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In what is being described as a mash-up of the martial arts and spy genres, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and hip-hop star/actor Common are turning the eight-volume book series Black Samurai into a new show for Starz. Updated from the works of the late Mel Olden, it promises to introduce a new kind of hero to the world. Nice to have ambition, ain’t it?
Common will be playing Richard Sand, a highly-trained American Army Ranger who is forever changed when he encounters a legendary Japanese master. This master has a willingness to train him in the way of the samurai. After that training is complete — good news for Sand, not so much for the rest of the world — mercenaries kill the sensei and Sand’s samurai brothers. This sets him out on the road for revenge and self-discovery (how’s that for an interesting combination?).
Comments Starz programming president Carmi Ziotnik, “We cannot wait for the world to meet Robert Sand, part Jason Bourne, part James Bond, and 100% the hero we need today. Black Samurai promises to be an action-packed ride. We can feel this will be exceptional storytelling.”
Adds Common, “I’m beyond excited about Black Samurai. This is a unique and special project that offers something rarely seen in art and culture today. It’s an honor to play the character and I can’t wait to dig into [him] and the martial arts worlds of gun-fu, kung-fu, jujitsu and more. Look out world, Black Samurai is coming.”
Black Samurai actually already came. Back in 1977 in fact. Jim Kelly stars as Robert Sand, an agent of D.R.A.G.O.N. (Defense Reserve Agency Guardian Of Nations), who must rescue his kidnapped girlfriend without sacrificing a new device known as the “freeze bomb”, and stop his enemy's operations in the drug trade and Voodoo ritual murders. Notes Wikipedia, “The search takes him from Hong Kong to California through Miami, and plenty of action against bad men, bad girls and bad animals.” Uh, yeah. Marc Olden pretty much distanced himself from this one, feeling it had nothing to do with his books besides the lead character’s name. Given it was produced at the height of the blaxploitation and kung fu crazes of the 1970s, it’s not surprising at all. Yeesh.
The Black Samurai Book Series by Marc Olden
Book 1 — Black Samurai (1974)
Official Summary: On leave in Tokyo, American GI Robert Sand is shot trying to protect an old man from a quartet of drunk American soldiers. As Sand passes out, the old man springs on his tormenters, beating them senseless with frail, wrinkled fists. He is Master Konuma, keeper of the ancient secrets of the samurai, and Sand is about to become his newest pupil. Over the next seven years, the American learns martial arts, swordplay, and stealth, becoming not just the first black man to ever take the oath of the samurai, but the strongest fighter Konuma has ever trained. One night, two dozen terrorists ambush the dojo, slaughtering Konuma and his students as the first step in a terrifying assault on world peace. Though he cannot save his sensei, Sand escapes with his life and a gnawing hunger for vengeance. All he has is his sword, but his sword is all he needs.
Book 2 — The Golden Kill (1974)
Official Summary: The Chinese diplomat walks into the revolving door just a step ahead of the grenade. Samurai Robert Sand is too late to save him from the blast, but as the smoke clears he is hot on the grenade-tosser's heels. In Central Park, Sand disarms the killer and knocks him unconscious. His name is Ivan Vanich, and he is posing as a Soviet operative. His real employer is a power-mad millionaire, who arranged the hit as part of a plot to upend a Russo-Chinese trading contract and seize the profits for himself. The diplomat in the revolving door was only the first to die. On special orders from an ex-president, Sand races to avert catastrophe. His hunt for answers takes him to a sprawling English castle, where the samurai comes face to face with the man who would let millions die for the sake of gold.
Book 3 — Killer Warrior (1974)
Official Summary: Even the finest samurai occasionally needs to hone his skill. Robert Sand is in Japan, pushing his body to the limit under an aged sensei's guidance, when he gets the message that practice is over. A French arms dealer named Valbonne has gotten ambitious, and is about to start selling something rather more deadly than a bootlegged Kalashnikov. He is building an atomic bomb. Valbonne's prospective buyer is a Japanese man who has never forgiven the United States for killing his family at Nagasaki. To take revenge, he plans to detonate the black market warhead somewhere in New York City. His contract with Valbonne earns him the support of the Frenchman's mercenary army, and the cunning of a bloodthirsty Native American who's handy with a hatchet. Unfortunately for them, this is just the kind of fight that Sand's been training for.
