It's 1971 in South Vietnam and our boy Sergeant Mark Stone is out on patrol in the green slimy filth hunting some Cong. AK fire rips up the night and shreds the silence like a steel cleaver. Stone guns them down but almost gets killed in the process. Who's there to fetch his tail from the hot winds of Hell? His drinking buddy and RTO SP4 Jess Lynch. After Lynch saves Stone's butt he tells him "You owe me one". Later, it is presumed that Lynch is killed in action and a letter is sent to his family from Uncle Sam.
Fast forward to present day 1985 and Stone is on a mission with his guys Hog Wiley and Terrance Loughlin to free some prisoners. Instead, Stone royally screws up and shockingly kills every prisoner in an explosion. Stone, down and dismayed, is in Bangkok doing a little gun business. He gets a visit from a deep CIA guy named Carruthers who forces Stone to a house in the city. By force I mean, "come with me or we will shoot your face off". Stone fights back and then eventually goes with the goons.
At the house he finds that the CIA operatives are keeping a US prisoner of war on a dirty cot, malnourished and dying. The prisoner escaped his jungle Hell after thirteen plus years and was picked up. The CIA has no intention of helping the guy and doesn't want to admit to a US public that they dropped the ball on guys left behind. The prisoner tells Stone that Jess Lynch is still alive and is being held captive in Cambodia. This makes Stone furious and he has quite the little skirmish with Carruthers and his men. Fast forward a day and Stone is picking up guns and supplies from his dealer and ready to hit the jungle for a shoot'em up. Carruthers gets in the way and Stone runs him off the road and escapes.
Stone, Hog, Lough and a handful of mercenaries for hire are in Cambodia outside the camp where Lynch is being held along with twenty or more US P.O.W.s. Instead of doing some more surveillance work and having an actual plan, Stone decides to approach the camp and - get this - crawl through a sewer pipe and enter the camp through a ton of human feces. It almost works. After slicing the head off a King Cobra with a knife he manages to walk right up to the cages and get captured by the enemy. What's with all this "Cambodian Hellhole" talk? Well Stone is about to find out.
Our boy gets hung up like a bat and then gets the bat treatment. Stone gets nearly clubbed to death while the commander, Nguyen Ngu, goes on and on about confessing his real reasoning for entering the camp. Stone refuses to break so they light his foot on fire with a Zippo. Stone gets dropped in a cage next to his old buddy Jess Lynch, who looks and sounds like he is approaching death's door. If a good nightly beating isn't enough, Stone awakens to find that all the prisoners including himself are going into the mines to dig for gold all day. That's what I love to do on my day off. Eat soggy rice, succumb to a hefty beating and then go lug rocks out of a dark cave for twelve hours. Brutal.
Hog and Loughlin plan the attack perfectly, blow the bridge and bring Hellish fire and thunder onto the camp. The book's finale was a graphic exercise in violent expression. Overall, it was a decent read, plenty of action at the beginning, a short nod off in the middle but finished up with a solid ten pages of kill 'em all. Throw the snake in there, that CIA bullshit and a Zippo to the foot and you've got the makings of a real slobberknocker.
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