Showing posts with label Dan Schmidt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dan Schmidt. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Executioner #104 - Devil's Horn

Remember the one where Mack Bolan becomes the star of the Chuck Norris “bring'em back” alive flick Missing in Action? Well, it never happened, but it should have based on Dan Schmidt's The Executioner installment Devil's Horn (1987), the 104th book in the series. Like a combination of Missing in Action, Rambo 2, and an installment of MIA Hunter, Devil's Horn deposits Bolan and Jack Grimaldi in a Southeast Asia Hellhole as prisoners in a drug cartel's brutal labor camp. Interested? Read on.

When Devil's Horn begins, Bolan is in The Bowery, the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island, trailing the origins of a massive amount of domestic drug imports. His trail leads to Ronny Brennan, a top-tier drug dealer with arms in various criminal factions as a Mob businessman. After Bolan destroys a drug warehouse, he pressures Brennan to reveal the source of a huge opium farm in Thailand. After a furious firefight, Bolan forces Brennan to ride shotgun as drug enforcers and low-level dealers tail the two to a local airstrip where Grimaldi is waiting. Quickly, Bolan and Brennan climb aboard as Grimaldi rockets the trio to Southeast Asia. 

With a large load of armament and equipment, Grimaldi's plane flies over the whereabouts of the drug farm. But, he gets a little too low and the plane is shot down on the outskirts of the farm. While pushing Brennan into the bush, both Grimaldi and Bolan attempt to escape the onslaught of waves of Vietnamese soldiers, hired mercenaries, prison sentries, and drug enforcers. In a scene right out of Rambo 2, Bolan and Grimaldi climb a hill to make a final stand against the invading forces. Eventually, the two are forced to surrender and are ushered into the living Hell of prison life in the jungle. 

A sadistic warlord named Torquemandan controls the Thai drug farm and has two top henchman inflicting years of punishment on the farm's prisoners. Bolan and Grimaldi discover that a large majority of the prisoners are American military prisoners-of-war that have been transported into Thailand by the Vietnamese government. Bolan also learns that there's a CIA spook imprisoned as well as many South Vietnamese prisoners that were allies to the U.S. during the Vietnam War. 

The orientation outlines what Bolan and Grimaldi will expect in their new lives. The duo will join the other prisoners as slave labor. They work from dawn until dusk scraping the sap off of poppy seeds (opium) and placing it in buckets. Their only nourishment is a handful of rice and a cup of water at dinner. Most of the prisoners are on the verge of death and are routinely beaten, whipped, tortured, and killed. Bolan is warned by the prisoners to never eat the meat that is served with the rice - it's the cooked flesh of the prisoners that are executed! After the harvest season, the prisoners will carry 100-pounds of opium on their backs and forced to march 200 miles to deliver it. Most will then be executed or die of exhaustion. 

I read Dan Schmidt's Eagle Force installment Death Camp Columbia years ago and loved it for all of the same reasons I loved Devil's Horn. I enjoy Schmidt's workmanlike writing style and his use of ultra-violent prison settings for both of these novels. Death Camp Columbia was authored just two years after Devil's Horn, and features a similar premise when the four-man mercenary team Eagle Force becomes imprisoned in a Columbian jungle Hell. It was obvious that Devil's Horn served as a template for that particular novel. 

Schmidt is an on-the-nose writer that uses a low dose of gun-porn to describe and detail the harrowing action sequences in his men's action-adventure novels. His style incorporates a violent, gory combination laced with plenty of brutal scenes of torture and dismemberment. If you need “brains bashed into pulpy matter” then Schmidt is your guy. He was an active Bolan scribe and had a great handle on the high-numbered version of the character. In Devil's Horn, Schmidt also incorporates a human element to Bolan's suffering, but also a sympathetic, endearing quality to Bolan's love of American soldiers and the overpowering need to free the prisoners-of-war. I also enjoyed both Grimaldi and Bolan's chemistry while enduring the harsh elements and horrendous torture dished out by Torquemandan's henchmen. Needless to say, good things come to those who wait. The inevitable confrontation was worth the price of admission and felt like a satisfying conclusion to one of the most violent Executioner novels I've read. Devil's Horn is an absolute must-read if you love Mack Bolan

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 86

On Episode 86 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, we explore team-based action adventure series including Phoenix Force, Alpha Team, SOBs, and so many more. This is a jam-packed episode that men’s adventure paperback fans won’t want to miss. Listen on any podcast app or or download directly HERE

