FORGOTTEN BOOKS: KIAI!
PIERS ANTHONY & ROBERTO FUENTES
Most of the paperback original, men’s adventure, martial arts series published during the ‘70s were pretty much dreck. There were a few series, however, that rose above the muck and deserve to be remembered.
The best know of these is probably The Black Samurai series, consisting of eight books written by Marc Olden under the pseudonym Robert Sands. The series actually spawned a bad martial arts B-movie starring Jim Kelly in the title role. Olden, who really knew his martial arts, would go on to write some excellent mainstream martial arts thrillers starting with Gaijin.
The other series, and the focus of this post, was written by science fiction stalwart Piers Anthony and Cuban martial arts master Robert Fuentes. Kiai! was the first book in the series – and in many ways the best – featuring American martial arts master Jason Striker.
This was ‘70s pulp fiction at its best. Striker is more than happy to simply teach at his dojo (he’s a 5th dan judoka in a kung fu world), preparing students for tournaments, until he is challenged by a renegade Judoka whom he battles to a draw. This battle draws Striker into the martial arts underground when he believes the Judoka is murdering rival instructors using a forbidden lingering death touch technique.
Before long, Striker is battling for his life in a tournament to find the best martial artist in the world. Again facing the Judoka, whom Striker has discovered is killer ninja master Fu Antos, Striker wins the tournament, but is hit with the lingering death touch as Antos escapes.
Striker now must locate a kidnapped Ki master, who may be able to save his life, while engaging hordes of ninjas, and chasing the elusive Antos. Once Striker finds the master and is saved from the death touch, he commits himself to the pursuit and destruction of Fu Antos through four more books.
Kiai! is the perfect ‘70s martial arts time capsule. While the sex scenes are pretty laughable verging on lame, the action and the writing itself hold up extremely well. There is even the occasional fantasy element to the stories, which sets them apart from the run of the mill ‘70s series.
The original series was published by Berkley books and are somewhat hard to find. However, Amazon sports a series of collections reprinting several of the books in each volume. If this was your meat and potatoes back in the day, the reprints are well worth revisiting – and they would make an excellent addition to the current e-book explosion.
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