William W. Johnstone was mired in a variety of genres in the 80's and 90's. While known mostly for multiple western series' the author created a long line of post-apocalyptic books called "Out of the Ashes". The series ran 35 books and was spun-off into one additional series called 'The Last Rebel' that only managed one book release before Johnstone's passing. His son, J.A. Johnstone, doesn't seem to have any interest in continuing the series so for now it seems like it has come to a definitive end.
The first book of the series, aptly titled "Out of the Ashes", was released in 1983 by Zebra. The series has a tremendous amount of fans. I am not one of them. About halfway through this one I questioned my own sanity. I'm as right as rain when it comes to politics but this stuff is extremely right winged to the point of...well I don't even know how it got published. Essentially this doesn't fit the typical mold of barrel chested bravado with big guns and even bigger egos. Instead, this is more politically driven and sees the end of the world as more of a "Risk" styled board game than the action vehicles like 'The Last Ranger' or 'Endworld'. There is certainly nothing wrong with this and I'm glad it coaches from the sidelines, but I was hoping for more on the field play. Johnstone apparently felt that was not the intention or goal of the series so here we are. Bored to tears as some guy named Ben Raines manipulates North America.
The end of the world begins with a treacherous double-cross by a bunch of fearless Washington brass. The end comes with a series of dirty bomb nukes that wipes out most of the US cities. About 5,000 US militia were in hiding waiting for this move to come and they are known as "The Rebels" (so original). They want to see America become a sturdy right-winged government that throws out liberalism in favor of less government and more "lets pee off the front porch" freedom. That's cool. But, these rebels find that this was really just a trick by the new default president Logan, who wants military socialism in a nutshell. So they sort of quit and just await orders from an action author/alcoholic named Ben Raines.
Raines is a Vietnam veteran who was apparently really good at this combat stuff. He later went on to be a mercenary in Africa and did a lot of wetwork. Afterwards, he retired to Louisiana where he slouched on Scotch and wrote a bunch of pulp fiction. On launch day, Raines ends up getting stung by yellow jackets and falls down with an allergic reaction. This saves him somehow from the dirty bomb attack on the US. When he wakes up several days later he realizes the end has arrived. What's he do next? He drives all over the country making notes and recording the end so future generations can read all about it. In his spare time he chases female seat meat. I mean this dude gets hordes of leg. Like throwing rod with at least four to five different women. What does all this lead to? Ben finally decides to lead the rebels against the new government led by Logan. The last ten to fifteen pages has the most action as Ben's "Tri-States" region of resistance is decimated by the new US.
Unlike Johnstone's western series', "Out of the Ashes" is extremely graphic. Think of David Alexander's porno streak and add torture. That's Johnstone throughout this book. Often it seems like the baddies are literally just running around raping everything. I don't know how many gang rapes Johnstone throws at the reader but after pages and pages of it I was really unsettled. I can handle bits and pieces of that stuff if it contributes to villain development or pushes the story into some sort of revenge yarn. In this instance, I think it was just there for shock value. I'm not a fan. "Out of the Ashes" or out of ideas - Johnstone misses badly. I think later in the series it branches out into more of the post-nuke stuff I like with mutants and raiders doing battle in barren wastelands. But to get that far would be painful. I'm not sure how much of the series I can read.