Tropic of Carla by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1963)
I was previously impressed with Jerry M. Goff, Jr.’s Thrill Crazy and Wanton Wench! and continue to be so with Tropic of Carla. I have been amassing all his other books for future reading.
His novels aren’t perfect by any means, and have any number of flaws that many books like these do, but there is a certain assured quality of story-telling, mixed with good manly two-fisted hardboiled-ness typical of Merit/Novel Books, that tickle my noir funny bones.
Wanton Wench! was about a sea diving bum getting into some trouble because of a rich woman; Tropic of Carla is about a pilot bum getting into trouble because of a rich woman, Carla Lopez. The narrator, Dino Shawn, muses on it:
I had been in boxes before, but never like this. And all because of a beautiful woman with a fantastic figure. But what the hell? I thought. Life without beautiful women and fabulous builds wouldn’t be worth living. I had no other choice but to do General Lopez’ bidding. (p. 81)
Dino had been forced to fly a fighter plane for a small banana republic dictatrorship, a fictional Latin American country, Tammara…
One day in an airport bar in San Antonio, Texas, 37-year-old Dino is having a few drinks and lamenting that there are no character flights for his small plane so he can make money. In walks this Latina vixen, Carla, looking for a pilot. She has found Dino.
Carla lives for the kicks and thrills — driving fast, jumping out of planes and not pulling her chute until 800 feet from the ground. She is also a hellcat in bed, where se takes Dino only an hour after meeting him. Dino is too pussy-struck to figure out he’s being played.
Flying to Houston to pick up a charter, Carla pulls out a .45 and tells Dino they are flying to Tammara instead. She tells him she is married to the country’s dictator, General Jose Lopez, and they need a third pilot with air force training to fly a fighter/bomber plane, refurbished from the American Air Force. The other two pilots are her and the General. They intend to quash the growing rebel faction that are set on a coup by bombing the hell out of them.
Dino bas no other choice. Plus he’s being offered good money. But he knows he will not leave Tammara alive, they’ll kill him when the job is done.
The General provides a palace “dancer,” Mena, to occupy his bed at night, forbidding anymore hanky-panky between his wife and Dino, even though the marriage is for show only — Carla is like Evita of Argentina: the people religiously love her, except for the rebels. But Mena is a girl from the hills, with rebel contacts; she gives Dino information and plans to help him escape and plot the murder of the General and Carla, even if it means her own death — all for the cause of democracy!
A good adventure yarn, like a low-budget action flick for a once-famous flopped actor, say a younger Rutger Hower or Don Johnson.
Not a perfect book, and not as good as Wanton Wench!, but a fun read, an a good example of Merit’s list and Goff’s range. Just as Wanton Wench! had deep details about sea diving, Tropic of Carla has the same details about parachuting and flying small planes, so much so that Goff must have been a pilot and diver, or knew them well enough. The devil is in the details, they say, and makes these “sleaze” action books all the more…authentic, if that’s the right word. You buy into the situation, even if it is outlandishly illogical.
But anything can happen in the sleazecore universe…
I’m curious, now, about the more explicit novels Goff wrote for Neva/Playtime as “Jerry Lane.” I have one: Call Box.