Sunday, June 30, 2013

Roadblaster #01 - Hell Ride

I have been reading books for over thirty years now and this is by far the worst piece of trash I've had the pleasure of reading. I plan on buying copies of this book and sending it out as gifts to my buddies. It is one of those strange things in life that is so abysmal that it is laugh out loud funny. Thank God for "Roadblaster". Thank you Paul Hofrichter...better known as the voice of "he who creates the horror".

The 'Roadblaster' debut is called "Hell Ride". It's filth was released to the masses in 1987 via Leisure's "Adventure" line. I believe there are a total of four books in the series and I am searching high and low for the other three. The author is Paul Hofrichter and I'm sure that isn't a house name but it damn well should be. Of course the series is yet another 80s entry in the "Soviets nuked America" formula ('The Last Ranger', 'Out Of The Ashes', 'Phoenix'). This one was supposed to center around a one word hero named Stack and his mechanical abilities. 


80s action heroes need guns, bullets and babes. Stack has none of these. In fact, Stack has no skills whatsoever, runs from action and is a complete loser. But more on that in a minute.

Let's start with the cover. It shows us some sort of science fiction/fantasy scenes of a hero in some sort of shoulder padded cloak complete with a gold coin badge and bullet belt.That hero is not in this book. There are no cloaks, shoulder pads, bullet belts or gold coin badges. Our hero Stack...the Roadblaster...has jeans and a t-shirt and his gold coin badge is a taxi driver's license. Yes. The motorcycle gang on the cover wearing cloaks, American Gladiator apparel and battle helmets is not in this book. Our criminals are your normal Mel's Bar & Grill variety that shoot pool, chase broads and happen to ride motorcycles. There is a B-52 bomber on the cover and...oddly that is in this book.

The novel begins with a guy named Stack. He is in northern California doing a little hunting on vacation. His wife and three kids are in New York holding down the fort while he is trampling about. From a mountain side Stack witnesses the mushroom clouds of doom and realizes the Soviets have nuked most of California. Oddly enough he doesn't panic...certainly the idea of his family being killed by bombs had to cross his mind but instead he makes his way into Fresno picking up a few survivors along the way. Once this is established the book completely switches gears and now tells us all about a small Airforce team flying over the Pacific in a B-52 with nukes ready to drop on the Soviet Union. They have engine trouble and are forced to land in California with a belly full of armed death. After sixty plus pages of Stack's story we now get fifty pages of B-52 engine failure. Where the Hell is this Roadblaster versus motorcycle psychos alluded to in the synopsis?

Oddly the next introduction we if we needed about a motorcycle gang that just happens to be cruising around looking for a town to take over. I am not making this up...the gang is called The Bloodsuckers and the member names are:

Black Doughnut
The Viking
San Quentin Sal
Billy Bullshit
Ivan The Terrible

The Bloodsuckers get about twenty pages or so before we switch back to Stack. He picks up a fifteen year old girl named Rayisa and drives to a small town for food and shelter. He hangs out in his van...eats, sleeps and makes mindless chatter with the band of survivors. You know...heroes named Stack do these kinds of things in action adventure novels. In one of the more ridiculous scenes, The Bloodsuckers decide that the small town of Vista Royale is perfect for an orgy. They roll into town and start shooting and raping all of it's citizens. The small band of survivors decide they will go out and liberate the town and push out the bikers. They go to Stack and tell him about the situation and that basically The Bloodsuckers are running a train on Vista Royale's women and they need to be stopped. They ask if he can join them. His response?

"No thanks. I've had a day and night I won't forget if I live to be a hundred. Good luck with everything."

Good luck with everything?!? A town is being raped in post apocalyptic Hell and this guy is going back to his van to lay down? What? His wife and kids are possibly dead in New York and he is taking catnaps down by the river? So, needless to say the survivors pounce on the town, get annihilated and retreat back to the safe zone. They return to town and stir Stack into saying this to the Sheriff...

"Sorry about what happened. I took a nap in my van, but all the commotion as your people came back into town woke me. What I want to say is that if you need my help in the future feel free to call on me".

Priceless man. Just priceless.