Listen to "Episode 86: Action-Adventure Teams" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Eagle Force #06 - Berserker

The 1980s proved to be a successful era for author Dan Schmidt. Beginning in 1986, Schmidt began contributing to the Mack Bolan universe with an astounding 40-installments across The Executioner, Stony Man and Mack Bolan product line. The busy author also launched a series of team-based combat novels called Killsquad that ran 10-books from 1986 through 1988. Of the author's extensive catalog of violent, bloody literary works, perhaps my favorite was the Eagle Force series. Like Killsquad, it was a team-based combat series and featured four ex-CIA members working as freelance mercenaries. The series lasted nine novels from 1989-1991 and was published by Bantam. I've slowly been collecting these books over the years and I was happy to finally locate the sixth installment, 1990's Berserker.

The first five novels of the series tied up some loose ends involving Eagle Force leader Vic Gabriel and his quest to learn how his father was betrayed and killed on covert operations in Vietnam. The climactic conclusion to that story arc was the emphasis of Ring of Fire. Berserker is the first of the series to feature a full-length action mission without the backstory baggage.

In the book's first chapter, a seemingly invincible man commences to sprint across the White House grounds. Using just brute strength and a primal rage, the man begins tearing at the frantic Secret Service men while absorbing a barrage of bullets. After the carnage, the chapter reveals that the man's furious assault was a final experiment performed by the KGB under top secret clearance from Soviet High Command. Project Berserker, in collaboration with East Germany, was created to modify human soldiers into savage, flesh tearing combatants that can be used to destroy villages, small cities and most importantly, military installations. It's like Marvel Comic's Weapon X program that created the Wolverine character...but only really, really evil. And communist.

Dan Schmidt utilizes the vile Berserkers as the perfect enemy for his rejuvenated Eagle Force. However, the author creates a number of fire-fights and smaller battles as foreplay before the bullet-orgy with the Kremlin and Project Berserker. The first of these battles is with a tactical mercenary unit calling themselves the German Fury. The mid-section of Schmidt's narrative focuses on Eagle Forces assault on a remote Greek island and their action-packed gunfight with the SPETSNAZ, an elite Soviet fighting force.

Berserker is another exciting installment of the Eagle Force series. The author's commitment to “brand new” adventures after five prior novels of backstory - using annoying recollections presented in italic fonts – was a much needed change. Because of that, readers receive 132-pages dedicated to Eagle Force versus Soviets, mercs and beastly soldiers. It's over-the-top, slightly deranged and completely unrealistic, three traits that make Dan Schmidt's writing so much fun. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Killsquad #02 - Mission Revenge

Along with plenty of Bolan affiliated action, Dan Schmidt wrote two military team-based series' – 'Eagle Force' and this one, 'Killsquad'. It launched in 1986 with the debut “Counter Attack”, eventually running through nine total installments on the Avon publishing label. This novel, “Mission Revenge”, is the second of the series picking up just 18 days since the events of “Counter Attack”.

The Hangman John Smith is recuperating with his half-dozen killers after the shake-downs in Algeria and Syria. While the World Strike Force is running the show, Killsquad is ultimately a trickle down effect with Smith commanding his team. As the series promises, we know “Mission Revenge” is just another assignment for Killsquad. The reader wants fireworks and Schmidt concocts a familiar story to set the tone.

Eli St. Judas is called The Preacher. He's a TV evangelist taking money from the poor and gullible and building his New Order Church regime in West Virginia. Coincidentally, this same set-up was used by Rich Rainey for his “The Protector #2: The Porn Tapes” using a vile character named The Reverend. Or by Norman Winski for his “Hitman #3: Nevada Nightmare”. Turns out placing a crooked, perverted preacher on the pulpit is a sermon action-adventure readers love to hear. The Preacher has built a mountain fortress in West Virginia and hired an ex-Green Beret team called Charlie Company to protect it (similar to Schmidt's use of Eagle Force vs Phantom Plague in “Eagle Force #3: Flight 666”). We know Charlie Company is going to fight Killsquad...but how much of The Reverend plowing his Queen from behind do we need before we get to the inevitable confrontation? Sadly, this one takes a great deal of patience.

