I made my way to the "Ninja Master" section of Chamblin Books in Jacksonville, Florida. Off the subject here for a moment but this store has two locations and a warehouse for a combined square footage of 55,000. They have so many of these paperbacks that aisle number fifty was dedicated to nothing but action adventure novels like "Ninja Master". Each series has its own label so I was easily able to identify things like "Doomsday Warrior", "Deathlands", "Last Ranger", etc. My only complaint was that the science fiction section was almost too big to even navigate and books like "Out Of The Ashes" were in there and that doesn't really fit. If "Deathlands" is action adventure then "Out Of The Ashes" would certainly fit that category and not sci-fi. Anyhoo...this store is going to get a direct debit out of my savings account each week because I am gonna rack up some serious titles in the coming year.
With absolutely one of the cheesiest covers of the genre "Ninja Master" gets off and running with its first entry called "Vengeance Is His". There are eight total books in the series before spinning off into other series' like "Year Of Ninja Master". Right off the bat I'm going to say this is NOT the ninja imagery I remember as a child. Growing up predominantly in the 80s the ninja lore was absolutely insane. Kids had costumes, fake throwing stars, plastic swords and enough "martial arts" magazines to last a lifetime. The ninja stuff I remember was highlighted by Sho Kosugi movies and the television show "The Master". I can remember renting big box VHS films like "Enter The Ninja", "American Ninja" and even a Chuck Norris film featuring ninjas in "The Octagon". So with that being said "Ninja Master" is NOT that sort of ninja...in fact he isn't really a ninja at all in my experience. But more on that in a moment.
Wade Barker wrote "Vengeance Is His" and he is the dedicated author of the whole series plus spin offs. The book came out in 1981 on Warner Books. Our "Ninja Master" is Brett Wallace (maybe the name was inspired by martial artist Bill Superfoot Wallace), a young man living in Cleveland with his beautiful Japanese wife. His father runs a multimillion dollar real estate business and Wallace can eat with a silver spoon. One night one of his father's business deals goes south and someone kills his parents and wife. Now Wallace is the heir to a zillion dollar fortune and a hatred in his heart for baddies everywhere. He journeys to Japan to study martial arts and the way of the ninja. Bruce Wayne anyone?
Wallace returns home after a decade of ninja antics and immediately targets the thugs that killed his family. The absolute ridiculous action sequence adorning the book cover is in fact how the thugs are taken down. Wallace uses super human strength to break bones and necks to settle the score. He then takes his fortunes and moves to San Francisco. He picks up a beautiful Japanese chef and has a few sex flings with her before buying a restaurant for her to run. Quickly she is written out of the book and Wallace is on to his first ninja mission. Apparently there is a neighborhood that is mostly made up of senior citizens and weak people who are being harassed by a local gang calling themselves The Wilshire Rangers (they sound like an English Premier League team). The Rangers are led by two brothers and they basically run drugs, prostitutes and general thugs that terrorize the local cops and the residents. Wallace befriends a prostitute named Patty and gets the scoop on the Rangers. He decides to right the wrongs using his ninja fighting skills.
Barker makes Wallace out to be a hero that is on par with Thor. Apparently Wallace has learned techniques like touching a man's forearm and creating death. He uses his knees to kill a few people. At one point he uses his palm to push a man's nose into his brain. In two scenes Wallace dodges bullets (I wish I was making it up kids) and can even use mind tricks to change his surroundings. I think all of this would have been somewhat entertaining if Wallace would just wear a black suit and hood that shrouds all but his eyes. Then, and only then, would I buy into this ninja fantasy. Somehow the look of a Mortal Kombat type character in a black ninja suit just seems more appropriate for mind tricks and super human feats of strength. Instead Wallace walks around in suits or jeans. He rarely ever uses stealth, he has no sword, boken, knives or daggers. He doesn't even have one of those smoke ball thingies that make ninjas disappear. He is basically just a UFC fighter. I will say that he does have a throwing star that detaches from his belt buckle. Geez.
The end result is "Ninja Master" does not get off to a good start here. Perhaps the other seven titles are better and Wallace will use some sort of traditional ninja garb to off the baddies. Regardless I will continue on with other entries because at this point I feel I just need to know more. There is also a side story at the very end of this book that shows Wallace teaming with a "Microchip/"Oracle" sort of assistant and the Japanese chef to form a fighting team. Where the Hell is Sho Kosugi when we need him?