Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eagle Force #01 - Contract for Slaughter

Author Dan Schmidt has contributed immensely to the 'Executioner' and 'Super Bolan' series of books. Along with a few stand alone titles he was also the creator of a nine book series known as 'Eagle Force'. This team based series got a bit of a late start, originating in 1989, as opposed to lots of teams that had solid bibliographies by this point in time. Nonetheless, it's four guys heavily armed. The first book, "Contract for Slaughter", kicks it off in grand fashion.

While this book definitely has a plot, you can sense with only 159 pages that this one is really just the fleshing out process. Like a lot of these team based books this one goes through the recruitment phase. This is where the men compare sizes, review their badges and ribbons and make sure that all of them know which end of the barrel to point. We get the hard-nosed Vic Gabriel as the leader and main character. He's a Vietnam vet who spent some additional time as a free lance CIA assassin. Now a days he's retired and soaking up the sun of Florida on his boat. However, catching fish just isn't firing up the furnace like it used to. Gabriel needs to get back to the killing. Lucky for him a guy named Milton shows up with a story to tell.

Milton is the stereotypical wealthy guy with the spoiled daughter. Turns out the daughter has been kidnapped by an Islamic terrorist group called "The Sword of Islam". They are holed up in Tunis and waiting for some ransom money from him. Milton knows some CIA guys who turn him onto Gabriel. There's really an intricate backstory as to why they turn him onto Gabriel but I'm not gonna rattle that cage too much here. Milton throws his case at Gabriel and it's a reason for the old dog to rejoin the fight. 

Now comes the "recruitment" portion that takes up the majority of the book. Gabriel goes out and puts the old band back together. He starts with grabbing Dillinger. His specialty is Ninja knives and two Colt .45s. Dillinger is wasting away these days as a gumshoe and fairly happy to join the band. Next is Simms, a martial arts master who plays a mean M-16. He's in debt and owes everybody and their mother. Once Gabriel mentions Milton is paying 50K a head, Simms is down for it. The last one is a tough Dutchman named Boolewarke, who's in the middle of his own war in North Africa when the gang comes calling. He has a slight beef with Simms, but joins the ranks. The team's all here.

As Eagle Force travels to the ransom location the author throws some flashback sequences at us in all italics that's really hard on the eyes. But these are great backstories that show how Gabriel was raised by his Green Beret father. We also get a look at his weak brother. There's the history of why the CIA is interested in Gabriel's current whereabouts, but that's major spoilers that we will detour around. The history is really important and probably a "mythology" that will backbone the series in the future.

The final portion of the book is a glorious firefight between Eagle Force and "The Sword of Islam" cronies. There's some flamethrower action, a ton of explosives and the familiar barking of M-16s. The end was really a curveball out of left field. Definitely a surprise sprung by the author. I loved it. The end of the book gives a preview of the next volume, "Death Camp Colombia". Great book, great start to the series.