Monday, February 24, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 32

This week we are doing a deep-dive into the life and work of Richard Deming, including a review of his novel, “She’ll Hate Me Tomorrow.”  The first installment of the “Able Team” series is also reviewed, and Eric discusses his brush with fame when he finally spoke to Men’s Adventure cover model Jason Savas about his remarkable career in the publishing industry. Stream the episode below or your favorite podcast app. Download the episode directly HERE.
  Listen to "Episode 32: Richard Deming" on Spreaker.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Special Operations Command #01 - Special Operations Command

'Special Operations Command' was a six-volume series of men's action-adventure novels authored by James N. Pruitt and published by Berkley. Pruitt was a former U.S. Army Green Beret master sergeant and winner of the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars and five Purple Hearts. The Vietnam War veteran also wrote three stand-alone novels of military fiction as well as a short-lived series of NASCAR fiction paperbacks. My first experience with the author is the eponymous series debut “Special Operations Command” from 1990.

In this series opener, the author introduces the two core members of “SOCOM”, Major B.J. Mattson and Lieutenant Commander Jacob Mortimer IV. In backstory segments, readers learn that Mattson is a career soldier with multiple campaigns as a Green Beret in Vietnam. Mortimer is a distinguished Navy Seal with a majority of his battle experience in Latin America and the Middle East. The two have united under General Johnson's plan to create a diverse, superstar team that can analyze, lead and execute international missions for the U.S. military. While Mattson and Mortimer will perform a supervisory role, they are both willing to suit up for the team's first mission.

In the oil-rich, Ecuadorian town of Lago Agrio, Cuban commie fighters penetrate a dictator's fortress in hopes of kidnapping Juan Garces, the Minister of Finance. In a frenzied (and extremely perverted) exchange, the fighters end up killing Garces and instead foolishly kidnap the U.S. Counsel General. Later, in an attempt to return the Counsel General unharmed, the group of fighters are setup by Ecuador’s dictator who hopes to capitalize on the kidnapping. By creating turbulence between the U.S. and Havana, he hopes to enrich his pockets with more criminal funds while the spotlight is firmly on the hostage ordeal. Once he detonates one of his own oil fields, SOCOM is called in to negotiate.

Unlike other team-commando based entries such as 'Eagle Force' or 'Phoenix Force', Pruitt showcases a hint of techno-thriller writing. Most of the book's action is presented as board room meetings and briefings from a high level. Eventually the boots hit the dirt, but for the most part they remain unsoiled as planning and execution remain the narrative's focal point. Due to the author's vast military experience, occasionally some sequences were lost on me. This wasn't a major disconnect, but still distracted me from the story.

“Special Operations Command” was an enjoyable debut for a series that I look forward to exploring periodically. With only six novels, I may read one a year just to preserve the enjoyment. If you are a men's action-adventure reader looking for something to split the difference between Chet Cunningham and Tom Clancy, this series and author may be exactly what you're seeking.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Johnny Maguire #01 - I’ll Find You

Between 1950 and 1958, prominent interior designer Richard Himmel (1920-2000) wrote five novels starring a hard-nosed Chicago lawyer named Johnny Maguire with the first being “I’ll Find You” (U.K. title: “It’s Murder, Maguire”). Both the cover art and synopsis sell the novel as a melodramatic romance, but the reality is that Himmel wrote something likely to please readers of well-written hardboiled crime who are also comfortable with some romance and human drama in their stories.

“I’ll Find You” begins with Johnny being rousted out of bed by the cops. A female client named Cynthia that he’d attempted to romance was dead, and Johnny was the last person to see her alive. As narrator, Johnny recounts the trajectory of their brief relationship (“She needed some rough stuff, she needed a guy like me to let her have it, to give it to her good.”) that became an obsession to the horndog lawyer. Here’s the thing: Cynthia had Johnny, as her attorney, bring her $200,000 cash the night of her death, and she supposedly committed suicide by walking into Lake Michigan in the pitch darkness with all that cash. Neither her body nor the money were ever recovered making it the most Fawcett Gold Medal demise in the history of death.

Johnny is a very funny narrator and a self-deprecating lawyer. He explains to the reader that he was a night school guy, and he shares an office on Chicago’s State Street full of low-end punk attorneys, poseurs who use fancy stationary to create the illusion of successful practices. He’s a ladies man, dead broke, and completely honest - with one exception. You see, Johnny does some legal work for a local mob boss in Chicago. Nothing serious, but Johnny knows that his client is seriously bent. His relationship with the racketeer makes for an interesting subplot that gets intertwined with the missing girl story.

