Showing posts with label Biker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biker. Show all posts

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Able Team #02 - The Hostaged Island

It's no secret that I really disliked Tower of Terror, the 1982 debut of the long-running Able Team series. I discussed it on the podcast and you can also read my review here. After reading the far superior Phoenix Force debut, I was interested in reading another Able Team installment in hopes for a triumphant rebound. I chose the series second installment, The Hostaged Island, published in 1982 by Gold Eagle. It was authored by L.R. Payne and Norman Winski.

The book's opening chapters are reminiscent of the old 80s action-flick Invasion USA. Hundreds of psychotic, horny and heavily armed bikers “invade” Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. The deal is that they will start raping and dismembering the island’s residents if they don't receive a nuclear submarine loaded with twenty-million in gold. Of course the government doesn't negotiate with bikers, so fearless Stony Farm director Hal Brognola assigns Able Team to locate and destroy the marauders.

Like many of the Mack Bolan Universe books, The Hostaged Island doesn't concentrate solely on the heroic trio. Thankfully, the authors create civilian heroes who work behind the scenes attempting to fight the enemy or simply survive. This was the best element of the series debut and one that allows readers to experience first-hand atrocities. Much of the book follows Catalina Island resident Greg and his pregnant wife Ann as they move from house to house hoping to avoid the bikers. Since most of the island is being held hostage in a local gym, Greg and Ann's story was enhanced by a “ghost town” or post-apocalyptic vibe.

Of course Lyons, Blancanales and Schwarz are the stars and they really make the most of their stage work. Unlike the debut, I really liked that all three heroes worked together through pages and pages of high-octane action. From a precarious raft landing on the beach to sniping off the bad guys from a tower, the authors spared no bullets in the good versus evil traditional concept. I felt the characters really worked as a team and finally were able to strut their stuff without all of the interviews and planning that bogged down the debut installment.

If you want balls to the wall, over-the-top zany action, The Hostaged Island delivers it in spades. This was just a real pleasure to read and rejuvenated me on the potential for more and greater gems within this long-running series. Highly recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Wasteworld #03 - Angels

Laurence James and Angus Wells were both prolific UK authors that were at the core of the Piccadilly Cowboys group of western, action and science-fiction writers. The four-book series entitled 'Wasteworld' launched in 1983 to capitalize on the nuclear hysteria of the 1980s. It's a post-apocalyptic series written by James, Wells, or a combination of both. While the verdict is still out on who actually authored the series, it was certainly a great run of action-adventure titles. After a rough start with the debut, I enjoyed the subsequent novel “Resurrection” immensely. Does the third book capture that same enjoyment?

1984's “Angels” begins with hero Matthew Chance gathering supplies to continue his journey to Salt Lake City. His wife and kids are residing in a spiritual encampment, and Chance has traveled from New Orleans to Texas throughout the course of the first two books to free them. Still in Texas, Chance has now met up with a scraggly scavenger and his snarling dog. After an intense encounter, the two agree to work together to secure a souped up Dodge Charger across town. Unfortunately, its guarded by the Nightpeople (think of those sand creatures from Star Wars). I won't ruin the fun for you, but the authors inject some terror into this car heist.

However, the bulk of the narrative revolves around a sadistic group of Hell's Angels bikers and their ill-will towards Chance. Like a twisted scene from David Alexander's 'Phoenix' series, the bikers force Chance into a motocross nightmare featuring spikes, chains, traps and guns. It's an exhilarating sequence that propels Chance into another adventure that reaches fruition by the book's finale. I was surprised to find that “Angels” climaxes in a cliff-hanger requiring top dollar for the fourth and last paperback of the series.

I've ran the gauntlet of 80s post-apocalypse paperbacks like 'Swampmaster', 'Phoenix', 'Roadblaster', 'Deathlands', 'Survival 2000', 'Last Ranger', etc. I'd say I've enjoyed this series more than any of them. You will too.

Note – Wells/James inserts a reference to Cuchillo, an Apache warrior that starred in the 'Apache' series of 1970s westerns penned by a combination of Laurence James, Terry Harknett and John Harvey. This mirrors the cameo appearance that Cuchillo makes in James' 'Deathlands' series. Wild!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Chopper Cop #01 - Chopper Cop

'Chopper Cop' debuted in 1972 as a Popular Library paperback. Author Paul Ross is actually Dan Streib, the man behind 70s action oriented series' like 'Killsquad', 'Hawk', 'Steve Crown' and 'Death Squad'. The series would last three installments with Streib writing the first two. While the cover, font and badge logo would indicate a high-paced action formula fitting of Streib's writing style, the end result is an entirely different type of story. Personally, I think this was probably a grand misplacement of what literary power-broker Lyle Kenyon Engel envisioned when hiring Streib. Engel would later denounce the author, furthering the theory that the supply didn't meet the demand.

Think of series debut, “Valley of Death”, as an eerie, Gothic investigative novel. Odd I know, but Streib's use of heavy sea fog, moonlit graveyards, old mansions and an abandoned mining town are the perfect backdrops for this dense thriller. They are almost characters themselves, springing up from time to time to introduce darkness and death.

No, this isn't the long-haired, biker riding “Easy Rider” that's depicted on the book cover, but our hero Terry Bunker does dress the part. He works for the California Governor, sort of a special operative piece that is utilized by leadership as an official State Department of Criminal Investigation...investigator? He receives requests from the Governor to solve crimes. He's extremely successful, allowing him to refer to leadership as “hey guv” despite hatred from his departmental peers.

The debut mystery is a rather grim one; young wealthy women are committing suicide in San Francisco and Sacramento. Yet, they are reaching out to their loved ones posthumously through bizarre phone calls or supernatural apparitions lurking just outside the window. The crime? Whoever is behind the ghostly apparitions are ransoming the return of these resurrected dead girls for millions of dollars. The culprit might be a strange seaside cult that's sacrificing drugged women for cash. But that doesn't explain the seemingly life after death undertaking of these heists.

Bunker isn't as funny as say...Kolchak, Fox Mulder or Carter Brown's bumbling detective Al Wheeler. But he's no Shaggy either. This character is vulnerable, even scared at times as he navigates ghosts and graves to find the criminal leader. But he can get the job done. It's a slap in the face to readers looking for a hard-edged, bone-breaking chopper cop. But once you can forgive the creator, this is a really fun mystery that had some longevity. I could see this sort of thing working on multiple levels, whether supernatural or just a “crime of the week” featuring some abstract scenario. Unfortunately, the struggle between publisher and author led to this being canned shortly thereafter. I'm on the hunt for book two.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Last Ranger #10 - Is This the End?

Jan Stacy (using Craig Sargent) died from the AIDS virus in 1989. That same year, he finalized and released the 10th book in the 'Last Ranger' series, “Is This the End?”. I've said this before, but I really think the prior book, “The Damned Disciples”, was Stacy's own personal reflection on hospitals and drugs (which I'm thinking was a majority of his 1988-1989) period. In that book, an entire town is drugged out of their minds and forced to do nasty things they otherwise would never do. So, with this last book and it's title, one has to believe this is the author's personal question. Is This the End? Yes, sadly for Stacy it was. 

