Books by Richard La Plante

MIND KILL by Richard La Plante
Released: July 9, 1998

The X-Files might be useful here as a kind of litmus test. For those who love the TV mega-hit, this fourth in La Plante's creepy-crawly series (Steroid Blues, 1995, etc.) stands a better than average chance of finding favor. X-File naysayers should probably look elsewhere. Because reality—or what's commonly accepted as such—gives way here to a set of operating principles difficult to describe and even harder to define. This makes for a world in which anything is possible and nothing—perish the thought—requires the anchoring of conventional science. "We're all just one big mind," says a La Plante character who's got it figured out. X-File fans will no doubt know what that means, or at least be comfortable with not knowing. They'll also be prepared for Justin Gabriel, a heartless killer who commits his crimes while locked away in Philadelphia's Greaterford prison. By hiring hit men? Nothing so mundane. He dreams his way—it's a "spontaneous transmission of energy ‘' thing—into his victims— minds and frightens them into cardiac arrest. Bill Fogarty, retired cop and one of the series heroes, becomes a case in point. He's being driven to distraction by a terrifying Gabriel emanation—an enormous black bird of prey. No one else can see it, but it haunts Fogarty, who obsesses over it, can't get free of it, and is being destroyed by it. Enter his pal Joey Tanaka, forensic pathologist, martial arts specialist, and co-series hero, who rids Fogarty of his demon. How that happens—a kind of Pilgrim's Progress to a Zenlike never-never land—forms the burden of La Plante's tale. Not for everyone, obviously: too strange, too surreal. Yet it's paradoxically true that the most affecting thing in the novel is the friendship between Fogarty and Tanaka—indomitable, imperishable, and as traditional as David and Jonathan. Read full book review >
TEGNê by Richard La Plante
Released: Nov. 1, 1995

Martial-arts fantasy from the author of Leopard (1994), etc. Renagi, the cruel and arrogant Warlord of Zendow, conceives a passion for the beautiful Maliseet, a peasant girl from one of Zendow's slave villages. But no Zendai may mingle his blood with that of an inferior raceso Renagi secretly abducts Maliseet, brutally rapes her, then sends her home. In due course, Maliseet delivers the blond-haired, blue-eyed TegnÇ, and is promptly killed when she tries to present the child to his dark-haired, dark-eyed father, while the infant falls into the river and is presumed drowned. In fact, he is rescued by the wandering sensei, Tabata, and tutored in the Way of the Empty Hand, an exacting Zen-with- unarmed-combat discipline. Eventually, Renagi learns of the child's survival and sends assassins; Tabata is slain defending TegnÇ, who flees to the Temple of the Moon, where his studies continue. Meanwhile, on the spirit plane, a struggle is shaping up between TegnÇ's wise protectors and the evil Cat, who will take the form of a human woman in order to try to seduce TegnÇ from his destiny. Fair-to-middling entertainment for martial-arts fans, but little for orthodox fantasists to chew on. Read full book review >
STEROID BLUES by Richard La Plante
Released: May 1, 1995

Teaming for a third time the troubled duo of Philadelphia police detective Bill Fogarty and pathologist/karate master Josef Tanaka (Leopard, 1994; Mantis, 1993), La Plante (the nonfiction Hog Fever, p. 201) adds bodybuilding, sadomasochism, and gender pharmacology to the long parade of grotesques that typify his often derivative but rarely boring thrillers. Tanaka alone is a masterpiece of pop-culture chutzpah: Quincy meets Kung Fu. More subdued is Fogarty, a teeth-gritting, psychologically scarred gumshoe who, once on the case, fights like a pit bull to get his man. The man this time is Horst Nickles, a German bodybuilding guru who slurps monkey brains and runs a barracks-like gym for Aryan supremacists, skinheads, and steroid monsters. Horst's tastes also run to ritualized bondage rape/torture/murders, one of which appears in the videotape library of a recently bludgeoned-to-death, steroid-prescribing physician- -Horst's connection. Fogarty's prime suspect is Jack Dunne, the brother of a Philly female cop who was Horst and the Bad Doctor's rape victim; Dunne, however, has disappeared into a drug-addled netherworld of psychosis and revenge, emerging only to murder, in grisly fashion, the photographer who made the videotape of his sister's rape. Fogarty, with generous assistance from Tanaka, struggles to snare Dunne before he can reach Horst—a Hobson's choice for both men since Horst is by far the more loathsome criminal (besides being a pretty funny Schwarzenegger parody: ``Arnold sold out; he's a Nazi who sold out,'' Horst announces). Matters are complicated when Tanaka's plastic-surgeon wife, Rachel Saunders, discovers that Dunne may be chemically rather than naturally masculine. La Plante's pedantry occasionally grates, and his silly romantic subplots waste valuable pages that could be devoted to combat and perversion, but he doesn't fail to deliver the goods. Sick, raunchy, and educational. (Author tour) Read full book review >
HOG FEVER by Richard La Plante
Released: April 1, 1995

