Monday, August 27, 2018

Killsquad #01 - Counter Attack

In 1989, author Dan Schmidt launched his 9-book run of military action in 'Eagle Force'. Before  that series, the writer created a similar series in 1986 – 'Killsquad' (not to be confused with the Manor 1975 series). This series ran 9 installments on the Avon label and utilizes Schmidt's knack for team-based combat yarns. He's a meat and potatoes writer, low on plot and big on run 'n gun episodes of violent warfare. That's essentially what we get with this series debut, “Counter Attack”.

In 'Eagle Force', a hardened Vietnam veteran named Vic Gabriel recruits three mercenaries to forge a global fighting force. 'Killsquad' was the apparent template, with John Smith as the hardman on the recruiting frontlines for the first half of this novel. Smith's resume is an impressive one – anti-terrorism at Camp Peary, five years as a paramilitary operative in Central and South America, Special Forces sniper, fifth-degree black belt and a need to avenge the murder of his French girlfriend years ago. The CIA is now running a World Strike Force and ask Smith to recruit six men from death row. In “Dirty Half-Dozen” style, the book explores each character and their training for these clandestine missions. 

Williams is a former bank robber with a murder streak and an eye patch. Schnell is a big German soldier of fortune (and a racist). White is a former KKK henchman (Schmidt teams three whites vs three blacks). Barnes is a hit man from Harlem. Walker is a former boxing champion. Jackson is the wildcard, a seemingly innocent fisherman from Florida who was fingered for a murder he didn't commit. What's interesting is the fact it's an 80s team-based action novel that doesn't feature a single Vietnam veteran. Shocking.

With the meet and greet, we immediately realize there will be inner turmoil on the team. Diversity and guns don't mix well with these books and this one is no exception. The general idea is watching Smith whip the guys into shape and prepare them for the first mission. The curveball is that Smith's superiors cut training to only a week and spring two missions on him. The first involves Smith running a solo mission to liberate a hijacked 747 in Athens. The second is the six men running their own assignment by destroying a Syrian terrorist compound with the aid of a gunship. Will the death row inmates cut and run or will they stick around and complete the mission? Can Smith knock out the Islamic terrorists before they rape and kill every jew on board the plane? These are all in the mix as 'Killsquad' presents it's first entry.

If you like Schmidt's writing then this series is probably mandatory. Genre fans know his 'Stony Man' and 'The Executioner' work, as well as stuff like 'Hellrider' and 'Eagle Force'. “Counter Attack” moves at a brisk pace and covers a lot of ground in the Middle East, Greece and the US. There are a few side stories with the German member as well as Smith's conflicts with his own department. In the future, the internal conflict and deception within the World Strike Force will probably be center stage. I'm on board for this one. “Counter Attack” is an absolute winner!