The book picks up a couple of days after events in “The Damned Disciples”. Martin Stone is weary, beaten and starving, making his way across dusty Texas on his Harley while toting his wounded dog Excaliber. Just a few pages in, all Hell breaks loose with a Texas tornado misplacing Stone, dog and hog. Once the three re-align, Stone finds a biker running from some baddies in the desert. After coming to the rescue, he learns the biker is Rasberry Thorn, a fiery blonde with eyes and a smile that's begging for pole action. In some wild chapters, Stone is taken hostage by the woman and taken to an all-female biker gang called The Ballbusters where they rape and eat men. No shit. 

Rasberry Thorn claims Stone as hers, takes him into her underground bedroom and screws his brains out. The others simply wait until their turn, knowing that after sex is a grand cannibal feast. Wild, wild stuff. Luckily, Stone is the only man that can bring Rasberry to orgasm, and because of this miraculous feat she allows him to escape through a secret tunnel. But, Stone doesn't get far before he's captured again. This time by his evil arch enemy...The Dwarf. 

In an underground base, The Dwarf is running a hodgepodge of medical torture, kinky sex, bizarre experiments and...the control panel for the entire Star Wars defense system (in other words he can nuke the planet a hundred times over). Stone is brought in, strapped to a table and electrocuted for pages and pages. Later, he learns that The Dwarf is actually marrying Stone's kidnapped sister April and plans to make Stone watch. In wacky scenes, a mad scientist promises that he will combine Stone and Excalibur, making a Dog Man that can help rule the world. But first, Stone and his mutt have to battle wild dogs and giants in arena combat. Will they survive? Will Stone and April finally find each other? Will Earth survive The Dwarf's bombastic nuking? That is your "stone" to flip for fun. 

This book and series is just one extremely entertaining post-apocalyptic run. Not all of the books are great, and there are a few turds, but at the end you can look back at the whole series as a really good effort by a talented writer. 'The Last Ranger' isn't for everyone – it is crude, violent, funny, stupid, perplexing, convoluted and ultimately senseless. But that's the whole point, right?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Hell Rider #02 - Blood Run

Dan Schmidt's eponymous series debut introduced us to the bike riding, resilient bounty hunter Jesse Heller. His plight mirrors that of a hundred paperback heroes of the 70s and 80s – avenging the death of a family by vile henchmen. In this case, Heller was two weeks from leaving Vietnam when his family was murdered in the California mountains. Acquiring guns, a 1200cc Harley and a thirst for vengeance, Heller now travels the barren southwest hunting the killers. 

Fresh off of his explosive execution of the bikers in Satan's Avengers, Heller is biking through the Davis Mountains in a rural stretch of California desert. It's there that he stumbles on a hitch-hiking beauty named Lisa Stevens. Lisa is on the run from a biker gang called The Sinners (although the book's back cover synopsis says Grim Reapers) after witnessing her husband, a higher member in the gang, murder college kids over bad cocaine. It seems like a super stretch that Heller just happens to run across this girl, who can now connect him to another criminal biker gang to fight. Oddly, this club and its members had nothing to do with the murder of Heller's family, but our protagonist answers the call to duty and vows to protect Lisa. Our plot seems so simple. But behold...the plot thickens.

In what can only be considered a cautionary warning shot, every single character in “Blood Run” is suffering from bouts of PTSD related to Vietnam. We have state troopers, county police, detectives and Heller himself reliving nightmarish scenes of their time in the bush. Early on it feels like an important addition to explain the bikers behavior. But, more and more of this PTSD is evident with every male. In fact, nearly every chapter begins with some sort of flashback experience where a major or minor character is mowing down Cong or narrowly avoiding some nighttime jungle assault. It's interesting, then becomes over-utilized to the point of being irritating. This whole mess could have been saved with some free help at the VA. However, as much as the bikers are running around doing vile things, they profess their love of country and countrymen and have the flag patches to prove it. How about paying taxes to fix the roads you roam? Or, joining society in a positive way? It's a catch-22 with the author playing off of the war to build these criminals, but paints vets in a compromising light.

While our hero is running away with Stevens, the Sinners are forging alliances with other bikers and bad cops to hunt and kill Heller. These bad cops take up a majority of the network, intermittently inserted between pages and pages of uninteresting biker dialogue. Thrown in for good measure are the two Texas detectives from the last book. They want Heller to clear the black marks on their career path. With all of these characters vying for ad space, Heller doesn't get much air time. When he's nonstop gore.

Heller rides, shoots straight and speaks the truth. In violent episodes we see Heller racing bikers, sawing off helmets and heads with a shotgun while throwing dynamite over his shoulder. In an effective scene, Heller chainwhips the Hell out of a small band of bikers after they attempt to rape Stevens. As the book marches to a fiery finale, Heller begins to think of his life as a re-start, possibly incorporating a new wife in Stevens. In a shocking scene, all of that is blown to Hades and “Blood Run” seemingly just thrusts the hero into another fight by book's end. Here's where it gets perplexing.

“Blood Run” was published by Pinnacle in September of 1985. The last page of the book is a splash advertising, “Watch for The Guns of Hell, next in the Hell Rider series of books coming in December!” That leads me to believe the book was written and ready for release just 90 days after “Blood Run” hit shelves. Could it be possible that Schmidt hadn't written it, thus the series caved after only these two books? Or did he write the novel, and due to Pinnacle's financial ailing, the book and series was just scrapped? Regardless of the catalyst, “The Guns of Hell” never saw the light of day.

And with that tragedy, 'Hell Rider' comes to an incomplete end. It had enormous potential, and with Schmidt's “no bones about it” writing and pace, this series could have went into double-digits in a different environment. Sadly, “Blood Run” was Hell Rider's last run.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Lost Traveler

Author Steve Wilson has written a number of non-fiction books about motorcycles. In 1978 he launched a trilogy of motorcycle mystery fiction loosely titled 'Jack the Dealer' - “Dealer's Move” (1978), “Dealer's War” (1980), Dealer's Wheels (1982). The novel that he's mostly associated with is an unusual hybrid of science-fiction, western and biker action known as “The Lost Traveler”. Originally published in 1977, it has been reprinted numerous times with different artwork (at one point the additional title of “Holocaust Angels”) including various accolades commending the author and story. In 2013 a Kindle version was released by Dr. Cicero Books that contained the complete novel and an interview with the author. My review is based on the original 1977 version...because I only want one copy of this thing.

I'm prefacing this review with two important reminders: One, I don't particularly care for science-fiction. Two, I really dislike what I refer to as “military campaign” fiction. This book incorporates both of those elements, enveloping the story's more pleasant coming of age nostalgia with too much “land grab conquering”. It's really disappointing because I really loved a fourth of this novel. Which leads me to think fans of the previously mentioned genres might really like it entirely. I didn't and that's okay. The book has plenty of admirers and at some point I'm sure Wilson has enjoyed some form of monetary success from it.

