Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Casca #04 - Panzer Soldier

Scripture tells us that while Jesus hung on the cross, slowly dying, one of the Roman soldiers pierced his side with a lance. That soldier is the subject of Barry Sadler’s remarkable action/adventure series. The gospel, according to Sadler, relates that the soldier was surly and indifferent, unmoved by the suffering of Jesus (or anyone else for that matter), whereupon Jesus looked into his eyes and said, “As you are, so shall you remain, until I come again.”

And since that moment, Casca Rufio Longinus has remained just as he was, never aging, never dying. He wanders restlessly from place to place, even spanning the world. While from time to time he finds himself enslaved, imprisoned or otherwise distracted from his calling, he’s a born soldier and his destiny is to fight in one war after another, endlessly, until the Second Coming. Along the way, his various injuries heal themselves miraculously but he’s susceptible to a great deal of physical and emotional suffering.

For the most part he keeps his condition a secret. But in the debut novel, “The Eternal Warrior”, an American army doctor in Vietnam discovers an ancient bronze arrowhead embedded in the body of an unconscious soldier (guess who!), and soon we learn of Casca’s early life and adventures. It’s a phenomenal book.

The second novel, “God of Death”, takes him from the Barbarian lands beyond the Empire to the realm of the Vikings, then across the sea to the Americas. Most of the book deals with the land of the Olmecs, where human sacrifice is practiced and an epic clash of civilizations is underway. Maybe I’m just Euro-centric, but for me ancient Mexico was one of the less-compelling settings in the Casca saga.

The third book, “The War Lord”, is somewhat better. Casca manages to sail back to European waters, where he becomes something of a pirate for a time before wandering east--- as in Far East, all the way to China. On the long journey, he first encounters a mysterious Brotherhood which knows all about him, despises him, and tries to hold him captive. Arriving in China, he becomes a prized warrior in the service of the Emperor.

In the fourth book, “Panzer Soldier”, the saga leaps forward about 1500 years, where we find Casca going by the name Carl Langer, leading a four-man German tank crew on the Russian front in WWII. For the first time in the series, a novel confines itself to one conflict, and Casca only goes where the war takes him. 

Collectors know that this is one of the more expensive, harder-to-find books in the series. Maybe that’s because of the subject matter, but I’d like to think it’s because the novel is so outstanding. As literature, “The Eternal Warrior” is a bit stronger overall, but “Panzer Soldier” is unmatched in its visceral power. It’s easily the grimmest, grittiest book in the series thus far. The battle action is breathtaking, but the novel’s real strength is in the context of those scenes. Every aspect of a panzer soldier’s life is examined, from the hunger, exhaustion and lice to the gnawing gradual realization that defeat is inevitable, Germany is doomed, and that one’s own death in battle is nearly as certain (certain for everyone but Casca, that is). 

There are a few lighter interludes scattered about, but for the most part the book is almost as much a grueling horror story as a war novel. Sometimes we can only wonder where the line between fiction and non-fiction really lies, as the book is full of disturbing vignettes with the ring of truth to them--- from the German civilian who is not only raped and murdered but nailed to the door of her barn, to the soldiers who survive an overwhelming enemy bombardment but are driven out of their minds by the experience, bleeding from their ears and noses. The atmosphere of hopelessness and dread only intensifies as Casca and his crew are pushed ever westward, as the Germans are forced to retreat all the way to Berlin.

And that’s when things begin to unravel a little. Sadler knows we’re hoping that Casca will meet certain notable figures from history, and that’s accomplished by bending the narrative to accommodate a metaphysical angle. The Brotherhood makes an unlikely appearance and the story wobbles for awhile until Casca resumes fighting the Russians. I can’t describe this last quarter of the book without giving away too much. It’s good, but it’s a little less successful than what came before. 

Don’t let that deter you from seeking out this book, though. Overall, “Panzer Soldier” is a riveting, powerful novel, and a key entry in an essential series.  