At one point one of the survivor's asked Stack if he knows anything about nuclear radiation cures. His response...

"I'm no doctor. Maybe home remedies. I don't know."

Home remedies for radiation sickness? Really. Really?

We read a few more despicable aspects of The Bloodsucker's reign in Vista Royale. Apparently only 24 hours removed from a nuclear war the only thing to do is to take over a small town and have pizza, beer and sex in various houses on Main Street. The gang fight a little with each other but none can really speak in complete sentences and resemble something more akin to 'Hills Have Eyes' than the roving motorcycle gang they should be. The survivors in the mountain decide Stack, of all people, will lead their next attempt at reclaiming the town. Apparently his naps in the van and ridiculous dialogue is enough to render him the only capable leader. Oh and this awesome conversation...

Sheriff: "Have you got weapons?"

Stack: "A Savage 99F hunting rifle that holds a five-bullet clip plus additional ammunition and various knives."

That spark of wisdom leads the Sheriff to ask:

"Have you had commando training?"

Stack says "I was in the National Guard and took commando courses".

What in God's name are commando courses? Is there some branch of our military that teaches Commando? Speaks Commando? Performs Commando? What is a Commando Course? Because of Stack's great commando skills he leads the assault and loses fifteen year old Rayisa to the gang. As he prowls around from house to house he sees his new "daughter" figure stripped naked and being whipped to oblivion with a leather strap. In her cries of pain she stops to ask the gang why they are whipping her and "she has never been whipped like this before". As if whipping a fifteen year old girl's bare back and buttocks spread eagle is just a normal Friday night. But this whipping is something really different. What does Stack do? He watches the whole thing and does nothing. He must have learned this in his commando courses.

Soon the battle spreads out and the motorcycle gang finds out a B-52 filled with nukes is just a few miles away. If they can get their hands on the nukes then they can have sex with most of the country's survivors. In a final battle scene, Stack really does nothing, asks for a lot of assistance from the town and survivors and eventually lets two of the gang members escape. 

Wow...all of that came from this back cover synopsis:

"One man stood out like a tracer round in the night sky. His name was Stack and his skills at staying alive made his mechanical wizardry even more valuable. Tough, dangerous and ruthless, he could build or repair any piece of machinery ever made. And in a world where cars and gasoline were worth far more than human lives Stack could name his own price."

Does that synopsis sound like a different book? Stack has no mechanical wizardry other than driving a van and sleeping. He doesn't build or repair anything after the bombs fall. How could gasoline and cars be worth that much? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. The worst piece of trash ever written and one that will go down in the "Hall Of Shame". I desperately need to pick up the other books to see how our hero evolves in a world gone bad. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Last Ranger 01 - The Last Ranger

The Last Ranger series was published in 1986 through Popular Library. As a post-apocalyptic series, it's a monomyth as protagonist Martin Stone roams the wastelands of America searching for his missing sister April. The series ran a total of ten installments from 1986 through 1989 and was authored by Jan Stacy using the pseudonym Craig Sargent. Some may remember Stacy as one-half of the duo that contributed to the more popular Doomsday Warrior series of post-apocalyptic adventures. 

The opening chapters of this eponymous Last Ranger debut centers around Major Clayton Stone, the father of series hero Martin Stone. The author presents Clayton's early life as well as his exploits as an Army Ranger in Vietnam. Clayton is described as a menacing, mountain of a man, a war hero and survivalist. In fear of the looming Soviet threat (an 80s staple in pop-culture), Clayton creates an enormous fallout shelter inside of a Colorado mountain range,  supplying it with decades of power, food, water and every type of military weapon conceived by man.

Martin Stone is the exact opposite of his father. Before the inevitable nuclear attack, Stone marched in peace rallies, maintained many girlfriends and his claim to fame was being the captain of his school's swim team. Martin Stone was the stereotypical precursor to an ivy school, sweater-wearing yuppy. The two often disagreed on a variety of topics and, in 1989, come to blows after Clayton forces the family into the Colorado shelter before the Soviets bomb America into the stone ages. Father knows best indeed.

