How to Be a Man, According to Killinger!, the Ridiculous ’70s Men’s Adventure Novel


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Killinger!: The Turquoise/Yellow Case

Author: P.K. Palmer
Date: 1974
Publisher: Pinnacle Books

The Cover Promises: “He’s ruggedly virile, he’s karate-quick, he’s … Killinger!” And: “No. 1 in the new action series.” And: Somebody someplace wants a whole series of Killinger books.

Representative Quotes:

“The stereo was playing softly what Killinger thought of as Music for Making Love.” (page 182)

“Gently, Killinger put Coco Chanel on the bed next to her. Lollipop he placed on her back. Lollipop put his ears back and moved to her rump where he began to knead one buttock, his paws rhythmically pumping. Coco Chanel moved to Marjorie’s head where she started to lick the lovely, full Afro hairdo.” (page 85)


How did the publishers not mention his purring-cat seduction technique on the cover?

No matter how many commies, pimps, and Mafioso they stomped, the blood-and-boners heroes of the men’s adventure novels of the 1970s were in an important way outgunned. Their quick, grubby sex scenes — always less detailed than the scenes of guns being reloaded– seemed tame compared to the pornography that had just recently flooded America, and movies like Death Wish and Walking Tall made their fantasy of alpha-male ass-kicking so wholly mainstream that it wouldn’t be long before the revenge-killing that used to be the province of dad’s stash of paperbacks was family entertainment.

Even during the years when these books flourished, P.K. Palmer’s ridiculous Killinger! stood apart from the Executioners, the Sharp-Shooters, and the Penetrators. (Seriously, there was a series called “The Penetrator”– instead of the Mafia he waged war on subtext.) One weird difference: Killinger was actually named Killinger, as in Jeddediah Killinger III, which isn’t how it worked with, say, the Revenger, who was really “Ben Martin” rather than “Thaddeus Quincy Revengington.”

Another weird difference: Instead of a globe-trotting tough guy, Killinger proves a homebody with a touch of the Boston Brahmin about him, which comes across in the two terrible, wonderful novels whose covers bear his name– and an exclamation point after that name. (For a look at another, from one of the first-ever Studies in Crap columns, click here.)

Rather than an assassin or a CIA executioner, Killinger is — as the back cover fails to point out — a Marine Insurance Adjuster, a claims-and-numbers man who over the course of his adventures here never gets out of Santa Barbara. In fact, he rarely gets into fights or even leaves his floating bachelor pad, a Chinese junk tricked out with a dumbwaiter, a carved-teak bathtub, a gym in the basement, a refrigerator stocked with thirteen flavors of ice cream, and four darling pets– a pair of Hungarian pointers, and cats Coco Chanel and Lollipop, all of whom share one “sandbox” on the deck of the boat.

The boat, incidentally, leads to some inadvertent hilarity, as in this line, describing a spying villain:

“The blue ice-cube eyes watched Killinger’s junk.”

That’s cute, but linking junk with junk isn’t contrary to the book’s spirit. Palmer actually does sexualize the boats:

Katja she was, and from Skagen, Denmark, she came. A beautifully formed and arrogant Scandinavian wench, skipping happily, carefree, and full of the love of life.”

Don’t think Killinger’s eccentricities make him soft. He’s a black belt, he bears “pectorals which looked as though they had been slapped on with trowel,” and he says things like “I don’t like ladies who are businessmen.”

Here’s a sampling of his way with a bombshell. She speaks first:

“The first time I saw you, I thought you were an animal.”
“Thank you.”
“The second time, I knew you were an animal.”
“Thank you twice.”

In this book, the first of only two Killinger adventures that ever seem to have been published, he gets caught up in a grindingly dull case of sea-salvage and grand larceny, one involving a chest bolted to the floor of the boat docked right beside his junk– and stirring the attention of international heels like this villain:

“His eyes were a cold turquoise blue, and they belonged with the Aussie twang and the name Smith; but his yellow skin went with the initials K.Y. They stood for Kuan Yang. He was half Chinese.”

The book frequently refers to Kuan Yang as “the Chinaman” or “the yellow-skinned Australian.” The other villain, incidentally, is a monocle-wearing pornographer from Calcutta.

