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.