The family live in the fallout shelter for about a decade and Clayton teaches his son the tactics to stay alive. For years the two train in martial arts, explosives, various shooting styles and hundreds of different weapons from turret styled machine guns to revolvers and rifles. Clayton turns his son into Rambo while mom and sister serve as quiet spectators.

As the first half of the narrative closes, Clayton dies of a heart attack. Stone dismisses years of training and decides to leave the safety of the shelter. Using an RV, and carrying only a shotgun, Stone and his mother and sister journey into the desert where they are immediately mauled by biker gangs. Apparently, the 80s vision of apocalypse always features the most vial criminal element riding a motorcycle. Thus the enemy of Stone is a moto-psycho group called Hell's Guardians. After killing Stone's mom, the bikers kidnap his sister April and leave Stone broken and battered in the desert.

The novel's second half premise begins with Stone being rescued by Native Americans. Apparently they have returned to the ways of the land, hunting animals and worshiping Earth spirits. In a scene taken right out of a Man Called Horse, Stone is hefted up on hooks through his chest and suspended in mid-air for the night. This painful journey into the spirit world deems Stone a true warrior. He beds a beautiful tribe chick and then returns to his shelter to arm himself for war; a motorcycle with a .50 caliber machine gun turret on handlebars and enough guns and ammo to supply Israel for a weekend.

I thought this was a solid series debut. Clayton's introduction at the beginning was necessary to validate Stone's ascension as the heir apparent. I think the transition from chump to champ was an entertaining read and the eventual story-line of April's disappearance is a good through-story that treads through each of the series' installments. As the series progresses, more of the story will begin to parallel Jan Stacy's own life. You can learn more on author Jan Stacy in our Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 38 HERE

Buy a copy of the Last Ranger debut HERE.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ninja Master #01 - Vengeance is His

With absolutely one of the cheesiest covers of the genre 'Ninja Master' gets off and running with its first entry called "Vengeance Is His". There are eight total books in the series before spinning off into other series' like 'Year of Ninja Master'. Right off the bat I'm going to say this is not the ninja imagery I remember as a child. Growing up predominantly in the 80s, the ninja lore was absolutely insane. Kids had costumes, fake throwing stars, plastic swords and enough martial arts magazines to last a lifetime. The ninja stuff I remember was highlighted by Sho Kosugi movies and the television show 'The Master'. I can remember renting big box VHS films like 'Enter the Ninja', 'American Ninja' and even a Chuck Norris film featuring ninjas in 'The Octagon'. So with that being said, 'Ninja Master' is not that sort of fact he isn't really a ninja at all in my experience. But more on that in a moment.

Wade Barker wrote "Vengeance Is His" and he is the author of a majority of the series. Wade Barker is in fact Richard Meyers. The book came out in 1981 on Warner Books. Our "Ninja Master" is Brett Wallace (maybe the name was inspired by martial artist Bill Superfoot Wallace), a young man living in Cleveland with his beautiful Japanese wife. His father runs a multi-million dollar real estate business and Wallace can eat with a silver spoon. One night one of his father's business deals goes south and someone kills his parents and wife. Now Wallace is the heir to a zillion dollar fortune and a hatred in his heart for baddies everywhere. He journeys to Japan to study martial arts and the way of the ninja. Bruce Wayne anyone?

Wallace returns home after a decade of ninja antics and immediately targets the thugs that killed his family. The absolute ridiculous action sequence adorning the book cover is in fact how the thugs are taken down. Wallace uses super human strength to break bones and necks to settle the score. He then takes his fortunes and moves to San Francisco. He picks up a beautiful Japanese chef and has a few mattress romps with her before buying her a restaurant. Quickly, she is written out of the book and Wallace is on to his first ninja mission. Apparently there is a neighborhood that is mostly made up of senior citizens and weak people who are being harassed by a local gang calling themselves The Wilshire Rangers - they sound like an English Premier League team. The Rangers are led by two brothers and they basically run drugs, prostitutes and general thugs that terrorize the local cops and the residents. Wallace befriends a prostitute named Patty and gets the scoop on the Rangers. He decides to right the wrongs using his ninja fighting skills.