Sometimes this author swings for the fences and lands the perfect combination of action and dialogue. With “Mission Revenge” it just all falls flat. There's a side-story of Russian soldiers being kidnapped and held for ransom...but by this point no one cares. Sure, it is Killsquad invading the religious compound to capture The Preacher but it's just a failed plot that's redundant and more convoluted than its own good. It's a hard pass from me. I carried that cross so you wouldn't have to. 'Killsquad' may not get a resurrection from me anytime soon. Stay away!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Killsquad #01 - Counter Attack

In 1989, author Dan Schmidt launched his 9-book run of military action in 'Eagle Force'. Before  that series, the writer created a similar series in 1986 – 'Killsquad' (not to be confused with the Manor 1975 series). This series ran 9 installments on the Avon label and utilizes Schmidt's knack for team-based combat yarns. He's a meat and potatoes writer, low on plot and big on run 'n gun episodes of violent warfare. That's essentially what we get with this series debut, “Counter Attack”.

In 'Eagle Force', a hardened Vietnam veteran named Vic Gabriel recruits three mercenaries to forge a global fighting force. 'Killsquad' was the apparent template, with John Smith as the hardman on the recruiting frontlines for the first half of this novel. Smith's resume is an impressive one – anti-terrorism at Camp Peary, five years as a paramilitary operative in Central and South America, Special Forces sniper, fifth-degree black belt and a need to avenge the murder of his French girlfriend years ago. The CIA is now running a World Strike Force and ask Smith to recruit six men from death row. In “Dirty Half-Dozen” style, the book explores each character and their training for these clandestine missions. 

Williams is a former bank robber with a murder streak and an eye patch. Schnell is a big German soldier of fortune (and a racist). White is a former KKK henchman (Schmidt teams three whites vs three blacks). Barnes is a hit man from Harlem. Walker is a former boxing champion. Jackson is the wildcard, a seemingly innocent fisherman from Florida who was fingered for a murder he didn't commit. What's interesting is the fact it's an 80s team-based action novel that doesn't feature a single Vietnam veteran. Shocking.

With the meet and greet, we immediately realize there will be inner turmoil on the team. Diversity and guns don't mix well with these books and this one is no exception. The general idea is watching Smith whip the guys into shape and prepare them for the first mission. The curveball is that Smith's superiors cut training to only a week and spring two missions on him. The first involves Smith running a solo mission to liberate a hijacked 747 in Athens. The second is the six men running their own assignment by destroying a Syrian terrorist compound with the aid of a gunship. Will the death row inmates cut and run or will they stick around and complete the mission? Can Smith knock out the Islamic terrorists before they rape and kill every jew on board the plane? These are all in the mix as 'Killsquad' presents it's first entry.

If you like Schmidt's writing then this series is probably mandatory. Genre fans know his 'Stony Man' and 'The Executioner' work, as well as stuff like 'Hellrider' and 'Eagle Force'. “Counter Attack” moves at a brisk pace and covers a lot of ground in the Middle East, Greece and the US. There are a few side stories with the German member as well as Smith's conflicts with his own department. In the future, the internal conflict and deception within the World Strike Force will probably be center stage. I'm on board for this one. “Counter Attack” is an absolute winner!

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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 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”. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Eagle Force #05 - Ring of Fire

Bantam released the fifth 'Eagle Force' novel, “Ring of Fire”, in June, 1990. Author Dan Schmidt excavates some of the series mythology with this installment. The backstory on Eagle Force leader/founder Vic Gabriel is revealed, including that of the team's chief opponent, terrorist Michael Saunders. While these details are relevant to the overall series, I think it consumes most of the book. The subplot, terrorists occupying a French farming town, is more interesting, yet this is lost in the revelation of past events. 

Saunders and his thirty-man kill squad hit a French whorehouse to capture half of Eagle Force with their pants down – Dillinger and Simms. They rape and slaughter the whores (obviously), and in one grizzly scene, shatter both Dillinger and Simms' hands with a leaded baseball bat. Saunders records the audio screams, and then leads his squad to a French farming village. They occupy the town, attempting rape of the youngest first while the villages are imprisoned at a church.

Saunders and a small team fly to Gabriel's outpost in the French mountains and present the audio tape in person. The challenge – Vic and Boolewarke have until midnight to rescue Dillinger and Simms. Saunders' 30 hardened mercenaries against two. At midnight, execution will begin. Of course, Vic accepts the challenge and we start piecing together Schmidt's backstory on the two combatants (in annoying italics print).

