Randy Wayne White became a New York Times bestselling author with his 25-book ‘Doc Ford’ series. Launched in 1990, the modern series stars a government agent turned marine biologist who fights crime in the Caribbean. However, before White went mainstream, he authored two men's action-adventure paperback series in the 1980s – 11 novels in the 'Hawker' series written as Carl Ramm and seven for the 'Dusky MacMorgan' series under the name Randy Striker.
In 1980, publishing heavyweight Signet was seeking a vigilante-styled series that would hopefully capitalize on the tremendous success of Mack Bolan. The publisher envisioned a hero with a distinct set of characteristics: Vietnam vet, Key West resident, handsome, and freakishly strong - consistent with 70s and 80s action-adventure pop-culture. They wanted the series to extend into a mammoth amount of volumes split up between four rotating authors.
A Signet editor spotted a short-story by White in an issue of Outside Magazine. As a possible candidate to join their writing foursome, the publisher pitched their paperback he-man hero to White and asked for three chapters. White, a Florida coastal resident and charter boat captain at the time, ran with the idea and wrote the series' first volume, “Key West Connection,” in just nine days. The publisher loved the book and quickly declared White to be the sole author of the project. The 'Dusky MacMorgan' series didn't gain enough sales success, but ran a total of seven installments from 1981-1982. The series served to provide some adequate writing experience for White, who would begin the longer-running 'Hawker' series for Dell in 1984.
In “Key West Connection”, readers are introduced to MacMorgan on his fishing vessel Sniper. Through some backstory segments we learn that MacMorgan was a child circus performer who lost his family in a big-top fire. Joining the Navy Seals at age 16, MacMorgan would go on to serve three combat tours in Vietnam. Retiring from service, he married an actress named Janet, moved to Key West and fathered twin sons. Now, MacMorgan runs a successful fishing charter for snowbirds looking for warm weather sport.
After hearing that his best friend Billie Mack had been murdered, MacMorgan tracks the killers to Mack's captured boat. In a graphic, violent display of MacMorgan's experience, he quickly catches the killers and learns they are drug runners for a corrupt U.S. Senator. Building a small empire in South America, the career politician targets MacMorgan's family, blowing up the family car and killing Janet and their two sons. Their deaths are the catalyst for MacMorgan's vendetta against the Senator and later the various crime rings in and around the Caribbean.
White writes at a tremendous pace and provides an average revenge styled thriller. Looking at the series longevity, White has MacMorgan team with a shadowy government agency to exploit and terminate island criminals. “Key West Connection” sets the bar fairly low but introduces a handful of characters that aid in making the story a little more dynamic. White describes MacMorgan as a “duck and fuck” series – the hero dodges bullets and screws a heroine in alternating chapters. I'd speculate that's about par for the course in terms of 80s men's action-adventure paperbacks. I prefer White's 'Hawker' series based on my small sample size of Dusky MacMorgan. I disliked the Hawker series debut, “Florida Firefight,” but later installments improved markedly. Maybe MacMorgan will find some traction and improve in later books. I'm in no real hurry to find out.
This novel was featured on the second episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast on July 15, 2019.
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