In the late 1990s, author Jerome Preisler became a prominent contributor to the Tom Clancy spy-world of espionage and covert thrillers. Penning eight Powerplays titles using the Clancy brand, Preisler also wrote television tie-in novels in the CSI, Homicide and NCIS series. Preisler also authored the movie adaptations for Last Man Standing and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Before adding “NY Times Bestselling Author” to his name, he authored two early 1990s horror novels for Leisure, The Awakening and The Pact. But, nothing could quite compare to the three-book post-apocalyptic series that Preisler wrote under the pseudonym Jake Spencer.
Swampmaster, billed as the “first in the mega-mayhem action series!”, consisted of three post-apocalyptic paperbacks written by Preisler and published by Diamond. Considering the timing of publication - all three novels released in 1992 - the post-apocalyptic pop-culture phenomenon had likely evaporated. With successful titles like Out of the Ashes, The Last Ranger and The Survivalist finding a loyal 80s fanbase, the 1990s began a decline in sales and readers. Nevertheless, the publisher and/or Jerome Preisler pursued the post-apocalyptic genre with this short-lived series.
The series opener explains that America was nuked and what's left are marauders, mutants and a new government called The National Front. Opposing the sadists, racists and warmongers of The National Front is the Free States, territories that have succeeded from the government's tyrannical union. In one of the Free States, a swampy area in southern Florida, resides series hero John Firecloud. He's a Seminole, trained in the ways of the warrior by his father Charlie. Firecloud is proficient with archery and martial arts, two much-needed assets in this doomsday environment.
After Firecloud's village is attacked, Firecloud himself destroys an Apache helicopter with an arrow and disposes of seven heavily armed men. As his father is dying, he passes on a message of leadership to Firecloud, who will now be known as the impressive Swampmaster. Whatever that means. But instead of Swampmaster fighting hunchbacked, radiated ogres, motorcycle psychos and the number one villain of the book, The National Front, the author provides 120+ pages of a planned bombing in Atlanta.
There are pages and pages of nonsense about a bomb in a briefcase, who's got the briefcase and a car accident victim. The novel's final chapters has Swampmaster team with two kung-fu dwarfs and a former female swat team member to fight a female mutant called Itchy Peg and her two inbred brothers. After Swampmaster is nearly boob-smothered by Itchy Peg and subsequently saved by the dwarfs, the foursome travel north to hijack a train full of carnival oddities so they can fetch a pilot that can fly an Apache helicopter. The end result has Swampmaster swimming through a bay to climb a fort in St. Augustine, Florida to liberate a scientist that potentially can aid the Free States. 232-pages of dull, unexplained trash-fiction that unfortunately leads to a sequel.
A few months later, Hell on Earth arrives. This second installment begins with Swampmaster and his acrobatic dwarfs fighting a convoy of National Front troopers. There's a hilarious scene where the dwarfs handspring across the battlefield to draw fire away from Swampmaster. While this is happening, the author introduces a carload of mutants dressed as clowns that are slave mercenaries for the government. It is this sort of stuff that carries Swampmaster into the realms of the ridiculous. I'm not sure if it propels the action or unintentionally serves as a distraction.
The bulk of the narrative has The National Front creating a new military compound off of Long Pine Key in the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is here where they plan on utilizing remote control mutants as soldiers under the tutelage of a vile villain named Groll (who plays video games called Hitler's Legacy and Auschwitz). Of course Swampmaster wants to stop the remote control mutants and put an end to Groll's dastardly deeds. The finale has a captured Swampmaster forced into gladiator combat against a seven-foot tall mutant controlled by Groll remotely. While certainly not top-tier literary fiction, Hell on Earth was somewhat enjoyable and an increase in quality compared to the horrific series debut.
The series third and final installment, Unholy Alliance, reverses any momentum that Preisler had with the prior novel. Instead, what serves as the series finale is arguably on par with the Roadblaster series written by Paul Hofrichter. In other words, it's a cesspool of literature that should come with a warning label akin to this: Contents inside may put you at risk of blindness, erectile dysfunction and lethargic bouts of coma-like fatigue. Contact your physician or nearest urgent care if you read past page 10.
The set-up is that warring factions – The National Front and Free States – converge on an abandoned Disneyworld to duke it out. It's a fascinating concept, bad guys running around the most famous amusement park in the world while a war party featuring acrobatic dwarfs and a Seminole warrior are attempting to stop them. Just for giggles, the author throws in eight-pages of a savage black bear fighting a doomsday cowboy while a gladiator game ensues with motorcyclists mowing down human heads while a drooling, wheelchair-bound madman watches from Cinderella's Castle.
How on Earth can you screw this up? It's an amazing, awe-inspiring premise that Jerome Preisler just shits away! It's like Peter North showing up on the set and having no idea where to put it. This should be an easy one, but instead the reader is subjected to pages and pages of gun porn, mindless conversations about Cuban cartels, pointless backstories on meaningless characters that become decapitated in just a few pages.
This is absolute garbage. If garbage was alive and had a waste can that it put its own garbage in, this book would be the filth-ridden wallpaper adorning the can's inner aluminum shell.
Thankfully, this series was trash-canned, thrown onto the back walls of garage sales worldwide, finding solace in its mere obscurity. Who is this lone hero Swampmaster? He's John Firecloud and he'll rain on your Macy's parade every single Thanksgiving. He's the guy who hid the chocolate bunny on Easter and told you asparagus tastes great. He only left you a quarter for pulling that bloody stump of a tooth out of your pink gums and John Firecloud is the guy who crapped in the work toilet and left it there to dissolve knowing you'd see it and never unsee it.
You know what? Jerome Preisler did all of that too when he introduced the world to Swampmaster.