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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

THE AQUANAUTS

 
THE AQUANAUTS
Of all the paperback original men’s adventure series to hit the spinner racks in the 1970s, The Aquanauts is possibly the best example of a brilliant series concept sabotaged by moribund writing. In my opinion, the depths of the writing mediocrity of the series is as deep as the Marianna Trench, and it’s incredibly frustrating. I really want to like this series. I’ve tried several times to like this series. I’ve tried starting with different books in the series, but each time I simply can’t get past the first few chapters.

The series was written by journeyman scribbler Manning Lee Stokes under the pseudonym Ken Stanton. Prior to The Aquanauts, Stokes made his bones in the men’s adventure genre writing the initial novels (and many other entries) for The Expeditor series and the classic superspy Nick Carter series. Among numerous other pulp-based mysteries, sci-fi, and sleaze novels, he also wrote the eight books in the cult favorite Richard Blade series—which combined a heady mix of science fiction and adventure. Prolific: Check…Competent: Check…Entertaining: Check…Above Average: Rarely if ever...This is my checklist—other reader’s mileage may vary.

The Aquanauts are a team of highly trained operatives (is there any other kind?) who make up the elite Secret Underwater Service. Led by William Martin, codename Tiger Shark, the SUS is tasked with neutralizing terrorists planning to strike at America from the sea, or who plan to attacking U.S. Naval underwater facilities across the globe. This mission involves preparing the personnel who can handle the extreme difficulties of underwater battle, and carrying out those battles when ordered by the president.

The men chosen for the SUS begin their training designated as Minnows. Once they prove their suitability, they are promoted to the coveted designation of Shark. The top fish is the deadly Tiger Shark and is empowered to complete the missions of the SUS at any cost, including assassination.



When the series starts, the first Tiger Shark had been killed in action. To replace him, the President has promoted Navy lieutenant William Martin. Referred to informally as Bill, Martin is an Annapolis graduate and a decorated war hero, having been awarded a Navy Cross with oak leaf cluster. An imposing figure standing 6'2, the 30 years old Martin is (of course) in perfect physical condition—a rugged, fearless man who always puts the demands of the mission before any personal considerations.

The SUS has provided Martin with a top-secret one-man sub known as a KRAB, which he uses to take on Russian submarines, various criminally controlled ‘sea monsters’, and the plots of underwater megalomaniacs. Tiger Shark’s mission take him under the Iron Curtain, under the Bamboo Curtain, Under the noses of Chinese villains, and into the depths of everywhere from the North Pole to Australia and Cuba.

Sounds freaking fabulous doesn’t it? It should be freaking fabulous—but it’s as lumbering as a leaky lifeboat. The squandered potential of brine, barnacles, bombs and bimbos just kills me. The series was original published by McFadden/Bartell. Manor Books took over the series in 1971 dropping The Aquanauts series titles in favor of rebranding the series Tiger Shark...an anchor by any other name.

As long as you don’t dip into the prose, the cool cover art makes the series worth collecting. The covers all feature Tiger Shark—sporting the rugged profile of Steven Holland, aka: The Man Who Launched A Thousand Paperbacks—in diving gear being chased by sharks, subs, battleships, and sea monsters while brandishing his deadly diver’s knife.
 
 
 
 

THE AQUANAUTS
COLD BLUE DEATH
Devilfish was the code name for a vital operation in the waters of the Bermuda Triangle. Someone was out to destroy the mission but Tiger was there to save it.

TEN SECONDS TO ZERO
American submarines were becoming sitting ducks to the Soviet's new anti-sub missile called the Sea Serpent. Tiger must steal the secrets behind this dangerous weapon.

SEEK, STRIKE AND DESTROY
When a Chinese captain with a strange underwater craft lobs a missile at the U.S., the danger from the Bamboo Curtain becomes clearer but what of Madame Hee?

SARGASSO SECRET
A marine biologist has come up with a way to feed starving millions but someone is not pleased with his success. Tiger must keep alive him and his daughter, Poppy.

STALKERS OF THE SEA
The man behind savage attacks on U.S. interests is a Soviet spy of American origins. Tiger must track him down from icy northern waters to hot foreign bordellos.

WHIRLWIND BENEATH THE SEA
Secret agent Tiger Shark and the underwater service are off to Australia to solve the mystery of an undersea eruption, a rising land mass and beautiful babes.

OPERATION DEEP SIX
On her maiden voyage, the Navy's newest supersub, the J1, just disappeared. Now its sister ship, the J2, is ready for launch and Tiger is on site to keep an eye on her.

OPERATION STEELFISH
The Soviet villain from Stalkers Of The Sea is back, trying to get his hands on the newest weapon the Navy is testing in the Caribbean. Tiger must find a way to stop the theft.

EVIL CARGO
The Mob has stolen a Russian submarine in Cuba to smuggle drugs into the U.S. Tiger is sent to stop them but he is told for diplomatic reasons not to damage the sub.

OPERATION SEA MONSTER
Some creature of monstrous proportions is randomly striking the underwater American sea lab and Tiger is ordered to find and eliminate the creature.

OPERATION MERMAID
The report was that a Chinese sailor was attacked by a mermaid. As crazy as that sounded, Tiger is sent to find the truth. So too were several Soviet agents.

 

 

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