Book 4 — The Deadly Pearl (1974)
Official Summary: Her name is Rochelle, and she is only fifteen when she disappears. Her father is a secret service agent assigned to ex-president William Baron Clarke, and when he asks for help, Clarke calls the most capable tracker he knows: Robert Sand, the only black man to ever attain the rank of samurai. Sand combs the tenements of New York's East Village in search of the girl, finally learning what no father ever wants to hear: Rochelle is in the clutches of Pearl, the meanest pimp in town. Called Pearl because of his exquisite taste in jewelry, he is no ordinary hustler. Kidnapping is his specialty, and the women he snatches for sale overseas are never older than eighteen. He is proud to call his business 'white slavery,' but his latest victim may be his last. Robert Sand is coming for him, and all the guns in New York won't be enough to protect this Pearl from getting scuffed.
Book 5 — The Inquisition (1974)
Official Summary: When Robert Sand's sensei was murdered, William Baron Clarke helped him take revenge. The former president of the United States, Clarke is a rich man who uses his wealth to combat evil around the world. Since they first met, Sand has become his chief enforcer - a killer with samurai skills and American style. Once, Clarke saved Sand. Now it's time to return the favor. A fringe militia called the Inquisition kidnaps Clarke's daughter, a brilliant college student. Their leader goes by the name Dessalines, and his cruelty is exceeded only by his madness. Before he executes his prisoners, Dessalines always stages a drumhead trial. Sand has three days before the verdict comes in - time enough to perform some executions of his own.
Book 6 — The Warlock (1975)
Official Summary: Black magic orgies. Human sacrifices. Necrophilia. These are just a few of Augustus Janicot's special skills. This charismatic sadist has built a formidable following, convincing politicians across Europe that his voodoo ritual can win them office. When they consent to his bloody rites, he films them, and uses the footage for blackmail. On the verge of obtaining unlimited power, the Warlock is about to make a fatal mistake. Janicot's next target is in Vietnam, and for Robert Sand, this is too close to home. An American trained in the ways of the samurai, Sand fears for the safety of Toki Jakata, the granddaughter of his late samurai master and the only woman he has ever loved. Sand has never been able to win Toki's heart, but he will do anything to keep Janicot from pulling it out of her chest.
Book 7 — Sword Of Allah (1975)
Official Summary: Ever since he took the vows of the samurai, Robert Sand has been ready to die. But now, for the first time in his life, he has a reason to live. Her name is Ann, and he sits beside her, awaiting takeoff for Geneva, when terrorists seize the plane. Holding guns on the passengers and crew, they douse the cabin in liquor and light a fire that will burn until it reaches the gas tanks. The terrorists flee as smoke fills the plane, but one lingers - a Japanese killer with a vendetta against the black samurai. He puts two bullets in Ann's back, and even Sand's lightning reflexes are not fast enough to save her. The Sword of Allah, the most feared terrorist organization on the planet, planned the attack. Its next operation threatens to turn the Cold War up to a boil, but they made one foolish mistake. Robert Sand is angry, and will have his revenge.
Book 8 — The Katana (1975)
Official Summary: Though useless in battle, the emperor's katana is a beautiful weapon. Cast from solid gold, this 1,200-year-old blade was thought to be lost until Master Konuma, teacher of samurais, presents it as a gift to the people of Japan. Soon after, he is savagely murdered, leaving his American student, Robert Sand, to avenge his death. The sensei is gone, but the sword remains as a symbol of his generosity - until the day the katana vanishes. A madman snatches the treasure from the Metropolitan Museum, wanting the katana at his side as he makes a bid for world domination. Now it's Sand's turn to steal it back, and destroy the monster who dishonored his sensei's memory. The katana is too valuable to use in a fight, but for its sake much blood will flow.