Showing posts with label Adam Steele. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adam Steele. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Adam Steele #05 - Gun Run

I've really enjoyed nearly everything I've read by British author Terry Harknett. His penchant for bloody, ultra-violent westerns can be found in long-running series titles including Edge, Apache and Adam Steele. I've been on a western kick lately with the Edge titles so I wanted to revisit Harknett's Adam Steele series. I thoroughly enjoyed the character's debut in Rebels and Assassins Die Hard from 1974. I randomly grabbed another series installment from my shelf and ended up with Gun Run, the fifth installment of the series.

The paperback begins with Steele riding shotgun on a stagecoach headed through the perilous Guadalupe Mountains. With a location between American Arizona, New Mexico and Mexican Sonora, the dusty trail is ripe with thieving bandits and savage Native Americans. Within the opening pages, the stagecoach is attacked by a woman and a band of gun-slinging outlaws. They've caught wind that a cache of money is hidden on the coach and want it all for themselves. Steele, who isn't aware the coach was carrying this vast fortune, is robbed along with the passengers, dragged into the desert and left to watch as the bandits ride off with the loot and his signature weapon, the lever-action rifle given to his father by Abraham Lincoln.

Like a blockbuster Hollywood action flick, nearly every chapter of this novel is another over-the-top, rip-roaring adventure with Steele holding his hat on tight while dodging bullets, knives and despicable killers. Determined to retrieve his rifle, Steele heads through the desert with a knife hoping to locate and ambush the gang. Along the way he's captured by Mexican guerrillas, fights Apache warriors, tangles with the Mexican Army before eventually finding himself jailed by a small-town sheriff hellbent on hanging our hero.

I can't help but think that each of these adventure segments in this narrative could have been entire books on their own. Harknett has so many ideas to explore and he seamlessly weaves them all together to make for one highly engrossing and entertaining story. Like his other literary work, the author pulls no punches or knife-thrusts. Gun Run is filled with men, and plenty of women, being tortured, gutted and shot in a rather macabre and grizzly style. No one does westerns quite like Harknett and this book is another exhibit of his crowd-pleasing roughshod style. Highly recommended!

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, November 30, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 71

It’s time for the Paperback Warrior Podcast Holiday Shopping Guide Episode! We discuss the dilemma of giving and receiving vintage paperbacks along with many suggestions to get you through the season.  Also: reviews of novels by Bruce Cassiday and George Gillman. Download on your favorite podcast app or or download directly HERE

Listen to "Episode 71: Holiday Buyer's Guide" on Spreaker.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Adam Steele #01 - Rebels and Assassins Die Hard

Terry Harknett is a British author that specialized in writing violent, sometimes humorous western novels. By using a variety of pseudonyms, Harknett is one of the most dominant authors of the western genre. His most prolific work is the 61-book 'Edge' series, the 27-book 'Apache' series and the subject at hand, the 49-book run of 'Adam Steele' novels. In fact, after Harknett's phenomenal success with Edge, the Pinnacle publisher was clamoring for another series in the same style. In 1974, the debut Adam Steele novel arrived with the title “Rebels and Assassins Die Hard”. Harknett's pseudonym was the same one used on the Edge series, George G. Gilman.

The story begins with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at the Ford Theater in Washington, DC. With the town stirred up, three guys in a bar start targeting anyone with a southern accent. After brutally beating an older patron, the trio, with the help of the bartender, accuse a defenseless old-timer with providing Lincoln's assassin with the proverbial smoking gun. Despite the victim's pleas of innocence, the foursome cruelly hang him in the bar.

Adam Steele arrives in town and quickly learns about Lincoln's murder. He chances on the same bar and finds the old-timer still hanging in the saloon. After Adam gets a closer look at the victim, he gains some information from the bartender regarding the identities of the hangmen. Then shockingly, he tells the bartender that the man they hung was his father! After shooting the bartender pointblank in the belly, Adam rides back to the old family farm to bury his father.

Things get really interesting at this point in the narrative. First, Steele has a confrontation with his childhood best friend Bishop, now a deputy. Adam is a wanted man, which is like blood in the water for a cold-blooded bounty hunter named Lovell. While that narrative comes to fruition, another thread has the Army searching for the assassins involved in Lincoln's assassination. This leads them into a enthralling head-on collision with both Bishop and Lovell, the hangmen and Adam Steele.

This debut entry is just a remarkable western tale. There are so many narratives weaved together, yet it's presented seamlessly under Harknett's experienced hand. Just when I thought the frantic pace would slow, a new adventure would quickly begin. By story's end, Adam Steele resembled an enjoyable Fargo installment. There's even a small “The Most Dangerous Game” thread as Adam is hunted through the mountains by Native Americans led by a deranged British Captain. To say this is an unorthodox western is an understatement.

Terry Harknett's debut Adam Steele novel is a mandatory read for genre fans. Buy your copy HERE.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Adam Steele #04 - Valley of Blood

It was the cover art that got me intrigued enough to read this 'Adam Steele' western. For once, the cover is perfectly faithful to a scene in the story--- in fact, it’s the most eye-opening scene in the book--- so let’s take a look.

Our hero has come to a frontier town controlled by a greedy rancher and his henchmen. Four masked hardcases corner Steele one night. We know that these are the same creeps who’d gang-raped the book’s helpless young leading lady a couple of chapters back. Things go badly for Steele at first (he takes a punch to the stomach and a kick in the crotch), until he suddenly produces a three-inch “tie pin.” With it, he swiftly skewers the testicles of one bad guy, whose shrieks of agony distract the others long enough for Steele to get the drop on them. A fast gunfight leaves that trio dead, and Steele blows the head off Punctured Testicle Guy for good measure. Next, he strips all four of the thugs nude and hangs their bodies on a barbed-wire fence before castrating them.

I’ll leave it to others to speculate where the author’s fascination with groin trauma comes from, but the over-the-top violence isn’t a surprise. The book is credited to George G. Gilman, but the author is Terry Harknett, the British pulpster who wrote these 'Adam Steele' books along with the even more brutal 'Edge' westerns. Steele has a bit more humanity than Edge, but that’s not saying much considering what a stone-cold sociopath Edge is, and he shares Edge’s habit of cracking a bad pun at the end of most chapters.

Harknett’s characters exist in a stark spaghetti western landscape. That gives his stories a somewhat different flavor than what you get with conventional westerns by American authors. Tough-guy heroes are nothing new, but in these books the hero has a hard, cold core like an under-baked potato. The same traditional themes of good versus evil are here, but there’s an emotional detachment which makes it hard to really care about anyone, or about what happens to them. That’s just as well, because the author is fond of killing off virtually every named character in a given novel, and it happens here too.

Even the unfortunate leading lady gets killed off, casually and pointlessly. A beautiful young widow who’d helped him earlier in the book, Steele pauses to reflect on why he nevertheless feels nothing for her. “Sorry, ma’am,” he muses, “But I’m looking for the best and you were banged around too much.” Maybe it’s just as well that Steele doesn’t pause for reflection very often.

It all winds up in an action climax, but I found the ending pretty unsatisfying, and apart from the spasms of colorful violence this is a fairly dreary, downbeat book. The pacing is reasonably brisk and I was grateful for the brevity of its 148 pages, but reading “VALLEY OF BLOOD” just isn’t much fun.