Naturally, Johnny begins to suspect that maybe Cynthia’s “suicide” was staged, and he can’t get her out of his mind. The plot is really about Johnny conducting an investigation into Cynthia’s disappearance - and possible suicide - based solely on his romantic obsession with her. The mystery brings Johnny down to Florida in search of the truth. To be fair, there’s a lot of romantic content in the Florida part of the book, and if that’s problematic for you, skip this one. If you’re willing to buy the idea that a guy will turn the world upside-down for a woman he hardly knows based on a hunch she’s alive and in trouble, you’re bound to enjoy this short, well-written paperback.

Richard Himmel was an outstanding writer, and “I’ll Find You” is a quality book. It must have been a successful title for the publisher as the paperback went through five print runs between 1950 and 1955. That’s good news for you decades later because there should be ample old copies for you to find and read today. And you should. This is one of the better genre novels - call it romantic suspense- from the dawn of paperback originals. If it helps, disregard the overwrought romantic cover art and focus on the revolver sticking out of Johnny’s pocket. Recommended.

The Johnny Maguire series by Richard Himmel:

I’ll Find You. Gold Medal, 1950
The Chinese Keyhole, Gold Medal, 1951
I Have Gloria Kirby, Gold Medal, 1951
Two Deaths Must Die, Gold Medal, 1954
The Rich and the Damned. Gold Medal, 1958

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Hawk #01 - The Deadly Crusader

Along with the nine-book run of 'Counter Force' (1983-1985), author Daniel Streib's most successful contribution to men's action-adventure was the 14-volume 'Hawk' series (1980-1981). The series' debut, “The Deadly Crusader”, was published by Jove and introduces an international hero named Michael Hawk. While the novel's artwork was alluring, consumers may have been misled by the character's dangerous profession. Instead of a globe-trotting spy spewing hot lead, this hero is a freelance reporter chasing hot scoops.

The novel begins by explaining that Michael Hawk was voluntarily arrested after breaking into a Russian psychiatric hospital. His prison experience was a planned expose on the happenings in and around the Iron Curtain. In the book's opening chapters, Hawk is returned to the US via a cruise ship headed to a sunshine-drenched Greek island where Hawk begins writing down his prison experiences while delighting in the riches of horny young female tourists.

By page 70, Hawk finds himself wandering around on the Greek island when a shootout occurs leaving one man dead. In an attempt to learn who was killed, Hawk attracts the attention of a wealthy dictator and soon finds his own life in jeopardy. Once his weekend lover is killed, Hawk demands to know more about the mysterious island and the dictator. Streib's narrative, while stretched sinewy thin, offers some insight to the character's backstory while attempting to propel the current story arc forward.

Needless to say, “The Deadly Crusader” is an uneven and thin narrative to explore. In fact, through the book's 187 sluggish pages, very little actually happens. The author's story never comes to fruition simply because nothing is ever explained to the reader. Streib just assumes readers understand all of the story's nuances through telepathy. In fact, I'm not sure this began as one full story. My theory is this book is a culmination of broken stories that were never finished and instead were just sewn up here to resemble something approximating a series debut. I speculate that Jove, who already had a smash hit on their hands with 'Nick Carter: Killmaster', thought they could fool their consumers into buying another “similar” series, so they concocted the idea of Hawk. Regardless of Hawk’s creative Genesis, this paperback is terrible and I can't imagine the series improved thereafter.

Purchase a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Parker #10 - The Green Eagle Score

By the time 1967 rolled around, Donald Westlake had really found his groove with the novels he wrote under the name Richard Stark starring a hard-nosed, emotionless thief named Parker. The commercial success of the series had far outpaced the popularity of the comedic crime novels Westlake authored under his own name, and the quality of the Parker stories showed no indication of deteriorating. That was also the year that Parker’s 10th paperback adventure, “The Green Eagle Score,” hit spinner racks.

The story opens with Parker and his woman sunning themselves on a Puerto Rican beach when a visitor from Parker’s past arrives with a business opportunity. Fusco is fresh out of the joint after doing a three-year stretch and his ex-wife is dating a U.S. Air Force paper-pusher named Devers. The relationship between Fusco, Devers, and Ellen the ex-wife is surprisingly cordial, and they’ve stumbled upon an opportunity for a $400,000 payroll heist at an upstate New York Air Force base. Pulling a theft on a military installation poses some logistical hurdles, so they need an expert planner like Parker to make it happen.