In both Killinger books, the adventure is a hyper-plotted mess, one with little action, lots of daft seductions, and nothing so interesting as the man himself. Every page or so, Palmer drops some pearl of Killinger lore:

Killinger worked on his Karate before lunch.

Killinger did not waste words.

Killinger never carried a watch, nor any kind of personal jewelry.

Killinger always left the meat, after it had been taken from the shell and trimmed, in the refrigerator for a day or two before preparing it.

Taken together, these facts– no, “facts” are for Chuck Norris; let’s call these “truths”– accumulate into a portrait of a masculine ideal: the bad-ass gourmand, a perfect combination of Esquire tips and bad Hemingway.

Here, then, are all the best Killinger Truths from The Turquoise/Yellow Case, selected to help you become a man worth being:

Killinger, the audience of one, appreciated professionalism.

Killinger did not slow his pace, and as he moved, years of practice made him respond to the threat automatically, with Karate.

Killinger’s presence spoiled the master plan.

Killinger stared at the golden shoe next to his bowl of ice cream.

Killinger laughed and turned up the volume of the stereo speakers.

Killinger looked down at the three of them and smiled at the warm picture of three domesticated jungle creatures.

Killinger ducked beneath the surface and took her right breast into his mouth, biting gently and flicking the erect nipple with his tongue.

Killinger’s hands moved down the velvet smoothness of her back until he held a firm, exciting cheek in each hand.

Killinger loved them all that night, and he loved them well.

Killinger moved automatically, jet-propelled.

Killinger was the egg king.

Killinger had made the dressing.

Wordlessly, Killinger took out a second cold tulip glass.

Killinger had taken a well-aged side of beef from the meat cooler and sliced two magnificent New York steaks from it.

Killinger explained, as they ate their ice cream, that brandy, and fine cognacs like Remy Martin, were distilled from wine and that if it consists of grapes from the Champagne districts of France, then it may say ‘Fine Champagne Cognac.’

Killinger looked around and was satisfied.

Note that the ratio of cooking to lovemaking to adventure-having is exactly the same as in the actual book.

Finally, let’s meet the ladies of Killinger!

First, there Marjorie, a young woman from “the ghetto” and “a delicious dish for staring at, but she got uptight”:

“She was black from the top of her wild Afro hairdo to the tips of her dull-leather boots. Five feet one, with full curves and slim legs, she did great things with her open crochet-work black blouse and tiny black skirt. Her skin was lightened with a rich creaminess from some ancestor.”

Killinger hires Marjorie to work for him, on the junk, and they never sleep together in this volume, as “she never did feel quite at ease with Whitey” and because at one point she weeps and says, “I learned how to fuck. But I never learned how to make love.” That’s when he puts the cats on her.

Then there’s Elena, the “mouth-watering Peruvian pepper”:

“Her breasts were good. She dropped her arms, and her breasts stood proud and firm. Very unusal for chichis that large. Her hips were full, showing that if she wasn’t careful they would become too much.”

“Touching her was a wondrous sensual pleasure. Her belly was a delight, and the moist insides of her thighs were delicious walls leading to a special heaven.”

We can’t forget Talya!:

“Today’s red bikini was as much a part of her as yesterday’s blue one. Perhaps a sixteenth of an inch had been trimmed here and a thirty-second there. The well-conditioned flesh was interestingly held and presented.”

Talya seduces Killinger, and kicks at him with wicked stilletoed shoes, to give one of the villains time to break into the schooner next to Killinger’s junk. He doesn’t suspect anything, but he still drags out their seduction interminably. After she asks him what his favorite sex position is, he replies

“‘That is like asking me which is my favorite brand of champagne.’ He paused, toasting her and sipping. ‘Many bubbling wines are called champagne. Too few are fine champagne. Those wich are great champagnes are all my favorite.”

You know, if Killinger had wanted a more literal men’s adventure name,comething along the lines of The Peacemake or The Liquidator, he could have gone with The Mansplainer.

Other Studies in Crap columns you might enjoy:
Studies in Crap Presents/ Apologizes for: Killinger!

In the ’70s Bloodiest Men’s Adventure Novel, Johnny Rock Wants to Feed Your Junk to Rats