Showing posts with label Randy Wayne White. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Randy Wayne White. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Dusky MacMorgan #01 - Key West Connection

Randy Wayne White became a New York Times bestselling author with his 25-book ‘Doc Ford’ series. Launched in 1990, the modern series stars a government agent turned marine biologist who fights crime in the Caribbean. However, before White went mainstream, he authored two men's action-adventure paperback series in the 1980s – 11 novels in the 'Hawker' series written as Carl Ramm and seven for the 'Dusky MacMorgan' series under the name Randy Striker.

In 1980, publishing heavyweight Signet was seeking a vigilante-styled series that would hopefully capitalize on the tremendous success of Mack Bolan. The publisher envisioned a hero with a distinct set of characteristics: Vietnam vet, Key West resident, handsome, and freakishly strong - consistent with 70s and 80s action-adventure pop-culture. They wanted the series to extend into a mammoth amount of volumes split up between four rotating authors.

A Signet editor spotted a short-story by White in an issue of Outside Magazine. As a possible candidate to join their writing foursome, the publisher pitched their paperback he-man hero to White and asked for three chapters. White, a Florida coastal resident and charter boat captain at the time, ran with the idea and wrote the series' first volume, “Key West Connection,” in just nine days. The publisher loved the book and quickly declared White to be the sole author of the project. The 'Dusky MacMorgan' series didn't gain enough sales success, but ran a total of seven installments from 1981-1982. The series served to provide some adequate writing experience for White, who would begin the longer-running 'Hawker' series for Dell in 1984.

In “Key West Connection”, readers are introduced to MacMorgan on his fishing vessel Sniper. Through some backstory segments we learn that MacMorgan was a child circus performer who lost his family in a big-top fire. Joining the Navy Seals at age 16, MacMorgan would go on to serve three combat tours in Vietnam. Retiring from service, he married an actress named Janet, moved to Key West and fathered twin sons. Now, MacMorgan runs a successful fishing charter for snowbirds looking for warm weather sport.

After hearing that his best friend Billie Mack had been murdered, MacMorgan tracks the killers to Mack's captured boat. In a graphic, violent display of MacMorgan's experience, he quickly catches the killers and learns they are drug runners for a corrupt U.S. Senator. Building a small empire in South America, the career politician targets MacMorgan's family, blowing up the family car and killing Janet and their two sons. Their deaths are the catalyst for MacMorgan's vendetta against the Senator and later the various crime rings in and around the Caribbean.

White writes at a tremendous pace and provides an average revenge styled thriller. Looking at the series longevity, White has MacMorgan team with a shadowy government agency to exploit and terminate island criminals. “Key West Connection” sets the bar fairly low but introduces a handful of characters that aid in making the story a little more dynamic. White describes MacMorgan as a “duck and fuck” series – the hero dodges bullets and screws a heroine in alternating chapters. I'd speculate that's about par for the course in terms of 80s men's action-adventure paperbacks. I prefer White's 'Hawker' series based on my small sample size of Dusky MacMorgan. I disliked the Hawker series debut, “Florida Firefight,” but later installments improved markedly. Maybe MacMorgan will find some traction and improve in later books. I'm in no real hurry to find out.

This novel was featured on the second episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast on July 15, 2019. 

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 02

In this episode, Tom and I discuss the origins of the paperback book in 1939. Our feature is the widely successful publisher Fawcett Gold Medal, a cornerstone of crime-noir in the 50s, 60s and early 70s. We also look at “Black Wings Has my Angel” by Lewis Elliott Chaze and the debut ‘MacMorgan’ novel by Randy Wayne White. Play the episode below or stream at any of these services: Apple, Spreaker, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Radio Public, YouTube and Castbox.

Listen to "Episode 02: Fawcett Gold Medal" on Spreaker.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Hawker #06 - Vegas Vengeance

Randy Wayne White wrote the first ‘Hawker’ novel, “Florida Firefight”, in 1984 under the moniker Carl Ramm. White would later go on to achieve much bigger success with his 'Doc Ford' series. While the debut left a lot to be desired, the series drastically improved into a stylish private eye action formula. The sixth title, “Vegas Vengeance”, continues that trend.

The book begins with Hawker making a phone call to Barbara Blaine. She owns a successful prostitute house on the strip aptly titled The Doll House. Through the conversation we learn that Hawker was tipped off about murder and extortion tactics leveraged against Blaine and her company. Blaine, concerned this is another crafty attempt to weaken her defenses, agrees to dinner after hearing Hawker's background. From there, the wheels are set into motion.

