Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Bomb Squad

Bomb Squad is a 1977 men's action-adventure paperback published by Leisure Books. The author is Mark Andrews, a name that I can't seem to place online. The only other literary work I can  locate matching this time frame is a 1970s paperback entitled Return of Jack the Ripper, also by Mark Andrews and also published by Leisure. One and the same? Probably, but we may never know.

The novel is broken into three sections - “Deadly Letters”, “Bomb Factory” and “The Hell Bomb”. The author's only attempt at creating a protagonist for the book is Tom Gilbert, a lowly alcoholic who works on a New York City bomb squad. He's having an affair with a woman named Mary Jo, who's in love with another man. Tom's wife is a raging alcoholic and the two have a one-month old child. In the book's opening chapters, Tom is suspended from the force due to his alcohol abuse. It's quite the conundrum considering the only main character (loosely) isn't an active member of the “bomb squad” for the duration of the paperback. 

In pulpy fashion, a network of 10,000 operatives calling themselves American People's Liberation Army have began mailing letter bombs throughout New York City. That’s a lot of stamps. The first one is delivered to Tom's lover Mary Jo who dies in a fatal explosion. Tom isn't terribly affected by it and later digs through the rubble to find a letter opener that he always wanted. Huh? While he's searching for buried treasure in the debris, his wife is at home in a drunken stupor shaking the baby and eventually dropping it. This should have been an important moment in the book's narrative, but it is quickly forgotten.

The novel then shifts gears to the newspaper business as they chase stories about the bombings. I believe the author was attempting to cash-in on the “thrilling reporter” sub-genre that saturated the market post-Watergate. While Bomb Squad doesn't present the newsroom suspense of All the President's Men, it does spend about 50 pages focusing on a reporter named Brown hunting clues about the mad bombers. Instead of spinning the narrative as a procedural investigation to discover who is behind the bombings, the author gives us whole chapters dedicated to the various terrorist members. There's no mystery or intrigue as we're introduced to leftover Vietnam War protesters that now want stock market winners to donate all of their profits to the needy. So, they make bombs to kill innocent people.

The author takes readers into an old church where an evil pastor is building bombs. He also takes us into a college auditorium as a professor explains to his class (and you...the reader) specifically how to make a basement level atomic bomb. He even provides the names of real books that show lunatics the step by step instructions. The horror! Furthermore, the author introduces a seasoned bomb squad member named Fingers McCoy to provide a complete tutelage on making pipe bombs to a new member of the force (again...that's for you, the reader). I pray that I'm holding the only remaining copy of Bomb Squad on the planet and that this crappy paperback doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. 

You're never going to read this book, so I'm giving you spoilers (just exit if I'm somehow stealing your joy). Not only does the book fail to produce one hero, by the end of the novel there isn't anyone in the bomb squad stopping the terrorist army. By the last page – guess what!?! 600,000 people die as New York City is nuked from the Earth. I have a suspicion that Andrews wrote this in a particularly bad part of his life – like a child dying or a downward spiral into financial ruin. That is my hope. If not, then this guy has a hard-on for destroying people and property and channeled his maniacal depression through some sort of how-to guide masquerading as a men's action-adventure novel. Make no mistake, Bomb Squad is the nuttiest thing I've ever read. And extremely dangerous. Consider yourself warned. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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