only ally – a beautiful, sultry believer who leads him into an orgy of lust, terror and sudden death!

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