Barker makes Wallace out to be a hero that is on par with Thor. Apparently, Wallace has learned techniques like touching a man's forearm causing instant death. He uses his knees to murder. At one point, he uses his palm to push a man's nose into his brain. In two scenes, Wallace dodges bullets and can even use mind tricks to change his surroundings. I think all of this would have been somewhat entertaining if Wallace would just wear a black suit and hood that shrouds all but his eyes. Then, and only then, would I buy into this ninja fantasy. Instead, Wallace walks around in suits or jeans. He rarely ever uses stealth, he has no sword, boken, knives or daggers. He doesn't even have one of those smoke ball thingies that make ninjas disappear. He is basically just a wealthy UFC fighter. I will say that he does have a throwing star that detaches from his belt buckle.

The end result is 'Ninja Master' does not get off to a good start here. Perhaps the other seven titles are better and Wallace will use some sort of traditional ninja garb to off the baddies. Regardless, I will continue on with other entries because at this point I feel I just need to know more. There is also a side story at the very end of this book that shows Wallace teaming with a "Microchip/"Oracle" sort of assistant and the Japanese chef to form a fighting team. Where the Hell is Sho Kosugi when we need him?

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, June 17, 2013

Resistance #01 Night and Fog

I picked up most of the six book series called 'Resistance'. This is a World War II series of action novels written in the early 80s by Gregory St. Germain. I'm not terribly certain if this is a house author and few details are out there about him or this series in general.

This first 'Resistance' entry is called "Night And Fog". It was released in 1982 under the Signet brand and part of their "Signet Action Adventure" marketing. If you look closely at the book cover you will see that the illustration is inside the picture of a phoenix. All of the 'Resistance' titles are adorned that way and I thought it was fitting considering this is a team based book about a unit called Phoenix.

"Night And Fog" is set in the early stages of World War II. From just my history buff experience, I am thinking this would have taken place around late 1939 or early 1940. Poland has just been invaded by Germany and some of the country has been given to Russia. Our main character is an action guy named Scott Gideon. He is an American who has been quite the journeyman for the last decade or so. He recently left war in Spain and is recruited in Belgium by a millionaire named Philaix. Gideon survives a trial to determine his worthiness and soon Philaix employs him to lead a ragtag bunch of mercenaries into guerilla warfare against the Nazis. His first mission is to infiltrate a German occupied castle in Poland and rescue a Polish general. His team consists of seven war vets from places like France, Russia, Holland, Ireland, Poland, Austria and Italy. Each of these guys are recruited based on their expertise with knives, maps, boats, explosives, etc.

St. Germain's writing is somewhat technical at times. I found it hard to follow his geography, often confusing in its details of where the team is in relation to various German camps, Belgium, Poland and Russia. The whole book is basically about the team's mission to Poland and the eventual retrieval of the general. Throughout this long road trip they find themselves in various battles and extreme circumstances. The group fight patrols out in the fields, they destroy various checkpoints, airports and eventually infiltrate the castle. Once inside they become captured and then escape in one of the more ridiculous "heroic" scenes. The end of the book is a furious round of gunfire as German troops chase the Phoenix team down a runway.

This is a really decent historical overlook at some of the early trials and tribulations facing Poland in the preliminary stages of the war. The plight of the Polish people is brutally told in a no-holds barred narrative. This part of the book was fairly educational to me. I found the daring rescue and firefights interesting early on and by book's end, I began to tire of the endless firefights. The plausibility is completely thrown out the window and rightfully so considering this sort of action adventure tale. I was surprised to see one of the team members killed off and the aftermath of that tragedy. The human nature of the book is well done and the cohesive fighting unit comes into its own in a way that makes you want to seek out more volumes. I'm gonna give this one a recommendation and is one of the few World War II action novels I've ran into. Comparing to films I think "Night And Fog" is similar to team based vehicles like 'Dirty Dozen' and 'The Wild Geese'. I have the whole book series now so look for more of my 'Resistance' reviews in the future.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Sunday, June 16, 2013

M.I.A. Hunter #01 - M.I.A. Hunter

I collected the 'M.I.A Hunter' series when I was in high school. I believe at one point I had the entire sixteen book run and had read a majority of them. The novels started in the mid 80s amongst a frenzied media and pop culture environment that was obsessed with Vietnam action. That time frame through as late as the mid 90s contributed heavily to the Vietnam war scripts and post 1973 theatrics. Films like 'First Blood', 'Rambo 2', 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Platoon' scored well on the top tiers. The media degraded into B films like the 'Missing In Action' series before becoming completely stagnant with blowhards like 'Platoon Leader' (Michael Dudikoff!) and 'Siege At Firebase Gloria'.

