Friday, January 17, 2020

Garrison's Gorillas

The success of 1967's The Dirty Dozen led to countless imitators in fiction and on screen. The formula of team-based adventure thrived throughout the men's action-adventure genres of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Specifically, the film's use of criminals as American soldiers was often utilized. That premise was the basis for the 1967 ABC television show Garrison's Gorillas.

The show featured Lt. Garrison reforming four hardened criminals into an elite fighting force during WW2. The incentive for the prisoners was a complete parole from their remaining sentence...if they survived. While only lasting one season, the show gained a cult following. 

In 1967, military fiction writer Jack Pearl authored two spin-off novels, one as a young adult title called Garrison's Gorillas and the Fear Formula and the other as a mass market adult paperback simply titled Garrison's Gorillas (Dell). My only experience with the show is the Garrison's Gorillas novel.

The author assumes you are already familiar with the team and premise so the action begins immediately without much back-story. Lt. Garrison's orders are to locate a secret German base that is manufacturing the Messerschmitt ME 262 fighter jets. In order to do so, Garrison and his team disguise themselves as German officers and infiltrate a hotel meeting among the top German brass. Things immediately go awry when Garrison's disguise doesn't satisfy one of the German generals. Further, after locating the airstrip, Garrison's Gorillas learn that a second airstrip contains 60 of the jets. The team, while not breaking character, must stay ahead of Germany's inquiring leaders while also relaying intelligence back to the Allies.

At 160 pages, this was a swift and easy read. Some may find it lacking in heightened action or any sense of urgency to produce gunplay. But, overall it was enough to satisfy my WW2 craving despite the slow-burn narrative style. The characters of Casino, Goniff, The Actor and Chief were enjoyable but never overindulgent or distracting from the overall team concept. After reading the book, I sampled a few YouTube episodes and quickly realized I preferred these characters on paper instead of the screen.

The bottom line, Garrison's Gorillas should cater to fans of military fiction or to the old-timers that remember watching the television show when it premiered. This was my first Jack Pearl novel and I have two others I hope to read this year - Stockade and Ambush Bay.

Buy a copy of this book HERE


  1. Long live the 87th Precinct. I "discovered" Ed McBain in 2005 via his Richard Marsten novels: Vanished Ladies.Even the Wicked,Big Man, Runaway Black and others. Somewhere along the line,I became aware that Marsten was McBain. Over the next year, I read all 55 (by my count) books in the series and enjoyed every one. Next up were 13 books in the Matthew Hope series and then many more by Evan Hunter and McBain as "standalones". The good news for readers new to the precinct is that while there were a few of the 55 that were not quite up to snuff, they are all worthwhile reads. Thanks to Paperback Warrior for bringing these first two books in the series to everyone's attention. Can't decide yet if Ed McBain or Max Allan Collins is my favorite of the two.

  2. I had never heard of this show (before my time, but that usually isn't an obstacle), but I did recently pick up a couple of issues of a comic series (probably also Dell).

    I wonder if the novel and comics were new stories or retelling an episode of the show.