Like any post-apocalyptic formula, this novel begins with the big bang. Countries nuke the Hell out of each other, releasing bombs, drugs an chemicals in an all-consuming effort to destroy each other. This event is aptly titled BLAM. This offensive lottery is summarized in the opening pages, outlining how California's biker gang, Hell's Angels, just happened to run into the US President's convoy and join him as a gritty, beer-toting security force. As preposterous as it sounds, it really makes sense – the Angels aren't that intoxicated by the drugs and chemicals due to their over excessive indulgence through the 60s and 70s. The president embraces their culture and adopts the Hell's Angels into the head of state. The Angels and what's left of the US government create a massive sanctuary known as The Fief (an idea held in fief for the unborn and the future) in the San Joaquin Valley. Like most of the 80s doomsday yarns, this one sets up two warring factions – The Fief (California and it's slave camps, farms, tyranny) and it's neighboring, equally violent gang called Peregrine Gypsies, which have their own enforcer biker gang called The Gypsies. Fast forward 200+ years.

Like Robert Tine's (Richard Harding) later series 'Outrider', this novel showcases the warring factions in cardinal points. The South (Texas and the Gulf Coast) is controlling oil and petrol (a cherished commodity when using motorcycles as military) and that cartel is on a trade basis with The Gypsies, who control the East. A pipeline is considered too vulnerable for the preying nomads, so there is a Juice Route created for tankers to run 'n gun. The North isn't really mentioned much other than it's frosty and an undesirable location for anyone. The point to all this is that essentially Hell's Angels are the good guys and we are introduced to the central character Long Range.

Long Range is our young, coming of age hero that's accepting the monomyth invitation. This journey puts Long Range on the Juice Route into the East to grab a Professor Sangria. He has a green thumb and can miraculously grow crops in the charred landscape known as Dead Lands. He's the only guy that can do this, making him one of the most important men on the planet and a reason for gruesome warfare between the factions. Joining Long Range is a spry young adventurer named Milt and Long Range's nemesis Belial, who is fresh off of running a willing gang bang on the girl Long Range is fond of. Snooze you lose. Leading the charge is a truck driver named The Barrel, who will drive the boys and bikes deep into the East and let them off to run 'n gun to Sangria. It's these middle chapters that are outrageously fun.

The trio race through Gypsies, firing and fighting through various obstacles before being captured and imprisoned in an East labor camp. Along the way Long Range gives it up to a young Native American named Rita, whom he vows to love eternally after a few romps in the hay. The closing chapters of “the good part” puts Long Range in the company of a tribe of Lakotas, who are simply doing their own thing in a central, neutral area that isn't influenced or bribed by the surrounding gangs. It's here that the book stagnates into long bouts of Native American transcending wisdom about prophecies and impending battles. It's pages and pages of this nonsense that becomes so convoluted in its own message – just deeming Long Range as a Brave Doomsday Warrior, the hero of the day, the forthcoming savior of mankind...yada yada yada. I didn't need endless scriptures from guys like Black Horse Rider. From this point it only gets worse, trolling the most boring aspects of military campaigns and land grabs from the perspective of a Colonel Crocker baddie. 

What's really interesting about this novel, again released in 1977, is its impact on the doomsday fiction of the 80s. This book's “Dead Lands” could easily be a catch-all for the long-running 'Deathlands' series. The prior mention to Tine's 'Outrider' taking some liberties with the story's navigation, or the way Wilson writes Native American allies into the story in much the same way as Ryder Syvertsen wrote it in 'The Last Ranger' series (as Craig Sargent). Long Range's own appearance is similar to what Robert Kirkman injected into 'The Walking Dead' character Daryl Dixon (biker wielding crossbow). Beyond it's endurance as a post-apocalyptic catalyst, the book melds various cultures into a euphoric, stoner vibe that speaks volumes of the 70s - “You're Okay, I'm Okay”. The opening chapters of this narrative is a drugged out reverie, blurring the boundaries of fantasy fiction in some wacky biker mythology. It's narcotized to oblivion and back again, from free loving group orgies to Medicine Man puffiness to a weird God-like semblance to the finale – a far out gaze at Long Range Jesus. It's benumbing, all of it. Lost in the shuffle is a consistent plot that makes the uber-important prophecies that impacting. 

Mesmerizing? Yes. 
Entertaining. Luke-Warm Yes. 
Memorable? Get back to me in ten years.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, April 9, 2018

Hell Rider #01 - Hell Rider

Author Dan Schmidt contributed a lot to the genre in the 80s. While subbing as Don Pendleton he penned over 20 'Executioner' titles. He penned double-digit installments for both Super Bolans and 'Stony Man'. The author seemed to specialize in the team based books. His 'Eagle Force' line of Bantam books ran nine issues and as Frank Garrett he wrote another nine volumes of his 'Killsquad' series. 'Hell Rider' looked like the birth of another long-running series, but the idea was shelved (or wasn't shelved) after only two installments. Both are under the fitting name of Dan Killerman. 

“Hell Rider” was released in 1985 by Pinnacle and follows the trend of vigilantes on bikes. The series is about bounty hunter Jesse Heller, a Vietnam vet who's trailing members of a biker gang called Satan's Avengers. While in transport from 'Nam back home, he learned that his entire family was killed on a camping trip in California by these ruffians and he wants revenge. He rides a bike in the mostly abandoned stretches of the southwest and carries an Interarms Virginia Dragoon .44. I like the gun, but Schmidt talks about it way too much. Essentially, the bike and this Dragoon are the trademarks for “Hell Rider”.

Schmidt is a meat and potatoes writer, heavy on action, low on plot and absolutely knew his 80s audience. Heller rides, shoots straight and speaks the truth and we all love that. Early in the book he gets to shooting, taking a hostage named Mitchell and learning the whereabouts of a secret meeting between the Satan's Avengers and a rival gang. There's a brief side-story about two Texas detectives and a sexy spot with The Madame, a whip wielding dominatrix that runs Mob coke and sex to the bikers. Heller befriends an old guy in the desert, loads up on explosives and meets the bikers head on in what could only fit into a “Mad Max” or “Road Warrior” type of climax. In fact, other than learning about Dallas police and a few citizens, “Hell Rider” could have easily just been a doomsday book. It's universally compatible with what we know of that genre – hot sand, blistering highways, biker combatants, lone warriors and no law. Interesting that Schmidt didn't commit completely to that vibe. 

Overall, we've read it, watched it and loved it all before. This story has been done to death in all sorts of media, but Schmidt writes high-octane stories and this is no different. If you are just needing that Saturday afternoon gunfire then “Hell Rider” has you covered. I'll definitely hunt down and read the second and last novel of the series - “Blood Run”. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Last Ranger #09 - The Damned Disciples

Jan Stacy's (house name Craig Sargent) 'The Last Ranger' series was nearly finished by September of 1988. The ten-book series reached it's conclusion with the swansong “Is This the End?” in January, 1989. Stacy would later pass away the same year from the AIDS virus, thus being able to conclude this series with definitive closure (everyone dead?) before his death. It's hard to fathom how far 'The Last Ranger' would have ran in good health considering lack of creativity and the genre's gradual demise in the 90s. We'll never know, but based on this turd-cake...the end was certainly near.

“The Damned Disciples” is a rudimentary example of how limited this “post-nuke” sub-genre can be. We can debate for days on the merits of 'Survivalist', 'Doomsday Warrior' and 'Endworld', but at some point even the most faithful would agree it was a bit of drivel in the droves. This ninth installment of 'The Last Ranger' is like an unfunny “Seinfield” episode – its literally about nothing, yet can't scrape together anything resembling entertainment. It's a slow burn with a lifeless character placed in illogical situations. Yet, I should sympathize with the series' mythology – it's the end of the world and anything goes...including a plot.