The late 70s and 80s was a rather controversial period of time to discuss the Vietnam War in terms of its prisoners of war. There was a huge portion of society that firmly believed US troops were still being held in Vietnam. Contrived images of soldiers in tattered uniforms suspended in bamboo cells were firmly etched in pop culture ('Missing In Action', 'Uncommon Valor'). The other side of the fence felt all of this was simply fantasy and that the majority of these supposed P.O.W.s would have been pilots whose age and extreme living conditions in Southeast Asia would have limited their lifespans. Depending on which opinion you have the numbers are really alarming. 1,300 Americans are reported as missing in action to this day. Were they killed? Exported to the Soviet Union? Worked as slave labor? Who can really speculate at this point considering Vietnam has been open for trade and tourism for twenty years now.

The first installment of the 'M.I.A. Hunter' series is simply called "M.I.A. Hunter" and it was released by Jove in 1985. These books were created and written by Stephen Mertz, who occasionally, due to time constraints and deadlines would employ other writers to work off of his outlines or draft - Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Newton, Chet Cunningham and Bill Crider under house pseudonym Jack Buchanan. The series followed the trend of having larger than life book covers and marketing catch phrases.

The book begins in a Vietnamese military base just shy of the Laos border. Three American POWs are being held in bamboo cages under very harsh conditions. One of the prisoners, Bradford, manages to escape and is eventually seen by a Laos freedom fighter before being re-captured. The freedom fighter relays the information about the American POW to a CIA operative who eventually gets the information to Bradford's wife. This sets the stage for Bradford's wife to contact the MIA Hunter and our first mission is now set; find Bradford and bring him back alive.
Mark Stone is a former Green Beret and Vietnam Vet who spent some time as a prisoner himself. He runs a business for hire that rescues P.O.W.s all over the globe. He has a network of associates that assist with travel, firearms and overall logistics. Stone relies on two fighters with his missions, big Texan Hog Wiley, a former team mate of Stone's in 'Nam and a former British SS named Terrance Loughlin. Stone is your default main character. Wiley would be the big strong brawler. Loughlin is a more technical character with an explosives background. The book is written in a way that focuses on each character during battle and what they are contributing. Often, Wiley is shown brawling, Stone is organizing the battle and Loughlin is conveniently off planting charges.
After taking on the job of rescuing Bradford the team journey into Bangkok to acquire weapons and intel from a network associate. A battle ensues with some operatives apparently clued into Stone's global antics. This part of the story was rather frustrating because nothing comes to fruition. What government is after him and why don't they just shut him down? Maybe this is a story that runs the series. Anyhow, the team eventually meets up with a Laos freedom fighter and two other Americans who serve as transportation. After a few clicks down river the group battle a boat patrol of Vietnamese and quickly dispatch them. Stone finds the prisoners and frees them in a huge firefight with the Vietnamese camp. Retreating out of the camp consists of more gunfights and in the book's finale a "last stand" scenario that plays out in a remote Laos village (briefly reminds me of 'Seven Samurai'). 
The novel, written by Mike Newton, reads briskly and fits the mold of action adventure under 200 pages. It is fairly obvious that this book sets the tone for future installments and that the central core will always be Stone, Hog and Loughlin as the primary killing force of the series. Authors can easily deposit these three fighters in Vietnam, the Soviet Union, China and the Middle East to rescue prisoners in a cookie cutter action formula sure to please mercenary and soldier of fortune hounds. The series always had great cover art, was made at the height of 'Rambo' type films and seemed readily available at grocery stores, pharmacies and book stores back in the day. Sales had to be decent considering sixteen installments were created.
After being out of print for two decades a reissue has been authorized. These Kindle editions feature generic - read that as horrible - artwork and weigh in at $2.99 each. I prefer the $1.00 paperback versions no matter how worn out they are. Look for new books being released by Mertz as well. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Last Ranger #02 - The Savage Stronghold

