First of four books about the top reporter. The last is “Galaxy Jane” from 1986. It’s a dull start to a series and not up to Goulart’s standards of fun.
Jack Summer works for Muckrake magazine on the planet Barnum (a favorite locale for Goulart). He’s being sent to Murdstone to look into stories about a prison within a prison. His cover is that he’s investigating corruption in baseball. The tipoff came from Ned Taffy an ex con who is a thief that uses teleportation but isn’t very good at it.
The area is on a war footing and Jack’s aircar is set up to crash land on a farm. A police acquaintance is waiting along with a member of the Cops Emeritus to find out why he’s really there. Jack gets through that and goes to meet Taffy. He gets his breast obsessed photographer friend Palma out of a scrape to go with him.
They find Taffy who is with Alicia,a member of the Political Espionage Office of Barnum. A gang of Bozos, half cyborg,half men invades Taffy’s shack, They’re eventually driven off but something made Taffy kill himself before he could tell Jack about the Death Cell. Palma came close to suicide before Jack got him out of whatever had overtaken him.
Jack and Palma are in trouble as the local mob has taken the baseball investigation story seriously and are out to convince them to drop it. Jack and Parma drop in on ex player Reverend O’Hogan of the First Athletic Church. His team, The Sanctified Nine, have a game with Cops Emeritus. In the press box will be Perry Ramirez who has some information on the Death Cell.
Palma disguises himself as a vendor of Fat Ed’s Soydogs complete with mechanical dog companion. Jack is supposed to start a diversion so Palma can get into the press box. It’s a wacky scene but never gets off the ground. The humor is just too lame.
Their next stop is to see Perry’s wife. She’s got the info inside her artificial elbow. She’s got her two bratty kids for an outing at the Mott’s Kindergarten Amusement Park. More wacky scenes follow but except for a brief bit about a fund raising society party, the biting satire is missing. Of course Jack gets to the bottom of the Death Cell happenings but Goulart is usually more about wit than detection and that’s where this book falls flat. I like a lot his books but will not be searching out the rest of this specific series.