Parker has the appropriate misgivings about working with amateurs, but he leaves the beach and his girl behind, so he can assess the viability of the score in New York. As always, Parker is the consummate, stoic professional, and his time spent in New York casing the base and weighing the pros and cons of the heist make for some predictably outstanding scenes.

Westlake shifts the third-party perspective quite a bit in this installment, and along the way the reader is treated to scenes where ex-wife Ellen repeatedly overshares with her therapist unwittingly tipping the shrink to the upcoming robbery and getaway plan. Could this create a problem for the crew down the line?

There’s a lot of build-up and character drama leading up to the heist. I found it all very interesting, but it wasn’t exactly action-packed. Once the execution of the job is underway and the plan goes sideways, fans of the series will feel right at home. Overall, this wasn’t the best Parker novel, but that’s only because of the high watermark set by the rest of the series. If “The Green Eagle Score” was a stand-alone novel, it would be regarded as a masterpiece of the heist genre. Instead, it’s just an average installment in a masterpiece of a series. You should definitely read it, but be aware how it stacks up in the Richard Stark canon. Recommended.

Postscript

An exciting book bonus abridgment of “The Green Eagle Score” was printed in the July 1968 issue of “For Men Only” magazine under the name “The Young Bedroom Raiders” with some sweet men’s adventure magazine illustrations.

You can check out some screen grabs of the piece at: LINK

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 31

Saddle up for a wild ride as Paperback Warrior presents an All-Review Western Roundup. We discuss and review our favorite westerns including authors like Richard Matheson, Larry McMurtry, Louis L'Amour, Ralph Hayes and more! The hosts also discuss their favorites of the adult western genre including an epic crossover event featuring adult western heroes. Stream the episode below or your favorite streaming platform. Direct downloads are HERE.

Listen to "Episode 31: All-Review Western Roundup" on Spreaker.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Handyman #01 - The Moneta Papers

Along with authoring entries in the 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' series, Jon Messman kept a productive schedule in the 1970s with a successful series run with 'Revenger' before achieving commercial success with the popular adult western series 'The Trailsman'. Perhaps one of the best of Messman's literary career is the six-volume paperback series 'Jefferson Boone: Handyman'. It was published by Pyramid Books and debuted in 1973 with “The Moneta Papers”.

Jefferson Boone is a silky, posh hero that works inconspicuously with the U.S. State Department. His father was a career diplomat and had mentioned to his son that the department needed a behind the scenes “handyman” that can plug holes for America's foreign allies. Working with a government liaison named Charley Hopkins, Boone is offered a variety of international assignments that conveniently pads out the series. The first assignment that's revealed to readers is “The Moneta Papers”, a carefully construed Italian mission that features a real estate transaction as the launching point. But, as readers quickly learn, there's nothing ordinary about this property purchase.

Boone's female friend Dorrie is a wealthy European playmate working to secure her fourth marriage. Dorrie owns a number of remote islands that remain as a lease-to-purchase for the U.S. government. After a number of years, Dorrie has finally agreed to gift the islands to the U.S. provided they can arrange a paper transaction. The problem is that every delivery man has been murdered in route to secure the transaction. The suspect? Dorrie's fiance Umberto, a spoiled kid who has aligned himself with a career politician that aspires to be the next Mussolini.

Boone's first endeavor is to learn if Dorrie is involved with the failed delivery attempts. Second, Boone must investigate Umberto's past and current political allies. Using disguises, a fast Ford Mustang and his snub-nosed .38, Boone embarks on a perilous mission to learn the truth. Messman's writing incorporates Formula 1 racing, various shootouts, a Swiss Alps skiing adventure and sexcapades (albeit more topical than descriptive) to propel the narrative.

Fans of 'James Bond' and 'Nick Carter' should like Messman's protagonist. While Boone is an international, intellectual hero, the author carefully avoids pure snobbery. In fact, Boone's budding romance with a small-town Indiana school teacher helps ground the hero with more American wholesomeness. By 1973, it was a crowded market for these types of globe-trotting champions. Thankfully, Messman's series and character stands the test of time. This was an excellent novel.

Buy a copy of this book HERE