The book's opening suggests there's robed monks conducting moonlit, midnight pagan rituals in Colorado. A young woman is pushed into an occupied casket and the lid slams. Fast forward to our ranger Martin Stone tucked away in his mountain fortress performing leg surgery on himself. He receives a transmission that someone has April (someone always has April) and they are practicing devious desires. Stone, with no direction and a broken leg, drives his hog to  some vile village named La Junta. 

Stone finds that La Junta residents have been forced into something called Cult of the Perfect Aura by the great leader Guru Yasgar and the Transformer. It turns out Guru is providing all of his minions a special elixir called Golden Nectar. It's like 'Doc Savage' meets The Branch Davidians meets those Scientology quacks. There's some elephants thrown in, a labor camp and absolutely zero interest for anyone involved – it's what I refer to as the Men's Warehouse for Pathetic Plots. Somewhere, in the dull simplicity, Stone becomes drugged and forced to stir the Golden Nectar for weeks. April is here as the drugged, whipping wench/foreman, along with man's best enemy, a drugged, Stone-hating Excalibur (the series mascot and second protagonist behind Stone). There's a surprise cameo of a prior villain...but you have to torture yourself to find who. 

I'd speculate that this book is a subtext of the author's own struggles near the end. It would be fair to think of the Golden Nectar, Stone's drug dependence and constant stirring as perhaps symbolic of Stacy's prescription torment, the endless cycle of day in and day out drug dependence. Considering timing of the release, his death from AIDS and the series' last book asking “Is This the End?”, it wouldn't be a far-reaching theory. Regardless of what inspired the material, it's simply a dull read that offers very little character development (I suppose what's the point), new ideas or any momentous change in series or character. Pass...for God's sake pass.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Roadblaster #03 - Blood Ride

I am requesting that this book be enshrined into the Library of Congress. Paul Hofrichter, aka He Who Creates the Horror, should be commended for not only this novel, but the trilogy of trophies known as the ‘Roadblaster’ series. It’s truly extraordinary, a spectacle of grand design. Those of you familiar with my reviews of this novel’s predecessors, “Hell Ride” and “Death Ride”, understand just how low I place this author on the rungs descending into that scorching, skin-searing abyss known as Hell. “Blood Ride” far surpasses the legendary status of the prior books and lowers to the ranks of what can only be deemed as the new "worst piece of fiction ever created". It’s an utter abomination worthy of high praise and endless critique at world-renowned libraries like the Reading Room of the British Museum and The Vatican. I’d like great Monasteries like Saint Gall and Benedictine to marvel over its printed pages for centuries to come.

Paul Hofrichter, the horror…the absolute horror.

Stack, our “Roadblaster”, begins this final chapter of spiraling doom with a visit with a biker gang aptly titled The Harley Davidson Club. They request that he accompany them across the Golden Gate Bridge to locate two sisters of a deceased gang member. It’s only four days after the nuclear bombs annihilated America and Stack is concerned about his parents, kids and loving wife back in New York. Rather than mourn the potential melting of his entire family, he graciously accepts the offer. At one point, the narrator explains that Stack wants the military to fly him – a New York city cab driver by trade – to New York so he can check on his loved ones. He clarifies to a biker that he can’t drive his van across the US for fear of depleting his fuel or experiencing engine failure. He dismisses the fact that cars are strewn everywhere, and that fuel should be in abundance considering the nukes just fell and people are still driving. But, instead of vanning cross-country, he’s walking across the cables to a stranger’s house to locate two sisters that are probably dead. The walk…takes 60 pages.

Mercifully, Stack reaches the other side, and, instead of searching the ruins of the house, he sits down for lunch. Later, an elderly man swings by hoping that Stack will offer his tuna. Stack doesn’t and the whole chapter is just awkwardly dedicated to…lunch. Food is brought up again in the next chapter as Stack and the group disregard the importance of searching for bodies and decide a night at the beach frolicking and eating crabs is an important use of precious time. In 12-pages of utter nonsense, Hofrichter explains that it’s a cruelty to cook crabs while they are alive. He goes on for pages and pages of how barbaric it is to eat crabs and lobsters boiled or broiled. At one point, the group can’t properly boil the crabs, so they fetch a pot of dirty, radioactive seawater to use. After crabs, an aimless Stack gets invited by a female colleague to engage in anal sex (because she doesn’t want to become pregnant). Stack, consistently demanding more than anyone in this post-apocalypse nightmare, says it physically hurts too much. The female, in her infinite wisdom, requests he run to the water and fetch another cup of dirty, radioactive seawater and pour that on his penis and reenter. I barely have words.

Somewhere, around page 160ish, Stack is thinking about the abandoned B-52 in the mountains. If you will recall, the first book discussed the bomber and a motorcycle gang in demand for a B-52. The stereotypical gang, The Bloodsuckers, are still running around wanting this plane so they can rule California, eat pizza and commit intercourse with the state’s residents. They are big on intercourse. So, they remain in the book and the author spends time introducing us to them in long backstories with absolutely no point or story development. One character he describes as angry because of his “prison experience”. Apparently, this guy could only masturbate on his cot with his knees bent. He wanted to do it lying completely flat but couldn’t due to the gay prisoners seeing him. This experience has made him angry with the world and only a B-52 bomber can expel that pent-up sexual frustration. There are pages of this, so much that with only 20-pages remaining the plot finally rears its ugly head.

Stack wants to use a Soda Truck (let’s call it “Shasta”) to transport the missiles and bombs from the plane’s wings and undercarriage. He has no tools for this and the weapons weigh over 500-pounds. Once he places them on Shasta, he will then drive them to a river, load them on canoes and float them into an underwater cave. The reason? He feels if they are left in the sun for an extended period they will heat, creating an explosion. Thus, placing them on water in an underground cave resolves this potential environmental disaster. The Bloodsuckers appear. Stack and his group shoot at them. The Bloodsuckers go back home. Telos. The End.

At the 160th page of this 190-page book…we still don’t have purpose, planning or anything remotely resembling a damn plot or what is promised to us on the cover. At the end, we still don’t. We deserved that cloak and smoking CAR-15 and we damn sure deserved that painted motorcycle-outlaw cave shit at the bottom. Hofrichter, you thief extraordinaire, you baited and hooked us again only to troll us at the deepest depths like some slimy, trash eating carp. I’m gutted, defeated and scorned…but in your unskillful brilliance you have miraculously provoked me to tell others about this literary monstrosity. Somehow, your ‘Roadblaster’ atrocities will live eternally, carrying on long after I’ve departed this world. For that, I applaud your half-assed effort and bow to your coveted immortality.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Outrider #05 - Built to Kill

Robert Tine’s ‘Outrider’ series comes to a premature ending with book five, “Built to Kill”. Genre fans hold the series in high regard – keeping in mind that it’s a fun, senseless ride that doesn’t convey any realism or seriousness. It’s 80s post-nuke fiction with all of the characteristics or stereotypes that go with it. The publisher, Pinnacle, was sold shortly after this book’s release in 1985, bringing to a halt the series with a promised book six (pictured below) never reaching fruition. Regardless, this closing chapter has a great makeshift ending that wraps up storylines and characters from the past four novels. I’m extremely satisfied with calling this book the ultimate finale.

