You guys know the story by now, right? America is a wasteland and the bombs have turned the clouds that funny shade of purple. People are sick and dying and our hero, Martin Stone, is riding his Harley Davidson through the carnage to rescue his kidnapped sister April. It's a fairly simplistic concept throughout this ten book series known as 'The Last Ranger'. Book number seven is "The Vile Village", written once again by Jan Stacy under house name Craig Sargent and released via Popular Library in 1988.
The book begins after that fallout of book six's nuke. Stone and his pit bull Excalibur are cruising along when they get spit on by some radioactive clouds. The purple stuff falling out of the sky stings the skin. This paperback warrior is attempting to drive through it, gets annihilated by the radiation and wrecks the motorcyle - something that happens a lot in this series. Stone and Excalibur plunge from the bike and get knocked out cold. An old farmer turned undertaker finds the two and brings them back to his farm. Something about his incident and exchange reminds me of an old western I've seen somewhere along the way. Only it was a guy falling off a horse and taken back by an old worn-out gunfighter.
Once there the undertaker gets his daughter LuAnn to nurse Stone back to health again. You know what the series does when a female character appears. Stone and LuAnn romp for three pages, then Stone gets down to business with the undertaker. Just like a western tale, the town of Copexi is a small farming community that is caught between two rival gangs - The Headstompers versus The Strathers Brothers. The gangs are leaning on the farmers and shopkeepers really hard to pay weekly taxes for protection. They are stretched thin and dying. Stone simply isn't going to stand for it, thus the book's plot.
Stone heads into town and immediately gets into a bar fight with The Headstompers. After shooting them down, he approaches The Strathers Brothers with an offer - he'll be their gunman for money and they can call him "Preacher-Boy", because all gunmen need a cool name. You see Stone has a plan; He'll pretend to be a head-knocker for The Strathers Brothers while really just pulling the right switches to cause the Headstompers to get in an epic war with The Strathers' crew. If they kill each other the farming community will be free of trouble and can get back to planting cabbage or whatever they do in Copexi.
Everything goes according to plan and Stone plays the part. He gets in a few skirmishes along the way but his ultimate downfall is when The Strathers Brothers find out he isn't the "Preacher-Boy" that he claims to be. Just like the last book, and a few prior ones, Stone is clamped to a table for a good round of torture. Miraculously he escapes, kills all the baddies in the room and makes a break for it. Unfortunately, The Strathers Brothers have Excalibur blocked off and Stone needs his dog. Badly. The end comes with a massive firefight between Stone, The Strathers Brothers, The Headknockers, The Farmers and a lion.
The idea of Stone disguising himself as another person has been done before. Conceptually, Mack Bolan has used this tactic numerous times and it's certainly a mandatory aspect of the thriller and spy genres. Here it works okay and adds a little bit of a different perspective to what is typically the "Stone vs arch enemy" formula plaguing the middle of the series. This was okay as sort of this one off but the series is a little stale at this point.