Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Eagle Force #05 - Ring of Fire

Bantam released the fifth 'Eagle Force' novel, “Ring of Fire”, in June, 1990. Author Dan Schmidt excavates some of the series mythology with this installment. The backstory on Eagle Force leader/founder Vic Gabriel is revealed, including that of the team's chief opponent, terrorist Michael Saunders. While these details are relevant to the overall series, I think it consumes most of the book. The subplot, terrorists occupying a French farming town, is more interesting, yet this is lost in the revelation of past events. 

Saunders and his thirty-man kill squad hit a French whorehouse to capture half of Eagle Force with their pants down – Dillinger and Simms. They rape and slaughter the whores (obviously), and in one grizzly scene, shatter both Dillinger and Simms' hands with a leaded baseball bat. Saunders records the audio screams, and then leads his squad to a French farming village. They occupy the town, attempting rape of the youngest first while the villages are imprisoned at a church.

Saunders and a small team fly to Gabriel's outpost in the French mountains and present the audio tape in person. The challenge – Vic and Boolewarke have until midnight to rescue Dillinger and Simms. Saunders' 30 hardened mercenaries against two. At midnight, execution will begin. Of course, Vic accepts the challenge and we start piecing together Schmidt's backstory on the two combatants (in annoying italics print).

In the series debut we discovered that Vic and his father served as CIA assassins in Vietnam. Along the way, Saunders, a CIA operative, killed Vic's father. This book elaborates on that scenario, explaining how Saunders switched to the darker side, the Russian meddling and Vic's first fight with Saunders in a Libyan stronghold. That sets the stage for the inevitable showdown for “Ring of Fire”.

Before author Dan Schmidt's fatal stroke, he contributed heavily to the 'Executioner' line as well as creating a similar 'Eagle Force' series called 'Killsquad'. He had a tremendous talent in shaping battle scenarios and bringing it all to fruition with close quarters combat. It's something he excelled at with this series and the “two against thirty” plight of Vic and Boolewarke is especially impressive. Unfortunately, the location changes with the last 40 pages and that left something to be desired. The end result is an average book that had the potential for greatness. Next up is “Berserker”.