Each of the past four novels had our hero Bonner battling marauders, gangs and tyrants in each of North American’s new territories – Slavestates, Hotstates and Snowstates. Chicago, where Bonner and other loners live, has always been a neutral city surrounded by dried up lake Michigan. It’s a hard area to attack, made even more difficult with the amount of firepower possessed by these loners and renegades. However, arch enemy Leatherman poses a scheme to align the territorial leaders into a collective combat force to take Chicago. It sounds awesome on paper…but realistically we just know Leatherman plans to eliminate everyone but his own forces. He wants to rule the whole continent and thinks the downfall of Chicago will be the best opportunity.

The author brings in all of the familiar characters of the series – Beck, Bonner, The Means, Clara, Lucky and even a surprise visit from a guy named Starling. At times it’s intentionally humorous and I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of Starling and Beck. Lucky actually plays a big part in the book, moving him from under the hood to a spot in the front seat. I always liked the character and it was really entertaining to see more of him. From an action stance, the novel does spend a lot of time setting up what is essentially a 10-page fight. I thought the inevitable confrontation between Leatherman and Bonner was more fizzle than spark. The book could have been fleshed out with a little more action but publishing and time restraints probably limited the author’s creative force. Overall, this series was highly entertaining and closed out perfectly in my opinion. Grab copies of these books and keep them safe and dry. Pass them on down the line and let the next generation explore this wacky and wild genre we know and love.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, December 18, 2017

Outrider #04 - Bay City Burnout

Richard Harding’s ‘Outrider’ series rolls along with entry five, “Bay City Burnout”. It was released in 1985 under Pinnacle’s “Crossfire” line of action and adventure. The odd numbered books in the series are clear standouts with book two being the series’ low point. The author remains on task of documenting the iron-fisted adventures of the protagonist, Bonner, through nightmarish post-nuclear North America. However, the series can get subjugated by a more comical conquest, thus the failures of “Bay City Burnout”.

The book starts off in a familiar location, Dorka’s bar in neutral Chicago (the rest of America is controlled by feudal tyrants). Bonner and the series’ regulars like the Mean Brothers typically hang out here prior to the book’s plot unveiling. After a really funny opener with the Mean Brothers carrying in a piano to introduce music to the gang, the book’s premise is revealed. The western portion of the former US is now controlled by a land baron aptly titled The Rich Man. He has a wealth of supplies and treasure but locked into defensive combat with feudal gangs. He’s sent an expedition into Chicago to rally troops to his cause with the promise of wealth for their services. The convoy is led by a one-dimensional idiot named Roy. Bonner notices that Roy is holding a lighter that belongs to his friend Seth (a character from prior books) and the two butt heads. Bonner declines the offer and heads to Lucky’s garage to fuel up his armored car.

I’m not sure if the author had enough of a plot created to have Bonner just chase Roy to the west coast looking for Seth. That’s a bit thin and had already existed as a theme in the last book. To counter that, Roy’s gang brutally rapes Bonner’s girlfriend while he is gone. The next morning the convoy heads west with about sixty Chicago recruits. Bonner, furious about the attack, heads out with The Mean Brothers to follow Roy back to The Rich Man’s compound. He can kill two birds with one stone; revenge the rape and rescue Seth. Along the way he teams up with his old colleagues from the first book, Clara and her motorcycle sisters.

I think generally speaking this should have been a fairly good entry. The idea of Bonner and the gang crossing the Rockies, braving the elements and running a few guerilla tactics to take out pieces of Roy’s small army sounds great on paper. But, Harding never expands on any of these ideas, instead dwelling on senseless, comical dialogue between Roy and his misfit crew. Often the book reminded me of that 1979 film ‘The Villain’ with its slapstick chase scenes. There’s a few hit-and-run tactics thrown in but Harding portrays Bonner in God-like status as he single-handedly kills nearly 50 members of the gang (with assistance) before they arrive in California. The last 15 pages rewards the reader with another Leatherman and Bonner confrontation…but it’s short lived with very little payoff. Overall, it’s not as bad as the second book but definitely fails to rekindle the fire and intensity of the series debut. Let’s hope the series finale ends with a bang instead of a comical whimper.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Outrider #03 - Blood Highway

Richard Harding’s third ‘Outrider’ entry is “Blood Highway”. It was released in 1984 through Pinnacle. Unlike it’s predecessor, “Fire and Ice”, and contrary to the book’s title, Harding actually slows the highway action down for this stock-still adventure starring our hero Bonner and his “strong man” friends The Mean Brothers. While the series first novel, “The Outrider”, worked extremely well with the “road warrior” styled mentality, “Fire and Ice” was a little too sporadic and uneven to fully expand the book’s elementary plot – finding gasoline. After the second entry, I had really decided not to pursue the series any further. Thankfully, I had a change of heart.

“Blood Highway” centers the action in the southwestern US, an area now known as the Hotstates. Here, the Mississippi River dried up and what’s left is a barren wasteland. Like the Slavestates ran by the tyrant Leatherman, the Hotstates are ruled with an iron fist by a guy named Berger. He runs his own gang of enforcement known as the Devils. As the book begins, Bonner and The Mean Brothers are in the Hotstates (Texas I believe) grabbing a supply of meat to return for supplies in Chicago. They clash with a group of Devils where Bonner sees a peculiar little .22 rifle bearing a familiar slogan – “Bobby. His Gun”. This inscription apparently means a lot to Bonner and Harding soon explains why.

In prior years, Bonner had met a warm, wholesome family in a community aptly title Almost Normal. Here, things are the closest to what we know as everyday suburbia – houses, lawns, fences and barbecues. At one point, Bonner was even asked to stay, but he declined knowing his rebel spirit would never let him settle down. Bonner had befriended a boy in the community named Bobby and taught him to shoot using that same rifle. Fearing that the community had been attacked, Bonner and The Mean Brothers head north to check on the town. To their horror, they find the whole community wiped out and its residents hanging on poles. Bonner knows the survivors have been taken as slaves by the Devils and a slave farmer named Farkas.

Harding really carves out a simple plot – rescue the good guys from the bad. It’s elementary, redundant…but so much fun here. Bonner teams up with a motorcycle gang of midgets called The Lashmen to attack Farkas’ compound and free all the slaves. The author moves the pace along without dwelling too much on Bonner’s strategic plans. Its simple efficiency is ultimately its best asset. While it reads comparably to an ‘M.I.A. Hunter’ book (scout the camp, attack the camp, freedom!), it works extremely well here. Farkas is the despicable character we love to hate while a little focus on The Mean Brothers is exactly what ‘Outrider’ fans wanted.

“Blood Highway” certainly doesn’t pave over any unfamiliar territory. We’ve read this story numerous times. Yet Harding is a crafty storyteller and the heart of the book is it’s good versus evil clash with a clear winner. Gunfights, fistfights, car chases and a great sense of humor are winning ingredients for this entry. “Blood Highway” picks up the same sense of enjoyment as its debut and hopefully will propel that vibe into the fourth volume. I’m riding shotgun for this.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Overload #02 - The Wrath

Bob Ham's Overload series debuted in 1989 with "Personal War". His follow-up is a few weeks later with entry two, "The Wrath". It's once again released by Bantam Books, complete with that lovable Red Rooster logo. 