The 80s action genre was saturated with post-apocalyptic media. In my youth, I watched a great deal of these movies like the 'Mad Max' trilogy, 'Def-Con 4', 'Red Dawn', etc. The fiction that I normally sunk my teeth into were more horror related, things like Stephen King's 'The Stand' and Robert R. McCammon's 'Swan Song'. I did tend to read a few of the action adventure novels of this theme, but there just seemed to be so much readily available. I remember seeing entries like 'Endworld', 'Deathlands' and 'Out Of The Ashes' (I did enjoy William Johnstone's 'Mountain Man' series) and it seemed appealing, but I was really sort of burned out on those themes by the mid 90s. A few years ago it started all over again, yet more zombie inspired than anything else.

"The Savage Stronghold" is the second entry in the popular post-apocalyptic series 'The Last Ranger'. This came out in 1986 through Popular Library, a subsidiary of Warner Books. The author 's name on the cover is Craig Sargent, but in reality this was Jan Stacy. The author wrote several other books like this - 'Doomsday Warrior' and 'C.A.D.S.' among others. I've haven't had the opportunity to track down any other books in this particular series, so "Savage Stronghold" is my first venture in 'The Last Ranger' books. After devouring this volume in less than two days I'm on the hunt for the other nine titles.

The book starts with a bang. We are introduced to the series' main character Martin Stone (of course his name is Stone!), his dog Excalibur and an armory fitted Harley Davidson. Stone is on a long stretch of highway in Colorado and runs into a camp of cannibals. His choice is to pay to proceed through this section of Colorado or simply mow them down with the handlebar mounted .50 caliber machine gun he is packing. Stone opts for gunfire and 'The Savage Stronghold' is off to a slobberknocker start.

In flashback scenes of the first book, America was nuked by the Soviet Union and what's left is simply a wasteland akin to Judge Dredd. I believe Stone's parents and sisters were living in a cave for about five years. I'm not sure if Stone was an Army Ranger or what the emphasis is on 'The Last Ranger' bit of the series. I was never able to tell from this particular book what Stone's background was before the bombs. He lived in the cave and at some point a motorcycle gang of thugs called The Guardians Of Hell killed his family and kidnapped his sister. He fought the gang in Denver and wiped out a good portion of their headquarters before the leader, Straight, left town with Stone's sister. Now he is patrolling the country in search for her and righting wrongs. Keep it simple stupid.

Stone wanders into Pueblo, Colorado and discovers a town that has been taken over by a bizarre church. The leader called The New Prophet tortures, crucifies and executes anyone who is different. Of course, Stone faces off with him, the Guardians Of Hell and Straight in a battle to free his kidnapped sister. This book was extremely exciting, well-written and just a whole lot of senseless fun. I've read this sort of story a half dozen times, from Judge Dredd to the various spaghetti westerns. It's the "town under seige" formula - a town is controlled by a ruthless gang, criminal land baron or some sort of backwoods law enforcement. 'The Savage Stronghold' is really no different yet it is written with enough gunpowder and grit to make it interesting. The profanity is thick, the violence is above average and there is a little bit of a love interest thrown in for good measure. If you love the post-nuke stuff like I do...put this one on the must read list.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Conan - Conan the Hunter

Sean Moore's Conan The Hunter is thrust into the life of Conan chronologically after the wretched Steve Perry novel Conan The Defiant. Some argue that Conan The Indomitable, also by Perrywould be next, but I'm not terribly certain. I don't know that it really matters in the grand scheme of all things Conan. Conan the Hunter was published in 1994 by Tor and is one of three Sean Moore installments in the series.

I can't say Moore is any worse than Perry, but he certainly isn't miles better either. Conan The Hunter would have been a much better book if it wasn't written in phases. We get a huge cross section of this book that plays out like an urban thriller. Then, Moore stretches the thin plot thousands of miles across a desert wasteland to eventually culminate in a finale inside yet another desolate temple.