Before Hawker can meet Blaine, he's met with a high-speed, high-octane shootout on a dirt road southwest of Vegas. It's Hawker in a Jaguar XKE convertible and the baddies sporting a Datsun 280Z. White holds nothing back as the two race through the canyon, all guns blazing until Hawker derails the Datsun's quest. These two guys know about Hawker's assignment and the protection he's ultimately offering Blaine. 

As a typical private-eye yarn...this one hits all cylinders. Hawker learns who's shaking down The Doll House and why. Through shootouts and an intricate investigation, Hawker tracks the enforcers to a mining camp. Before that there's the obligatory mattress romp in the dark with what the reader assumes is Blaine. That mystery remains until the last few pages, a nice touch that adds a little more depth to the saga. 

Overall, “Vegas Vengeance” is another well-told Hawker story. While easily infringing on many detective novels (this is the 80s) that came before it, there's still enough identity here to make this a winner. I can't stay away from these books and I've been storing them in the vaults hoping I don't run out of the series too quickly. If you need a light read...Hawker is it.

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hawker #05 - Houston Attack

I’ve really grown fond of this ‘Hawker’ series by Randy Wayne White (writing as Carl Ramm). While the series began on flat-feet, each installment thereafter has further developed the Hawker character. White has incorporated friends and business associates into the overall collective, defining roles but providing the series room to breathe and grow. Book five, “Houston Attack”, continues that formula and it culminates into one of the best episodes of the 11-book run.

This novel begins mid-story with Hawker approaching the Texas border from Mexico. He’s disguised as a Mexican worker utilizing paid bad guys to smuggle him into the US. There’s an exchange with a young woman, Cristoba de Abella, before Hawker learns the whole operation is human trafficking. Gunfire ensues, and the opening chapter closes out with the reader confused on exactly what is transpiring. Luckily, Chapter Two retroactively brings us back to the event’s origin. A brief recap is made of the prior four books (I like this) and we learn that Hawker has taken 3-4 months off to rest and tend to prior wounds. His ex-wife Andrea comes to visit bearing bad news – her brother has been killed on the Texas-Mexico border.

The plot involves Hawker consulting with the Texas district attorney regarding the man’s murder. He was working undercover and had a rap sheet on the human trafficking players. The D.A. asks for Hawker to finish the job by going undercover (brilliantly as a one-armed migrant worker) and exposing the ring. It’s all centralized at a large Texas ranch, which Hawker infiltrates from within. Soon, he is teaming with a Texas Ranger to not only assist the feds, but to destroy the entire operation at it’s roots. White has Hawker utilizing the same weapons – survival knife, CAR-15, plastic explosive – in each book, and while it’s repetitive, I like the consistency. Hawker successfully uses them for each novel in new and clever ways.

Overall, this one has a little bit of everything - humor, action, intrigue and a little romance. It’s a fantastic stand-alone story but propels the series forward with even more alliances as well as questions. Perhaps Hawker pairs with the Texas Rangers again in future installments? Will he re-marry his ex-wife Andrea? Will Hawker’s employer Hayes return in the next book? White’s little nuances make the reader ask probing questions. It also forces us back again and again. I’m ready to see where “Vegas Vengeance” takes us next.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hawker #04 - Deadly in New York

Randy Wayne White, writing under Carl Ramm, wrote and released the fourth ‘Hawker’ novel, “Deadly in New York”, in 1984 via Dell Books. I’ve enjoyed this series for the most part and typically use it as breakage between team combat and post-apocalypse books. It’s a happy medium and for the most part an entertaining one. For those new readers that aren’t aware of ‘Hawker’ mythology – it’s fairly simple. Billionaire Jacob Montgomery Hayes provides resources to tough ex-Chicago policeman James Hawker. Hayes wants the wrongs righted and isn’t afraid to make Hawker an extension of his own vigilante hand. The book’s prior three entries placed Hawker against Florida mobsters, Los Angeles gangs and Irish terrorists. His fourth mission? Third Reich leftover Nazis posing as corporate real estate tycoons.

The book opens with an assassin named Renard seemingly murdering Hawker in a Caribbean bungalow. Of course, this was just a decoy piece of plaster. In a wild opening scene, Hayes and his mysterious butler Hendricks throw a scorpionfish at Renard, leaving him on the verge of death and dumped in the ocean. On the flight back from the Caymans, Hawker and the reader are brought up to speed on what’s so deadly in New York. It turns out a large corporation called Fister wants to reclaim a war-torn portion of The Bronx. To do this they are using illegal subsidiaries to capture government grants. With the federal funds the corporation will build large apartment complexes and office towers. Honestly, that isn’t really such a bad thing. Sure, it’s illegal but corporations do this all the time. But what puts it into the heart of a men’s action adventure story is that the inhabitants of these Bronx streets are ethnic Germans that are starting to rebuild the area, take it back from the goons and striving to create a better place free of corporate restraints. They won’t budge on leaving their homes…so Fister is bringing in the meat grinders to put tremendous pressure on the Germans to leave. The plot has been done to death…but now with Hawker in it.

