Book Report: In the Shadow of the Bear by Michael Sheehan (1990)

I bought this book from the Bridgeton Trails library for a quarter. Why? I don’t know.

This book is the worst piece of pulp writing I’ve read in a long while, if not ever. Check it out:

Behind him, Burke heard footsteps clambering up the winding staricase to the left of the catwalk. He sprang up and dashed toward the guard he just killed. Scooping up that man’s weapon as he moved past him, he continued to the end of the catwalk and paised at the top of the second winding staircase. He turned and crouched, an AK-47 clutched in each hand.

At the far end of the catwalk, a face appeared as a guard reached the top of the steps located there. Burke squeezed the trigger and his weapon chattered out a message. The face fell from views, a shriek rending the air. Burke began to back down the first few stairs. He crouched there, just below the level of the catwalk.

Oh, boy. It’s 180+ pages of this edge-of-your-seat-because-you-want-to-put-the-book-down excitement. A DEA agent, Burke, investigates a drug mastermind who has kidnapped a professor to help him transubstantiate drugs into other materials for easy smuggling. Why someone with the power of transubstantiation would need to smuggle drugs instead of just making drugs out of, say, sawdust and packing peanuts, is a question left unanswered. So Burke investigates.

My, I don’t know why this book is so bad. The writing is hypermasculine, but it doesn’t fit together. The main character is a bottle of actions and vague generalizations about how drugs are bad. At about page 90, I started finding the writing style amusing enough to carry me through the other half. Skimming helped.

The pacing? Ill. We get to the climax, where the bad guy has fled his laboratory to a secret helipad in the Canadian wilderness, the normally explosive climax plods. The DEA finds the helipad by intercepting signals from a Russian spy satellite–the one dedicated to watching the Canadian wilderness, apparently. During the course of the bad guy’s quick escape, Burke goes back to headquarters, gets equipped, and then spends just under thirty minutes assembling a hang glider so he can sneak up on the secret escape base which lies in a ledge in a sheer cliff–the perfect fortress!

Burke crashes his hang glider and has to rappel down the cliff, and the author spends three or four pages of the text describing rappelling technique. When the bad guy finishes up killing all of his henchmen but not the professor and his daughter, Burke is outraged at the carnage even though his body count at least doubles the butchery of the bad guy. Apparently Burke lives with himself because his mayhem has the rule of law behind it.

Then the bad guy is eaten by a grizzly bear, and the professor’s daughter serves a pastry called bear claws to the triumphant Burke and her father. Haw, haw.

I know, I have fallen in among the cabal of conservative commentators who reveal the endings without warning the audience, but think I’m okay here because:

  • Of my regular readers, only my beautiful wife has made it this far; even John D. has bailed by this point
  • I’m doing you a favor; the ending is only as good as it could be, which in a book like this, isn’t worth getting to