In the series debut we discovered that Vic and his father served as CIA assassins in Vietnam. Along the way, Saunders, a CIA operative, killed Vic's father. This book elaborates on that scenario, explaining how Saunders switched to the darker side, the Russian meddling and Vic's first fight with Saunders in a Libyan stronghold. That sets the stage for the inevitable showdown for “Ring of Fire”.

Before author Dan Schmidt's fatal stroke, he contributed heavily to the 'Executioner' line as well as creating a similar 'Eagle Force' series called 'Killsquad'. He had a tremendous talent in shaping battle scenarios and bringing it all to fruition with close quarters combat. It's something he excelled at with this series and the “two against thirty” plight of Vic and Boolewarke is especially impressive. Unfortunately, the location changes with the last 40 pages and that left something to be desired. The end result is an average book that had the potential for greatness. Next up is “Berserker”.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Eagle Force #04 - Red Firestorm

Somebody put the wrong bullets in the box. The calibers aren’t matching up. Dan Schmidt’s fourth novel in his team-based 'Eagle Force' line is out of sequence from the other books. Events and locations are all out of whack as if the author wrote this book before the second and third entries. Not only is the book missing series mythology, it’s also poorly written. Schmidt doesn’t have the same energetic pace or attention to action based sequences that move the book forward from A to B. It’s just a complete mess.

The first 'Eagle Force' book, “Contract for Slaughter”, ultimately assembled the team through the typical recruitment process and some flashback sequences to show history of the characters. The mission to rescue an heiress from the clutches of Islamic extremists was a failure but it led to the creation of the team and some funds to acquire gear and guns. In the opening pages of book two, “Death Camp Columbia”, protagonist Vic Gabriel (Eagle Force leader) recalls the team’s second mission on the icy slopes of Nepal. The mission left the team with a relocated headquarters from the Florida Everglades to Pyrenees along the French-Spanish border. It also mentions that the team dismantled a CIA kill-force and Soviet SPETSNAZ. The problem? That mission was never explained to the reader. As we begin book two it is really just the team’s second mission that the reader has experienced. All of the events mentioned never occurred in book format. These are just mentioned but never fully explained. The reader just has to assume the author never elaborates on it further and just takes the jump in the timeline and location and moves on. Thus, we have a new headquarters and the next missions which roll out in book two, “Death Camp Colombia”, and book three, “Flight 666”.

Book four, this current review, is called “Red Firestorm”. However, it isn’t really book four. Instead this is the entire mission mentioned in the opening pages of book two. So, it’s out of chronological order which makes me think two things must have occurred. Either the publisher agreed with me and decided that this book just absolutely sucks and sit it to the side and released the vastly improved books out of sequence hoping readers would identify more with the team, characters and Schmidt’s normally otherwise well-written action formula. The other thought was that maybe Schmidt had never planned on actually telling this story and then had second thoughts. Nevertheless, we have book four at our disposal and it’s really just book two in disguise.

At the beginning of “Red Firestorm” we get a little payback from Zak Dillinger and Johnny Simms on a local drug cartel in Miami. It’s clearly written right after the events of book one and has Dillinger and Simms locked into a firefight in a small club. Half of Eagle Force walks out alive and that’s that. The next sequence has a CIA task-force arrive at Eagle Force camp in the Florida Everglades to offer a proposition. It turns out that some upgraded U2 aircraft flown by the CIA (or it’s colleagues) over Russia crashed in the Himalayas on Mt. Makalu, also known as the fifth highest mountain in the world. The aircraft were flying surveillance and spying on Ivan’s nuclear capabilities. The wreckage includes Sphinx black boxes which will not only show the data of the mission but also create some serious red flags if Russian can report that the US were violating airspace. The CIA wants Eagle Force to prevent WWIII. Why don’t they use their own people? Why ask Eagle Force, a team that has no experience climbing in the Himalayas? These are great questions that the author apparently never asked.

From there this book is an absolute train wreck and feels really disjointed. Russia’s Kremlin send a team into the regions on and around Mt. Mikalu. They shove around the locals and create a few skirmishes. Of course, Eagle Force is in the area as well but the two never really exchange gunfire until the last couple of pages. The big confrontation never comes to fruition. Also, these black boxes could be anywhere yet the two factions are able to find them with relative ease. That’s illogical writing. It’s lazy. The hardships of climbing the mountain, surviving the elements and the hunt itself should have been the main focus of the book. It would have added just one more set of super-skills to our paperback warrior team. The author spends way too much time on the village, Eagle Force corresponding with the village and some quick chapters on a pilot trying to survive after the crash. It just never gets up to full speed and leaves the reader bored to tears. The end of the book explains why the team is in a different headquarters at the beginning of book two. It definitely fills in the blanks retroactively. 