Earlier, Hawker spent some time in New York surveilling the layout and hangout of the corporation’s mob enforcers. They are headquartered in a large warehouse near the river. Hawker, being a bit of a loose cannon here, loads up a knapsack, walks into the building and literally sprays every living creature with Ingrams submachine guns. Careless, ill-advised and doomed to fail, Hawker’s spraying puts him on the run inside the warehouse, climbing staircases and dodging gunfire. Thankfully, he places sausage rolls of C-4 as he goes. Once he hits the top…everything below him blows. Hawker escapes the burning warehouse with the help of a New York city cop named Calis who’s friends with Hawker’s old colleague in Los Angeles (second book). After a quick mattress romp with a thankful German beauty, Hawker jumps on a plane to rescue employer Jacob Hayes. Where’s he at? Great question.

In a backstory that is running behind Hawker’s deadly assault in New York, details finally emerge regarding Hayes’ mysterious butler Hendricks. The prior three books had always hinted there was more to the English chap than what was presented. This book reveals Hendricks’ past as a secret agent for the English during WW2. He actually entered Hitler’s sanctuary during the Soviet invasion, saw the body and removed a treasured relic from the dictator’s lap. In London, Hendricks consults a war buddy and puts the pieces together – Fister Corporation is operated by a Nazi named Fisterbaur and an old spy named The Druid. There’s a little more backstory here that could flesh out more of a future role for the butler. In the meantime, Hayes has been captured by Fister’s goons and tortured with surgical tubes and scalpels. The book’s finale has Hawker fighting back to back with Hendricks to save Hayes and crush the Nazi corporate raiders.

White throws an abundance of data at the reader in this fourth volume. Finally, we gain some insight on Hendricks and learn that he might gain a prominent role in future books. While there was a lot to unpack, the plot was fairly simple and, if not unoriginal, certainly carries the same “let’s bully the residents until they depart” theme that is heavily borrowed by other media. There was a rushed pace to the book and forced some scenes upon the reader. The New York ally in Calis was never expanded, the love interest was never developed and at the end of the day…we still don’t quite understand what this Druid role was within The Third Reich. Not a highlight of the series thus far but enjoyable nonetheless.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hawker #03 - Chicago Assault

The third book in the vigilante "Executioner" knock off returns our violent hero Hawker back to his home turf in Chicago. He's been summoned by an old friend named Saul Beckerman to an exclusive group sex party in a swanky penthouse suite. Who isn't turning that down? In reality, Beckerman asks Hawker for some assistance, but before he can make his request he is killed by gun toting goons that may have ties to Hawker's best friend, James O'Neil. Hawker kills two of the bad guys with a Colt Commander .45, only to have his weapon taken from him by Boone Chezick, an old colleague that is conducting an investigation of the shooting. Chezick warns Hawker that the commissioner is out to get Hawker and will use the shooting as leverage. Blah blah blah. 

Hawker and O'Neil have a brief team up and gun down some baddies before meeting a lovely beauty named Megan. Together, Megan and Hawker share a similar past of growing up in Ireland and losing loved ones in the IRA-Orangemen conflict. O'Neil dies in a bar explosion later that night...but surprises are indeed in store. 

Fawning over Megan and practically demanding sex, Hawker gets the coldest shoulder ever. But, the two of them make some sweet violence together as they dig deeper into O'Neil's tangled web of terrorism. While the IRA stuff seems to be present early on...the book takes a different path. Hawker's sugar daddy, Jacob Hayes (along with his mysterious butler) appears near the end. Wham-bam...the surprise ending hits and it's a shocker. 

I read this one in a few hours and didn't feel like I wasted anytime. This one breezes by and is action packed from start to finish. Hawker books are typically action thrillers for dummies...and I am one so we are the perfect marriage. Thoroughly enjoyed this one and jumping on "Deadly in New York" soon.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hawker #02 - L.A. Wars

This second entry in Carl Ramm's (real name Randy Wayne White) 'Hawker' series, "L.A. Wars", was released in 1984. Like the series debut, "Florida Firefight", this one is very similar to the 'Death Wish' series, notably 'Death Wish 3'. The book starts with Hawker on an L.A. rooftop discovering the body of a young woman. Her grizzly appearance suggests she's been raped and brutally beaten. In a wild opening sequence the reader is thrust into a short shootout between Hawker and a trio of gang members known as the Panthers. Hawker crotch shoots one dubbed "Cat Man" and leaves him to warn the rest of the gang -- Hawker's in their town now. 

