Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Camp

The Camp is a 1977 men's action-adventure paperback that was published by Belmont Tower under the name of Jonathan Trask. It came to fruition as a story idea from author and Belmont Tower editor Peter McCurtin. According to a Glorious Trash article, McCurtin wrote the first 30ish pages and handed the project to author Len Levinson to finish. In that same article, Levinson stated he couldn't remember why the transition happened and that he recalled that McCurtin left the publisher around that time. Sadly, the book has never been reprinted and remains as an expensive used paperback on internet bookshelves.

The novel begins with muckraking reporter Phil Gordon arriving at a small cabin in a rural stretch of northwestern Maine. On a much needed vacation from ousting politicians, Gordon re-connects with an old Native American friend named Jimmy Jacks. Jacks explains to Gordon that his three adult sons have gone missing around a strange military installation known as Camp Butler. Jacks elaborates that piercing screams resonate from the facility, and the whole area is saturated in barbed wire, killer dogs and pain. Intense pain.

Gordon, always chasing a good story, partners with Jacks to break into the secluded installation. Once inside, they find that imprisoned hippies (you read it correctly) are being victimized by torturers. This point is explicitly rammed home when readers and Gordon discover hippies tied to stakes and used as bayonet practice. Far out. Eventually, Gordon and Jacks tangle with some troops and a pack of killer canines before escaping into a cave. After a few days, Jacks goes home, and Gordon returns to Washington.

Levinson's narrative propels readers into Washington D.C.'s political circus as Gordon discreetly blows the whistle on the U.S. Army’s hippie torture camp to Congress. After receiving the backing of a U.S. Senator, a unique proposition is arranged that allows Gordon, a former Green Beret Captain, to re-enlist in the Army with a colorful fruit salad and specific orders to report to Camp Butler. Once inside the camp, Gordon gains a first-hand, personal account of the military's strong-arm tactics, bizarre regiments and murderous atrocities. He also discovers that much of the U.S. Government is under the control by a secret cabal of ultra right-wingers.

It's clear that Levinson really enjoyed writing The Camp. It's wild, wacky and bizarre...but for all of the right reasons. It's an enjoyable book that incorporates the era's pop-culture movement of investigative reporters as the proverbial hero. Possibly Levinson - or McCurtin - were inspired by the 1976 film All the Presidents Men and the idea that a determined journalist can expose governmental corruption. Regardless, I perceive The Camp as being a pulpy nod to the men's adventure magazines (MAMs) that recreated vile, sadistic military bases for the heroes to liberate. It's that over-the-top thrill-ride that makes The Camp so much campy fun.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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