Overall I think the book’s disjointed writing style left the publisher with no other choice but to keep the book’s release on hiatus until better quality stories were developed by the author. Once books two and three were released I’m sure they felt the series had a large enough fan-base to support a not-so-good book. Let’s hope for better things with book five, “Reign of Fire”.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, January 16, 2017

Eagle Force #03 - Flight 666

Dan Schmidt released his third 'Eagle Force' book, “Flight 666”, via Bantam in 1989. His team-based book showcases four paramilitary members that have all experienced intense action during the Vietnam war and clandestine assignments all over Central and South America. It’s the series’ same core group of four commandos led by the main character Vic Gabriel. The first two books of the series featured a little back story on Gabriel and his family history. With this third book Schmidt goes right for the jugular and gives us action soaked pages that don’t delve into history, instead just bullets and sweat-soaked intensity throughout the 200 pages.

Vic Gabriel is on Flight 666, a commercial airliner from France to Israel. Vic is doing a little solo work on the side, a cool $50K to escort two Jewish businessmen from France to Israel and provide body guard duty while the businessmen do whatever arms deals they have in Israel. The rest of Eagle Force is at home resting while Vic literally flies solo.Like a lot of the books and movies at the time Schmidt hitches his wagon to the “terrorists on board” theme. Four Iranian Islamic terrorists take over “Flight 666” and make a demand that the US release all of its Iranian prisoners or all 200+ hostages are dead. Vic has no weapons, no team and has to rely on his own skill-set to survive the ordeal. Soon, the terrorists execute Vic’s two Jewish clients and another passenger. They know Vic is American and he has the look of CIA so they sort of keep Vic under wraps while they rape a stewardess and generally antagonize the passengers.

Soon the flight lands in a rural desert wasteland in Iran, a fortified ancient city called Bam. While Vic and the hostages are led into the fort Uncle Sam has a plan. A crack-team of commandos known as the “Phantom Plague” are assembled with orders to fly into Iran and do their search and rescue jive. Think of the Phantom Plague as that evil twin version of Knight Rider’s Michael Knight. They have the look of Eagle Force but they tend to have a bit more reckless abandonment and a whole bunch of illwill. At the same time that Uncle Sam is making his ploy our very own Eagle Force (three-fourths) is assembled and they are in route to the same destination. Will Eagle Force and Phantom Plague play well in the sandbox together or turn their smokin’ guns on each other?

Schmidt is a really fast-paced writer who isn’t afraid to smear a little blood and gore on the pages to thicken things up. In “Flight 666” he gives us a little peek at what a more reckless Eagle Force could look like. At the same time, he truly shows how valuable Vic is to the team by holding all the pieces together and providing tremendous leadership for his men. I like the “Delta Force” part of the book that showed the hostages and terrorists conflict in the skies. I think that part was fairly well written although I still have doubts on why the terrorists didn’t just land in an urban region making a rescue attempt much more difficult. My only complaint with the book is this: it is the third consecutive book that saw Vic as a prisoner. The first book he became a willing prisoner of Islamic terrorists. The last book had Vic and his whole team behind bars in a Colombia. Again, Vic is captured in this entry making it very predictable. I am really hoping this isn’t a trend by the author. We’ll see whenever I can hunt down book four.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, December 26, 2016

Eagle Force #02 - Death Camp Colombia

Here comes the ex-CIA strike team known as Eagle Force. It's all action and all guts by author Dan Schmidt. "Death Camp Colombia" is book two of the series and serves up our talented four-piece of doom deep inside the jungles of Colombia fighting the evil cocaine kingpin Fernando Hernandez, known as El Diablo. 

The book opens with El Diablo held captive in a Florida mansion by the DEA. He's waiting for trial and contemplating the moments of his escape. Inside is the "inside man", a DEA traitor named Jameson. This two-timer has spilled the beans to El Diablo's goons and soon the DEA is wiped out by Jameson, El Diablo, the goon squad and a vile henchman named Raul "El Leon" Pizarro, who's sort of that mid-level video game boss with the big sword. 

