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.