The first novel introduced readers to Marc Lee and Carl Browne, Delta Force standouts that went to war with the Mob. Do we need even need a reason? Yeah...the Mob was putting the squeeze on Marc's father and his Texas freight company Leeco. All of this is recapped on the first page of "The Wrath", including the end result - nobody messes with Daddy. 

The fallout from Lee and Browne's first war is the ultimate premise of the sequel as both are forced into action against a psycho motorcycle gang (or club) called Lobos. The bikers were "cocaine cowboys" in the pipeline of trafficking and distributing that Lee and Browne shut down. The remains of this Mob family requests the bikers handle vengeance their own way. This leads to a crazy Vietnam vet named Bruno leading the bikers into war against the police, feds and our obligatory heroes Lee and Browne. There is some undercover FBI nonsense thrown in to add a little intrigue. Also, in shocking fashion, the US President makes an appearance requesting our paperback warriors report to some third-world country to stop terrorism. Yeah, our dynamic dudes are just that damn good. 

This all sounds promising, right? Delta Force warriors versus crazed motorcycle ruffians. But the whole thing craps the mattress thanks to horrible writing, a botched pace and one of the most ridiculous villains in pulp fiction. The author defies any logic by placing the bikers all over the interstate running and gunning through traffic with complete freedom. Where are the freakin' cops? Literally worse than Gotham's police force. The villains just run around on the loose and nothing really prohibits them from controlling American highways. This is just lazy writing, but ultimately leads to the Overload duo's barrel-chested bravado. Only they can stop the bikers since the law can't, right? And they do this, but only after the reader has thrown the book from wall to wall in utter disbelief and frustration.

There are more books to the series and I had a handful in my hand the other day. I quickly put them back on the shelf, discarded and abandoned...the only response Bob Ham is getting from me. Ugh.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Last Ranger #08 - Cutthroat Cannibals

Craig Sargent's "The Last Ranger" series is winding down. The author, Jan Stacy, had succumbed to AIDS and by this point one would assume he was nearing death unfortunately. I love his writing style - quick, action-infused - and hated for this series to come to an end. He finished it up with ten books total and this volume, "The Cutthroat Cannibals", marks entry number eight. It was released in 1988 via paperback publisher Popular Library.

The premise of this one promises that our hero, Martin Stone, will face cannibal mongrels like a "Hills Have Eyes" or "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" horror theme. Unfortunately, the book's cannibals don't even appear until page 137 of the book's 170 pages. Disappointing for sure. Also, Stone doesn't even fire a weapon until the last ten pages. Shocking, right? After all, this whole series feeds our animal magnetism to cold, anonymous violence via firefights and blunt instrument terror. Nope. Shake all of that off. But what we get is a unique take on the character by the author that knows him so well.

The first few pages has Stone and his dog Excalibur thrown into a landslide via a timely placed avalanche. This creates a savage broken leg for Stone, leaving our typical badass hero gimpy and weak. That's okay and gives us an added depth to the character. With the help of Excalibur the two find themselves stranded with no food, weapons or vehicle in the Colorado wilderness. In what would be perfect in "Cujo" or "Day of the Animals" is a pack of wild dogs that chase the two into a river that eventually washes the two up in a wild Native American tribe that worships a dog God. Yeah. 

Stone is left to fend for himself as Excalibur becomes "lost" in the forest. The tribe's chief plans to execute Stone but our hero comes up with a new plan - fight the Chief's son to death for the chance of freedom from the tribe. The two get it on and needless to say Stone, sporting no weapons and a broken leg, arrives the victor. 

The Chief lets Stone escape but it's a ruse. He plans to kill him after Stone's nap. Luckily, the Chief's son isn't a terrible loser and pays back Stone's gratitude of not killing him in battle to assist him with an escape. The two run from the tribe and eventually end up in another settlement near the end of the book. As promised - Cutthroat Cannibals are ready to dice up Stone for their version of Human Stew. Yummy.

Needless to say this is a different book than what has become par for the course for the series. It was fun and entertaining to see Stone defenseless and relying on talking himself out of battle. The survival aspect is way high and the action, while few and far between, is just enough to keep it interesting. Per the prior seven books, there is a love interest that appears near the very end. Fitting that Stone gets nailed right before getting nailed. This guy's luck has to run out soon, right? 

Stay tuned.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Outrider #02 - Fire and Ice

I’d have to say that Richard Harding’s first entry in the “Outrider” series was nearly brilliant. Aside from a few pieces of dialogue the book had a tremendous pace and engaging action sequences. Harding followed that book with a sequel in August of 1984, a mere two-months from the release of its predecessor. Where Harding had a story to tell with “Outrider”, it’s follow-up is absolutely abysmal. It’s sad considering how promising the series looked.

Our hero, the knife-wielding, super-car driving Bonner is laying low in Chicago and chilling with his hottie (Harding never elaborates much on this character but she sporadically appears in both books). His colleague from the first book, Starling, shows up to advise Bonner that it would be in their best interest to find some gasoline reserves. Bonner says he isn’t interested but Starling reminds him that if they don’t find the promised gas reserves (a character in the prior book, Cooker, said it’s the Heaven of gas reserves) then Bonner’s arch enemy Leather will get it. This strokes Bonner’s engines and soon he is out the door and the book’s premise is underway.

Bonner, Starling and The Mean Brothers team up with a locomotive engineer to find the gas and bring it back to “neutral” Chicago. Leather and his goons are on the hunt for the gas as well. It sounds good on paper, but Harding misfires terribly. The book just goes nowhere and the action sequences are few and far between. When the bullets do start flying…I just didn’t really care. In fact, I disliked this book so much that it took me nearly two weeks to read it – it’s only 214 pages in length. The huge fight that is brewing between Bonner and Leather (an anticipated continuation of their struggle in the first book) never comes to fruition. The only bright spot for me is the atmosphere. It’s cold, snowy and dark – key elements that keep this book from reaching the “burn the pages now” tier.

I have the whole series and will eventually get around to book three, but I might master the art of pruning banzai trees, take cooking lessons and grow my own wine vineyard before I get around to it.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Roadblaster #02 - Death Ride

Author Paul Hofrichter, also known here at Paperback Warrior as “he who creates the horror”, wrote three 'Roadblaster' books total. The second, “Death Ride”, was released by the Leisure Adventure line in 1988. If you haven’t read my review of the first novel, by all means please do. It’s called “Hell Ride”, and it is easily the worst action-adventure novel that I’ve read. I would even push the envelope a little further and say it ranks pretty high in the “Worst Fiction Ever” list as well. It’s utter garbage…so it’s mandatory that you read it.

I was able to locate the second book at a local used store and figured…what the Hell. Basically, our hero, Stack, is a New York resident and ex-National Guard serviceman. In the first book, he’s in California on a little vacation and the big bombs fall. The US is a nuked-out radiation zone and the book picks up just a day after the bombs fell. With very little heroics, Stack saves a town and a young girl from being gang-raped by bikers. Really, after 24 hours we have rampaging bikers, perverts humping everything and even one-word nicknames for people living in Armageddon. It’s crazy.