After the escape we get down to Eagle Force, mainly Vic Gabriel and crew planning on the next mission - taking out El Diablo and his angel dust empire. Vic has a vendetta against coke - it killed his brother and he wants payback. To get to El Diablo they need to take out a mid-level dealer in Fort Lauderdale. The group enlist the aid of an ex-DEA agent and have a beach front shootout with the dealer and his cronies. From there it's off to a bar where they take out even more cronies and get the details of a Colombia Death Camp being ran by El Diablo. After taking Johnny "The Falcon" Lightning prisoner, he leads the group at gunpoint to an airport where they all have another massive firefight. Eagle Force grabs a plane headed to Colombia with "The Falcon" on board. 

Next is a meeting at a whorehouse because all men's action-adventure tales end up at a whorehouse eventually. This one was a set-up by "The Falcon" and the entire Eagle Force squad gets taken out by poisonous darts. I don't see many poison dart fights in a brothel. Really gets the old pecker limp. From there, El Diablo's crew takes Eagle Force to the Death Camp Colombia where they are beaten and locked in a cell. It's just a matter of time before Vic breaks out, this time easily just reaching through the bars and squeezing a guard's face. From there it's disarm the troops time, kill them all and release the prisoners. They have a massive firefight with AK-47s and grenades and eventually El Diablo and that bloody vile henchman Pizarro die. Oh and Jameson dies too. Because he has to, right? 

Much like the first book, Schmidt injects a ton of high-paced action. That's what I love about this series thus far. It's just firefight after firefight with some backstory and well developed villains. Unlike an 'M.I.A. Hunter' book for example, these go beyond just search and rescue. Kudos to creating battles on the beach, at airports, in brothels and, of course, for delivering our heroes out of the bloody pits of in the arms of victory. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eagle Force #01 - Contract for Slaughter

Author Dan Schmidt has contributed immensely to the 'Executioner' and 'Super Bolan' series of books. Along with a few stand alone titles he was also the creator of a nine book series known as 'Eagle Force'. This team based series got a bit of a late start, originating in 1989, as opposed to lots of teams that had solid bibliographies by this point in time. Nonetheless, it's four guys heavily armed. The first book, "Contract for Slaughter", kicks it off in grand fashion.

While this book definitely has a plot, you can sense with only 159 pages that this one is really just the fleshing out process. Like a lot of these team based books this one goes through the recruitment phase. This is where the men compare sizes, review their badges and ribbons and make sure that all of them know which end of the barrel to point. We get the hard-nosed Vic Gabriel as the leader and main character. He's a Vietnam vet who spent some additional time as a free lance CIA assassin. Now a days he's retired and soaking up the sun of Florida on his boat. However, catching fish just isn't firing up the furnace like it used to. Gabriel needs to get back to the killing. Lucky for him a guy named Milton shows up with a story to tell.

Milton is the stereotypical wealthy guy with the spoiled daughter. Turns out the daughter has been kidnapped by an Islamic terrorist group called "The Sword of Islam". They are holed up in Tunis and waiting for some ransom money from him. Milton knows some CIA guys who turn him onto Gabriel. There's really an intricate backstory as to why they turn him onto Gabriel but I'm not gonna rattle that cage too much here. Milton throws his case at Gabriel and it's a reason for the old dog to rejoin the fight. 

Now comes the "recruitment" portion that takes up the majority of the book. Gabriel goes out and puts the old band back together. He starts with grabbing Dillinger. His specialty is Ninja knives and two Colt .45s. Dillinger is wasting away these days as a gumshoe and fairly happy to join the band. Next is Simms, a martial arts master who plays a mean M-16. He's in debt and owes everybody and their mother. Once Gabriel mentions Milton is paying 50K a head, Simms is down for it. The last one is a tough Dutchman named Boolewarke, who's in the middle of his own war in North Africa when the gang comes calling. He has a slight beef with Simms, but joins the ranks. The team's all here.

As Eagle Force travels to the ransom location the author throws some flashback sequences at us in all italics that's really hard on the eyes. But these are great backstories that show how Gabriel was raised by his Green Beret father. We also get a look at his weak brother. There's the history of why the CIA is interested in Gabriel's current whereabouts, but that's major spoilers that we will detour around. The history is really important and probably a "mythology" that will backbone the series in the future.

The final portion of the book is a glorious firefight between Eagle Force and "The Sword of Islam" cronies. There's some flamethrower action, a ton of explosives and the familiar barking of M-16s. The end was really a curveball out of left field. Definitely a surprise sprung by the author. I loved it. The end of the book gives a preview of the next volume, "Death Camp Colombia". Great book, great start to the series.