This book begins with Conan drunk and gambling in the area of Zamora (he does say at the end of Conan The Defiant that he is headed here). He has picked up a night wench called Yvanna and has made arrangements to pay for sex by giving her a jeweled bracelet. The bracelet was stolen from a murdered princess and now all fingers are pointing at Conan as the killer. After a few chase scenes, some treachery and intrigue we see Conan trapped in a dungeon courtesy of the deceitful Mutare.

Moore keeps a brisk pace and provides ample battle scenes to increase the excitement. It is once Conan teams with Salvorus, Kailash and a priest named Madesus that things really became too bogged down. I thought the chase scene across the desert in pursuit of Mutare was unnecessary. We could have skipped thirty pages here and just put the band of heroes right in the temple. But, the climactic battle is decent and Conan fights temple gargoyles! Who can argue with that?

I'm not dreading Moore's next two entries, but Conan's chronological life includes four more Perry novels as well as two titles from Leonard Moore before the next Moore title. 

Conan - Conan the Defiant

Where does on even begin to discuss the Conan contributions of author Steve Perry? Where L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter's collaborations and novels are written fairly well, Perry is just flat out lifeless. His scenes go off into so many tangents that I had to jot down notes. I had no idea which character was alive, dead, or somewhere in between. At the end of the day none of it really mattered as Conan the Defiant went absolutely nowhere.

Conan The Defiant was originally published as a paperback original by the Tor brand in 1987. The book finds our hero shortly after he has left the cave of "The Thing In The Crypt." His wandering path leads him to the aid of Engh, an Oblate priest who is fighting off enemies using only a staff. Conan is intrigued and eventually the two are friends back at Engh's temple. There is a tussle, Engh is dead and Conan is off to right the wrong in the predictable vengeance formula. This is where things get bizarre. 

A necromancer named Neg The Malefic has a small army of zombies, one of which is a beautiful woman named Tuanne. Neg also employes a vile henchman named Skeer. Why? Because he needs an amulet/charm thing called The Source Of Light. Apparently, if he has this amulet he can make even more zombies than he has now. Neg is basically trying to become Evil Ernie and rule the world with his corpse companions. In the way is Conan, the recently escaped zombie Tuanne and another beautiful wench named Elashi.

Perry goes on the deep end three-fourths into this book. He has an army of tarantulas hunting Skeer while the main characters are searching for Neg and an armed assassin and his crew are pursuing Conan. Neg himself has a crew of a dozen or more blind zombies trailing Conan. Who can keep up with this nonsense? To make matters even more confusing, Conan, Elashi and Tuanne become lovers of each other along the way - relationships, partners, enemies, heroes, etc. 

The end result was a battle that was quickly dispatched and disposed of in less than five pages. The absolute worst part? Conan actually cries at the end of the book. Crom be damned. There are at least four more Perry novels in this list and I'm not sure I can read another. This was absolute rubbish with a pretty cover. Hall of Shame was built for books just like this one.

Conan - The Thing in the Crypt

"The Thing In The Crypt", authored by L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter, appears in the 1967 Conan book by Lancer. The story was later reprinted by Ace after Lancer's business operations ceased. 

If we were to view Conan's life chronologically, I believe "Legions Of The Dead" is right before "The Thing in the Crypt." At the closing of that story, Conan is in chains, snared by the Hyperboreans after a raid in Asgard. This short story begins when Conan finds a way to break his chains, thus escaping to the south. Once there, he discovers a pack of snarling, hungry wolves on his trail. In one captivating scene, Conan fights the wolves with a length of broken chain. Fearing certain death, he escapes into a mountain cave for protection. The wolves become frightened in the doorway of the cave and refuse to go in.

Inside, the Cimmerian finds darkness, bones and a mummy seated on a throne holding an iron sword. Looking for a means to arm himself for the coming danger, Conan takes the sword, triggering something that animates the mummy. Conan is thrust into a fight with this "thing" and at the end emerges from the cave with his new iron sword.

These scenes are in the original Conan The Barbarian film, albeit minus the mummy fight. In the movie, Conan simply picks up the sword and the mummy continues his corpse slumber. I can't find any fault with the story's presentation and deliverance. I know these authors receive tons of heat from the fans and some of it might be valid. "The Thing In The Cryp"' is basically one long action sequence and the descriptive detail regarding the snow capped mountains, the crunch of bones in the crypt and the snarling wolves are certainly eye candy for the adventure hounds. Recommended.