No, this isn't the tale of one man's love for a febrile sow- -it's the story of his obsession with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. An aging biker (pushing 40) who's been out of the saddle since college, novelist La Plante (Leopard, 1994, etc.) finds it all coming back with an Easy Rider rush after he buys a small Harley, the 883 Sportster. Initially, as an American living in London, he tools around unlicensed—until the fuzz catches up with him and he's compelled to attend a special training school, where his lack of skill rises to high relief. For all his (mostly cheerful) blather about the metaphysical entwinement of man and machine, La Plante is a weak rider (corners are his nemesis). But he has Harley on the brain, so it isn't long before he's subscribing to countless biker magazines and chasing the London and L.A. Harley crowds (Billy Idol, Schwarzenegger, Stallone). His love of chrome also imperils his already precarious finances as he upgrades to ever bigger machines that he can more enthusiastically customize. The mark of a genuine ``Hog Fever'' sufferer, customizing includes modifications to both the bike's look and its performance. With the assistance of various master mechanics, La Plante gradually transforms his stock Big Twin Springer Softail into a fearsome road chariot, the sort of rumbling spectacle that stops traffic and earns him the respect of Hell's Angels. He even manages to answer the inevitable phallic-symbol accusations by freely admitting that he's addicted to the masturbatory ritual of endlessly polishing his iron horse. Less a rite-of-passage narrative than a chronicle of a spoiled kid and his pricey toys, the book culminates with La Plante's account of crossing the US with a pack of neoconservative outlaw posers. Fewer Zen sound bites and more butch shoptalk with the motorheads would have helped temper the over-the-hill road-warrior clichÇs. Still, an amusing subcultural memoir. (Author tour) Read full book review >
LEOPARD by Richard La Plante
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

An intelligent and suspenseful follow-up to Mantis (1993). The extreme violence, however, may not be to everyone's liking. Joey Tanaka, the half-Japanese, half-American forensic pathologist, is summoned to his native Japan after the sudden death of his half-brother, whom he had crippled in a karate match when they were youths. Joey has never grappled with his guilt over the incident, and the death, which is certified as the kind of congestive failure quadriplegics often suffer, only serves to reinforce his emotions. Complicating matters is the fact that his girlfriend, Rachel (who still bears the psychological scars of being abducted in the first novel), has accompanied him and that he must deal with his cousin Ken Sato's racist hatred of all things (and people) Western. When he sees the body at the funeral, however, one look tells Joey that the death was anything but natural. The deceased has, in fact, been brutally murdered. This puts Joey and his partner, detective Bill Fogarty, who has arrived from Philadelphia to help, on the trail of a most unusual gang of serial killers led by a mysterious man known as the Leopard because of his unusual full-body tattoo, which is visible only when he is sexually aroused. The search also dredges up memories of Mishima's failed coup attempt, the Red Brigade, and discloses a new xenophobic warrior society known as the Red Mist that arose from their ashes. In the end, all the main characters' demons are purged, and the Leopard, whose identity turns out to be a surprise, is destroyed. Officially, none of it ever happened. Taut and well-presented, though the linking of sex and death is a bit clichÇd. And Japan-bashing of the sort engaged in Crichton's Rising Sun (to which this has more than a passing affinity) comes off as racist on occasion. Read full book review >
MANTIS by Richard La Plante
Released: May 1, 1993

A by-no-means-harmless, lunatic martial artist—whose role model is one of nature's odder insects—stalks and maybe even snacks on the good citizens of Philadelphia. A guilt-ridden cop and his bi-continental physician sidekick have all they can do to find the proper insecticide—in this kinky and occasionally tense first thriller. Detective William Fogarty, haunted by the accidental death of his wife and daughter while he was at the wheel, is sickened and mystified by the grisly serial murders of several Philadelphian demimondaines. Equally sickened readers, however, know right away that the women have fallen victim to a very tall, very strong man who believes himself to be on the same wavelength as a female praying mantis. The murderer has become expert in an obscure branch of karate dreamed up by monks who watched the movements of the praying mantis and turned them into self-defense skills. Meanwhile, Fogarty's special assistant is Joey Tanaka, a half-Japanese doctor, also a martial arts specialist, who crippled his older brother in a karate match and who is now every bit as consumed by guilt as Fogarty. Joey, who can't commit to his plastic surgeon girlfriend, and Fogarty, who can't get as serious as he might want to with the pretty mother of one of the recent victims, track the killer down through the karate studios of the City of Brotherly Love. Fogarty wants to handle the pinch, but Tanaka thinks he's the right man for the job since he seems to have formed a mental bond with the killer, who, in addition to being at one with the insect world, seems able to read human minds. The city's mayor does what he can to make matters worse. Creepy, crawly, and, from time to time, a bit scary, but since the killer is so outrageous, it's never really scary enough to make up for being unbelievable. Read full book review >