“Death Ride” picks up at day three of post-nuke America. Stack is doing his normal gig, driving around in his van and generally doing a whole lot of nothing. The book starts with Stack visiting Rayisa, the young girl he saved from the bang-train. He tells her he has to head East to tend to his wife and kids. Rayisa doesn’t want him to go so he agrees to take her with him when he leaves. From there Stack heads out to the desert to talk to the “B-52” people. In the first book this damned B-52 bomber landed in the desert and it apparently has some nuke firepower on board. Stack wants to keep it in good hands and needs somebody wearing stars to step in and command the safety of the bomber. Here’s stupidity:

The mechanics working on the B-52 want Stack to take himself, and a “Harley Davidson” club, to San Francisco. The reason for San Francisco? Because the mechanics say that’s where the real authority lies. Once there, Stack needs to find someone in uniform that can have a message sent up the chain of command to notify someone in the ranks that an armed B-52 is sitting in bumfudge Egypt. Nobody gives a flying beaver. But Stack, needing to be in a hurry to get East to his family, agrees to do this. Along the way he promises he will search for the biker’s missing relatives. Geez.

Stack and the gang ride over to Frisco, find some military brass assisting with the wounded, helpless, starving people of the city. Stack tells the guy something like this: “Hey man, we are just driving around trying to find some missing relatives. We need you to help us”. This guy tells Stack that he is busy running a skeleton crew that’s rescuing senior citizens from apartment buildings and rooftops. He’s trying to run a hospital for the injured. Feed people. He’s basically Mother Freakin’ Teresa here. Stack looks at him and says in utter disappointment, “So you won’t help us at all?” Oh. My. God. The utter nerve of this loser. 

Later, Stack and the bikers find a young man who's on the run from a militant group called Vengeance Team. Apparently they are out hunting down the gay community to keep them from spreading AIDS. Really? No shit. Stack wants to help, so he puts aside all of the B-52 bullshit, looking for biker relatives and his family in New York. He is shown an underground cellar labyrinth of rooms and hallways that is never really described to the reader. What is this place? Why is it so large? Hofrichter never bothers with describing the setting, instead just picks a random place and says to the reader, "The gay folks are here, hiding out, underground, fighting to stay alive." Right. They are so weak aren't they Hofrichter? Needless to say this is 1988 and they need a savior so Stack is the guy. 

Stack runs back and forth from the cellar dwelling to Candlestick Park getting guns and ammo. He gives it out to the community and says he will defend them and make an attack formation to fight Vengeance Team. In an incredibly painful Chapter 6, we are forced to read nearly 30 straight pages of battle between members of Vengeance Team and the community that we have barely been introduced too. The author spends an enormous amount of time talking about characters that we don't know waging war with other characters we don't know. I can't even make heads or tails of which character is on which team. It's just senseless garbage from pages 116-191. A character goes up a few feet, fires. Another character returns fire. Rinse. Repeat. Agonizing.

The book really just ends after the last of Vengeance Team dies. No worries, no one gives a rat's ass who won, who died and who's left to rear their ugly heads in book three. Geez. This one is equally as bad as the first book. Paul are such a horrible author I am now deeming you as the dream killer. "Death Ride" is exactly that for any readers daring to jump on this wagon of putrid green horseshit. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Last Ranger 07 - The Vile Village

You guys know the story by now, right? America is a wasteland and the bombs have turned the clouds that funny shade of purple. People are sick and dying and our hero, Martin Stone, is riding his Harley Davidson through the carnage to rescue his kidnapped sister April. It's a fairly simplistic concept throughout this ten book series known as 'The Last Ranger'. Book number seven is "The Vile Village", written once again by Jan Stacy under house name Craig Sargent and released via Popular Library in 1988. 

The book begins after that fallout of book six's nuke. Stone and his pit bull Excalibur are cruising along when they get spit on by some radioactive clouds. The purple stuff falling out of the sky stings the skin. This paperback warrior is attempting to drive through it, gets annihilated by the radiation and wrecks the motorcyle - something that happens a lot in this series. Stone and Excalibur plunge from the bike and get knocked out cold. An old farmer turned undertaker finds the two and brings them back to his farm. Something about his incident and exchange reminds me of an old western I've seen somewhere along the way. Only it was a guy falling off a horse and taken back by an old worn-out gunfighter.

Once there the undertaker gets his daughter LuAnn to nurse Stone back to health again. You know what the series does when a female character appears. Stone and LuAnn romp for three pages, then Stone gets down to business with the undertaker. Just like a western tale, the town of Copexi is a small farming community that is caught between two rival gangs - The Headstompers versus The Strathers Brothers. The gangs are leaning on the farmers and shopkeepers really hard to pay weekly taxes for protection. They are stretched thin and dying. Stone simply isn't going to stand for it, thus the book's plot. 

Stone heads into town and immediately gets into a bar fight with The Headstompers. After shooting them down, he approaches The Strathers Brothers with an offer - he'll be their gunman for money and they can call him "Preacher-Boy", because all gunmen need a cool name. You see Stone has a plan; He'll pretend to be a head-knocker for The Strathers Brothers while really just pulling the right switches to cause the Headstompers to get in an epic war with The Strathers' crew. If they kill each other the farming community will be free of trouble and can get back to planting cabbage or whatever they do in Copexi. 

Everything goes according to plan and Stone plays the part. He gets in a few skirmishes along the way but his ultimate downfall is when The Strathers Brothers find out he isn't the "Preacher-Boy" that he claims to be. Just like the last book, and a few prior ones, Stone is clamped to a table for a good round of torture. Miraculously he escapes, kills all the baddies in the room and makes a break for it. Unfortunately, The Strathers Brothers have Excalibur blocked off and Stone needs his dog. Badly. The end comes with a massive firefight between Stone, The Strathers Brothers, The Headknockers, The Farmers and a lion. 

The idea of Stone disguising himself as another person has been done before. Conceptually, Mack Bolan has used this tactic numerous times and it's certainly a mandatory aspect of the thriller and spy genres. Here it works okay and adds a little bit of a different perspective to what is typically the "Stone vs arch enemy" formula plaguing the middle of the series. This was okay as sort of this one off but the series is a little stale at this point.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Last Ranger #06 - The Warlord's Revenge

Think of Jan Stacy's sixth entry in the post-apocalyptic series 'The Last Ranger' as the book that just sort of sits sideways on the shelf with its peers. Unlike the previous five books, which were pretty good, "The Warlord's Revenge" is stunningly boring. Halfway through I'm sitting there just wondering why I've dedicated this small little portion of my life to this paperback pile of below-average nonsense.

Martin Stone, the Cherokee warrior Meyra and her tribe of Native Americans have escaped that madman with all the nukes. All that jazz happened in book five. Yet Stone was only able to shoot one nuke out of the sky. The other one fell and, needless to say, the skies are purple pink and some folks are growing tails. The first few chapters has Stone and the crew battle a little band of outlaws. Around the 80 page mark Stone leaves the folks and heads back to his bomb-shelter hideaway to restock on Iodine tablets and motorcycle rockets. Unfortunately, he reads a note that says his sister, April, left the shelter because some mafia goons were chasing her and Doctor Kennedy (a minor character from a prior book, does it matter?). Here's the thing -  Stone has this heavily fortified shelter that will sustain itself for ten years if he just did nothing but eat Twinkies all day everyday. He can sit in there and just chill out. Why does he ride out on a motorcycle fighting cannibals and warlords? 

