Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear by Gabriel Hunt (as told to Charles Ardai)

Author Charles Ardai met his "co-author" Gabriel Hunt at the Yerebatan Sarayi (Sunken Palace) in Istanbul. (No, really — just read page 144 of Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear.) And I guess they hit it off because Hunt later enlisted Ardai's assistance in chronicling his adventures. ("I would have done it myself, gladly, but I was unfortunately tied up with some matters in Brazil," quips Hunt. "And I do mean tied up.")

Who's Gabriel Hunt? Why, he's only the multimillionaire globe-trotting adventurer (shades of Jim Anthony, but Hunt provides his own wisecracks) — sort of a modern Indiana Jones (in fact, they may have known each other, as alluded to in Hunt's first book) with up-to-date gadgetry like a cell phone with GPS.

Hunt's adventures are funded by the $100 million Hunt Foundation, paid for with the money of his parents, best-selling religious historians who were lost at sea and are presumed dead. Gabriel also has a brother, Michael, who helps him out on occasion, and a sister, Lucy (whose full name made her relationship with her parents more than a little strained), whom neither of the brothers has seen since their parents' disappearance.

His exploits are scheduled to be written down by a selection of writers skilled at action-oriented stories: James Reasoner, Charles Ardai, Nicholas Kaufmann, Christa Faust, David J. Schow, and Raymond Benson. For the first book in the Hunt chronicles, Hunt at the Well of Eternity, Reasoner was praised by Publishers Weekly as setting the bar for modern adventure "to nosebleed heights," stating also that the pulp-adventure genre had been "smashingly resurrected."

This Ardai-penned adventure continues the quality (not surprising, since Ardai came up with the concept and created the "bible" for the other writers to follow). In Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear, Gabriel hops from Manhattan to Hungary, from Egypt to Greece, and on to Turkey. He answers the riddle of the sphinx, meets a son of Homer, and soars, shoots, and slices his way to a mysterious treasure that is both invaluable and inscrutable, with the deliciously evil Lajos De Groet dogging him every step of the way.

Tongue is planted firmly in cheek with frequent references to how implausible things get, especially at the end when the story loops around to something said at the beginning. It is not only entertaining but informative: every chapter seems to have some educational tidbit to take away. Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear is intelligent and ironic and still every bit a full-blooded adventure novel.

As a bonus for readers, Hunt asked Ardai to include a separate, unrelated novella. "Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye" is a sort of hard-boiled adventure story that shows Ardai's darker side, with an ending that gets under the fingernails and sinks its teeth into the quick.

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