Conan - Legions of the Dead

The short story "Legions of the Dead" is by Bjorn Nayberg with assistance from Lin Carter and L. Sprague De Camp. I believe the original unfinished manuscript was started by Robert E. Howard. The story can be found in the 1978 compilation book Conan The Swordsman.

The story's time-period features Conan at a young age, possibly seventeen or eighteen. This is of course after the events of Venarium and finds our hero running with a band of raiders known as the Aesir. The leader of these raiders is Njal, who awakes to find that his daughter Rann has been kidnapped by Hyperboreans. Njal sends out thirty scouts to a castle called Haloga. Conan, Njal and a handful of raiders depart to recover Rann and also to discover the whereabouts of the missing scouts. 

In one graphic scene, we find that the scouts have been hung on hooks and displayed around the top of Castle Haloga. The perpetrator? A wicked queen called Vammetar and her sinister Witchmen. Conan penetrates the fortress only to find that the dead have risen and are on the hunt for the raiders. 

Interesting enough that the story ends with Conan in chains, a slave to the Hyperboreans. This "slavery" is shown at the beginning of the film Conan The Barbarian and also recalled in the next Conan entry entitled "The Thing In The Crypt". Overall, I thought this was a decent read filled with action and occult. I am not sure who to credit the writing too, but overall it was a really good literary piece to fill in the young adult era of Conan's life.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Conan - Conan of Venarium

I'm just now getting my sleeves rolled up for Conan. I've been reading a few of the Dark Horse comics and the reboot they did in 2004. I ran into a chronological list of Conan novels online at a fan site that was compiled in order by the character's actual age. In moving from comics to the actual novels I felt maybe I could read everything from what original creator Robert E. Howard did through all of the various authors who have contributed to this iconic character and it's universe. 

My list starts with Conan Of Venarium, a novel written by science-fiction author Harry Turtledove. This "intro" book gets tons of backlash from the die-hard fans because some of the dates don't match the timeline that most consider valuable. I don't see how any of that really matters considering the original creator had Conan in all different ages from young boy to old man. It's all up to interpretation...that is sort of the attraction for authors to continually contribute.

This book shows us Conan at age 15. He lives in Cimmeria with his parents in a village called Douthil. His mom is dying of something akin to tuberculosis and his father, Mordec, is a blacksmith. The southern neighboring country called Aquilonia sends raiders to Cimmeria to take it over and envelope the land into their kingdom. 

At first the Cimmerians make a stand minus Conan because his abusive father beats the Hell out of him and forces him to stay off the battlefield. The Cimmerians lose and Aquilonia basically forces themselves into Cimmeria. They aren't necessarily cruel or hostile, they simply want to allow their people to farm there, use the resources and still allow the Cimmerians freedom, albeit a far cry from what the barbarians would consider a proud lifestyle. This doesn't sit well with Conan and Turtledove really uses this novel to show us the fury and rage that builds in the character at such an early age. By book's end, Conan has become a man, a warrior and finds that he no longer belongs in Cimmeria. The end was very fitting as we see Conan choose NOT to pick sides in an upcoming war and he starts out on his own as a wanderer and a thief. This obviously sets the tone for the future of the character. 

I think Turtledove does Conan very similar to Braveheart and I'm okay with that. I think this was a great introduction to the character and a recommended read for newbies like myself. Like anything, some fans love it, others not so much. But the greatest aspect of these books and this character is that there is plenty for everyone. There are hundreds of books, comics, magazines to turn to including three films and a couple of video games. I'm all for a buffet, just keep it clean and tidy.

Buy a copy of this book here


Paperback Warrior is an attempt to relive the glory days of 70s and 80s action adventure novels. The barrel chests, bullet belts and bandannas that adorned cult classic heroes like "The Exterminator", "Stony Man" and "Penetrator". I had a book or two from all of the best loved series and now I am attempting to recreate that library again. I will post my random findings, reads and commentary here and hopefully this will rekindle some memories of those dog eared action adventure novels.