By page 100, Stone is headed to the place where he thinks April might be. However, April was sold into prostitution by a mafia henchman named Scalzanni. He is running this shopping mall of sin. You can go there and gamble, do the wild-monkey dance and partake in enough drugs to float Keith Richards. Scalzanni has April there and Stone wants her back. Immediately our hero gets himself captured and Scalzanni tucks him away into a torture lab. A prostitute friend helps him to escape and he ultimately kills Scalzanni...with the help of Excalibur (the mutt that Stone pals around with). On his way back to the mall to get April he finds that she has once again been captured and taken to some place called Apaloosa.

First off, I would think Stone would lay down some ground rules for sister April. She has been in captivity in some fashion since book one. If she isn't being hauled off to strip or whore around then she is being attacked at home by mafia goons. Second, Stone really doesn't do much of anything in this book. The first 100 pages has him wreck his bike, shoot down an outlaw gang and blow a helicopter out of the sky with a motorcycle rocket. I think the author was just attempting to get Stone from Point A to Point B with this book and it really does little else. If you are reading the series in chronological order, you could honestly just skip this one.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Outrider #01 - The Outrider

This is why I love this genre so much. "The Outrider" is the ultimate example of the post-apocalyptic hero formula done perfectly. Author Richard Harding is actually Robert Tine, a novelist who wrote a ton of movie novelizations in his prime. He absolutely excels in this action yarn that kicks off the 'Outrider' series of books. The series is presented in five books and, according to some online reviews, never officially ended with a good send-off. Nevertheless, based on my experience with this first novel, we are going to get a thrilling five book run. This debut was released by Pinnacle in 1984.  

Harding presents the familiar premise of a nuked America. While he never really elaborates on how far into the future this is, one would assume around 50 to 70 years after the big one hits (at least one full life cycle). The country is separated into districts and rulers. From Ohio through Pennsylvania and Tennessee lie the Firelands, a ruined stretch that saw the coal fields ignite and burn. This is Hell. The Slaverstates consume Washington, DC and run northeast. The southwest is simply known as the Hotstates (the Mississippi river evaporated) and the pacific northwest is known as the Coldstates. Chicago remains a neutral area and an open city, thus our hero Bonner lives there with other loners.  

Bonner gives us a brief rundown of what used to be the Outrider clan. After the bomb, groups of Outriders traveled through the country and provided supplies, support and law to the survivors. They were trusted and generally accepted by the remaining Americans. Somewhere along the way the Outriders stopped and unruly districts popped up. At the beginning of the series Bonner gets attacked by a baddie, a henchman sent by Bonner's enemy Leather, the sadistic ruler of the Slaverstates. The two have history together as Outriders but Leather took a left turn into barbarism. I assume a shortage on outpatient mental health care? He is holding captive Bonner's lover Dara and Bonner wants her back. 

Bonner quickly kills off the hitman and heads to a garage where a super Dodge buggy awaits. It has a .50 caliber gun mounted on it's rollbar, a weapon that Bonner quickly uses to annihilate a small squadron of armed goons right outside of Chicago. Our hero teams up with two guys, Starling (expert archer) and Cooker (expert fuel man) and journeys into the madness to kill Leather in Washington DC. After some shootouts early on the trio of badasses hit New York first to bail out an old friend of Bonner's. This portion of the book reminds me of John Carpenter's 'Escape from New York'. There is a huge prison there that is surrounded and manned by some wild crazies. The two free the coveted Harvey from his cell and pick up two behemoth twins aptly titled the Mean Brothers. This group then heads into Washington DC where they meet up with The Sisters, a commando force of women decked out in fine fashion and combat boots.

With this many heroes and firepower the ultimate destination is Leather's fortress. Bonner uses too much bravado and becomes a full-fledged member of the Morons of Pulp Fiction. He gets captured and forced to watch his lover Dara get raped and beaten to death. Let me get you a Shasta to go with that. Thankfully Bonner's crew blows up a nearby building so Leather orders the death blows on Dara instead of the ill-advised gang rape. She still dies. There went a potential backstory that could run for years of publishing checks. Bonner escapes, hacks off Leather's hands before our arch enemy escapes for the next book. A hired killer named Beck sets out to kill off Bonner but has a change of heart at the end. Cue the credits kids as Leather seeks out a wench that will hold his junk to pee. 

This one is absolutely loaded with action, over the top characters and a furious pace from start to finish. I loved the book and huge props to Harding for including three outrageously bad-ass firearms for our heroes to utilize - Ruger Super Redhawk .44, Steyr Aug .556 and the Winchester tactical 12 gauge. Among Bonner's useful skills comes a ton of knife work. He is able to throw combat knives with extreme accuracy and that combined with Starling's ability with the bow and Cooker's flamethrower - well it's like a comic book team of destruction in one fell swoop. In true post-nuke fashion, the book embodies everything we know and love about 'Mad Max', 'Road Warrior' and 'The Warriors'.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, November 21, 2016

Last Ranger #05 - War Weapons

The doomsday epic from Jan Stacy rolls on as Martin Stone continues his pursuit of that raving lunatic General Patton III. But Hell, it's doomsday and anything goes. After Stone saved the world in book four, 'The Rabid Brigadier', he sets out on a path to crush Patton. After a rather lifeless fourth entry, 'The War Weapons' gets back on track with what we love about the series.

This one picks up as Stone and his rag-tag clan of overnight heroes pursue Patton in Bradley tanks across the desert. Sargent does his best detailing the Bradley machines and their positioning and pursuit of the baddies. I think he's probably a bit off with the tank mechanics and technical prowess, but who cares when he is providing this much explosive firepower. Right? Right. And what's the deal with this superpooch dog Stone has been carrying around through the wasteland? You are telling me Excalibur has lived through maniacal rapers and apocalyptic raiders? I call bologna.

After a hot pursuit through the desert the gang gets obliterated, wreck the tanks and Stone ends up being captured by Patton. In scenes that can only be a bi-product of the 80s, Patton and his savages go to work in the torture chapter ("Rambo 2"). Stone gets annihilated by beatings and then staked out on a massive wooden X after being dipped in some sort of sweet sticky substance that attracts massive ants. Soon Stone is a Golden Corral buffet as the ants swarm onto him and start chewing up the baby fat like a rat on a cheeto....or a mutant ant on honey dipped man-candy. Left to die in the wasteland doesn't last long though. A Cheyenne warrior named Meyra shows up for the rescue and fodder for the lovemaking. Before Stone begins to bone, the Cheyenne warrior princess rubs "healing paste" all over our hero and makes him good as new. Goldbond powder? After a miracle healing and a good lay, Stone joins the Cheyenne warriors on an all-out assault on the General and his goons. 

'The War Weapons' provided a ton of action, from the climatic assault, escaping torture and battling back to back with Native Americans. It was predictable, and maybe even a little short on plot, but the end result is another classic 80s action yarn in what has been a really good post-apocalypse series thus far. In terms of re-reading the series, I would pull only select titles including this one. The author nailed it.