  1. The author behind the name of Barry Sadler on this book was a Brit named Kenneth Bulmer who gave up a moderately successful career writing science fiction to write action novels for various publishers in the 1970s and 80s. Using the pen name 'Adam Hardy' he wrote both Napoleonic naval fiction (Series title, 'Fox') and Falklands War fiction (Series title, 'Strike Force Falklands'), I've read the latter and was not impressed. He also did a WW2 U-Boat series called 'Sea Wolf' under the pen name Bruno Krauss.

  2. Actually didn't give up on SF - wrote a 50+ volume series at that time as Alan Burt Akers, and then as Dray Prescot (the character's name). Sword and planet, it was one of those "As told to" like Burroughs Barsoom, and Moorcock's Kane Mars series. The Casca effort is better IMO

  3. Loved these books so much when I discovered them while serving in the military I penned a couple myself many years later.

    Casca the Outlaw and Casca Immortal Dragon.

    1. ...which were legally proven to be plagiarized.

    2. Which is a complete lie, since no legal matters ever transpired.

  4. I don't know but I do have the screenshots from those long years ago from David Morrells FB page comparing Immortal Dragon to Rambo 3. It was all word for word, sir. Then there was Outlaw being compared to Andrew Fenadays novel 'The Trespassers. There are screenshots and there were legal 'cease and desist' orders issued.

  5. Mr. Goodwin....There was also an issue of plagiarism with another of your novels. Terry McCarthy also had to issue you a 'cease and desist' because you copied his novel 'Sword of Hannibal' for your novel 'Cain', which also leads into the fact you ripped off Gayle Rivers novel 'Five Fingers' for your Cain the Sufferer. All of this is common knowledge and anyone can look for themselves.

  6. Let's be very clear. "Unknown" can only be Michael Goodwin, who was the erstwhile fake author of Casca the Gay Outlaw and Casca Immoral Dragqueen.

    I say "fake author" because both of those works were in fact PLAGIARIZED, just as Unknown Soldier states -- although Goodwin (aka "Unknown" is TECHNICALLY correct when he says it was never established in a court of law.

    But his plagiarism WAS proven to the satisfaction of his publisher the late Gail Rhine who promptly ceased publication and sales of these two stolen works when I personally proved to him that the works were plagiarized.

    I am the one who produced those screenshots that Unknown Soldier refers to, and I can say, he is entirely correct. I am the one who notified David Morrell that his work had been stolen, and who sent Morrell the screenshots which Unknown Soldier refers to, though I hadn't known that Morrell had posted those screenshots on his facebook page.

    Goodwin stole materials from up to a half-dozen "books" he "wrote."

    I would have to go back into my old computer which is in storage to make myself 100% clear on the details. But off the top of my head, here are the books which Goodwin wrote and the books from which he stole material:

    1) Casca the Outlaw was in fact stolen from Andrew Fenady's The Trespassers. By my count, about 91% of the materials in that fake book were stolen from Fenbady. And the angle of the Japanese girl in Goodwin's fake book was stolen from the movie Red Sun with Charles Bronson.

    2) Casca Immortal Dragon contained materials stolen from David Morrell's Rambo 3, just as Unknown Soldier said.

    These were the only Goodwin materials ever to appear in print. But Goodwin did self-publish in Kindle edition other works which likewise were stolen.

    Goodwin devised the idea of "Cain" who was the son of Adam from the Bible, and made him into his immortal warrior. It of course was ripped off from Casca.

    3) In no particular order, Goodwin "wrote" Cain the Crusader, which was largely ripped off from Volume I of Mark Ramsay's Falcon series. (Ramsay also goes under the name John Maddox Roberts.)

    4) Cain the Sufferer was ripped off from Gayle Rivers' The Five Fingers.

    5) Cain the Wanderer was ripped off from Fenady's Double Eagles.

    6) And there was another Cain story, the first one I think, which since has disappeared from Amazon. It was set in the time of El Cid in medieval Spain, but which in fact was stolen from Terry McCarthy's Sword of Hannibal, again just as Unknown Soldier said.

    I personally unmasked all of the above save for the plagiarism from The Five Fingers, which was spotted and documented by someone I will call TJ.

    It truly amazes me that Unknown aka Michael Goodwin has the nerve to BRAG that he wrote two installments in the Casca series.

    Unknown aka Michael Good is a plain thief. In a better world he'd have gone to jail for his serial thefts.