The second chapter is essentially the set-up to how Hawker arrived in L.A., taking an assignment from his wealthy Chicago colleague Jacob Montgomery Hayes. Hayes advises Hawker that a suburban neighborhood in south L.A., Starnsdale, was a really wonderful place to live until it became a battlefield between two rival gangs. Now, residents are forced to stay in the neighborhood due to property values decreasing. They have little to no choice except living with the gang violence and staying out of the warzone. Hayes wants Hawker to clean it up. 

Ongoing chapters are a bit cut and paste honestly. While I was never really bored with the book, it still left a lot to be desired. Hawker becomes a friend and teacher to the neighborhood and it's residents. He befriends the young female victim's father, Virgil Kahl, and uses him as an advocate for vigilante justice. Being the sap that I am, I actually enjoyed the love interest aspect of the story more than the crime fighting. Hawker meets a famous actress and gets invited to rub shoulders with some of Hollywood's elite at a beachside party. Eventually, Hawker and the actress are lovemaking between training and preparation.

The finale felt a little fizzled out with very little gun on gunner conflicts. The idea of the series is to have Hawker be a vulnerable human hero. I like that part of it but the sacrifice is very little action. Our hero uses surveillance equipment, some intelligence gathering and a formulated plan to unite the gang leaders in one location. I've seen it done a hundred times and this one left very little surprises for the reader. I dunno...even though I felt it fell flat at the end, I'm still planning to read the next volume soon -- "Chicago Assault".

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Hawker #01 - Florida Firefight

Randy Wayne White wrote the first “Hawker” novel, “Florida Firefight”, in 1984 under the moniker Carl Ramm. White would later go on to achieve much bigger success with his 'Doc Ford' series. In a lot of ways “Florida Firefight”, and its sequels, remind me of 'Death Wish' not only in the sense of vigilante justice but the way Hawker goes about it. It’s this formula that White builds on here and later utilizes to prolong the series.

The book’s opening chapter has Lieutenant James Hawker looking through optics at a Guatemalan madman holding hostage a room full of students. Hawker’s Chicago police force wants him to hold his fire and await further orders. Hawker has a clear shot but waits. Eventually the gunman becomes aggressive and two students fight back and are ultimately killed. Hawker, exhausted from the political games being played, fires one .308 bullet from a Remington 700 and puts the baddie down. Heroic? Yeah, but the force doesn’t like it and the lefty Chi-Town bureaucrats suspend Hawker. He one ups them and gives them his badge, done for good.
The next act opens with a rather outlandish scene with Hawker aiding two senior citizens in the park. It’s stereotypical and nonsensical but helps reinforce the morals and values of our hero. Later, Hawker receives an invitation from a wealthy man living in a posh Chicago suburb. He recognizes the name as the father of one of the students killed, Jacob Montgomery Hayes. Hayes wants to provide tools and resources to Hawker and allow him to provide vigilante justice. Hayes understands the world is changing and society is degrading and he wants to keep the criminal activity at bay. Hawker accepts the job and we now have a vigilante with endless supplies of money and guns. A series is born.

Hayes sends Hawker to the Florida Keys to bring the book’s title to fruition. The tiny fishing village (or drinking village as we like to say down here) has been plagued by Colombian drug trafficking. Hayes runs a scheme that introduces Hawker as the new owner of a local pub. This puts him into the local population and also gives him a vested interest in fighting the Colombians alongside the God fearin’ town folk. While Hawker helps mobilize the town he also invests Hayes’ money into rebuilding the fishing village. Without adding additional spoilers, the third act has Hawker and the town fight off the Colombians. Surprisingly a trip to Washington D.C. is thrown in with a slight political angle…but you’ll have to read it to learn more.

The “Hawker” series has a great level of support from fans of the men’s action-adventure genre. While it isn’t as over the top as some other vigilante novels, the injection of vulnerability really enhances the story-lines. Hawker gets his ass handed to him in some cases. That’s a rare trait with this sort of bravado writing. The other aspect is that Hawker attempts to talk his way out of some conflicts and typically makes allies quickly. While the action could be limited for some readers, I found it as an adequate amount to contribute to the storytelling. It’s a good read and a great introduction to the series.

Those of you that want to spend a smaller amount of money on this should look for the digital copies. They are available in the Hoopla library system (ask your local librarian) as well as Amazon. I believe the digital copies sell for about $2 and every title in the series is available. The cover art leaves a little to be desired and done by the same company that recently released the first 38 “Executioner” titles. The books are listed by Randy Wayne White now. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE