Showing posts with label Jan Stacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jan Stacy. Show all posts

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Doomsday Warrior #01 - Doomsday Warrior

Jan Stacy (The Last Ranger) and Ryder Syvertsen (C.A.D.S.) originally met in the 1960s at Washington Square Park in New York City. Caught up in the beatnik cultural movement, the lifelong friends began swapping story and book ideas as well as songs. After working together on two non-fiction novels, Great Book of Movie Monsters (1983) and Great Book of Movie Villains (1984), the two collaborated on a post-apocalyptic series titled Doomsday Warrior under the pseudonym of Ryder Stacy. The series was published by Zebra and ran for a total of 19 installments between 1984 through 1991. The first four novels, Doomsday Warrior, Red America, The Last American and Bloody America were authored by both Stacy and Syvertsen. The remainder of the series was penned solely by Syvertsen. My review is for the series' debut, Doomsday Warrior.

The first installment is set in the year of 2089 where most of the world is either controlled by the Soviet Union or in a widely contested battle with the communist country. Most of the U.S. was decimated by nuclear bombs and the survivors maintain a meager living either as slaves or wretched scavengers that have succumbed to radiation's side-effects. With the nuclear attack occurring in 1984, the book's characters are all second to third generation survivors, a unique approach that mirrors another popular doomsday series, Deathlands.

The series stars Ted Rockson, an action-oriented adventurer that leads an American resistance group called the American Free Cities. While most of the U.S. is controlled and enslaved by the Soviet Union, underground cities still remain that are free and liberated from communist control. Rockson resides in Century City, an expansive free society that exists under a section of Colorado's Rocky Mountains (similar to Jan Stacy's character Martin Stone in The Last Ranger). Rockson's role is to lead reconnaissance patrols on missions to discover new supplies, weapons and enemy patrols. It's during one of these missions that readers are first introduced to Rockson and his Firefighter Team.

After blowing up a large bridge and a number of Soviet personnel carriers, Rockson's team comes under heavy fire from communist forces. After numerous casualties, the team retreats back to Century City to formulate a new plan of attack. The intense battle is reported back to three Soviet leaders – Killov, Zhabnov and Vassily. The trio, who compete for political power, begin an expeditionary patrol to find more resistance fighters. After locating a few underground cities, the Soviets are able to capture a number of American prisoners. Using an advanced technology called a Mind Breaker, the Soviets are able to pull pertinent information from American prisoners. Soon, the captives begin revealing locations of more underground cities that the Soviets hope to nuke.

The first 189 pages of Doomsday Warrior is clearly a debut novel that focuses on Rockson's attempts to break into a Soviet stronghold in Denver to rescue prisoners. His mission is to retrieve the captives, destroy the Mind Breaker units and prevent the Soviets from gaining the location of Century City. It's a riveting, explosive narrative that rivals and exceeds most of the 1980s post-apocalyptic novels (Wasteworld, Deathlands, Survivalist, Phoenix, Outrider, etc.). While that was enjoyable, the logic behind the book's second half is puzzling.

It is immediately clear that a new book begins at page 189. At 347 total pages, one would think Zebra would have capitalized on this and released the book's second half as second installment. These books were retailing for $2.95 each, essentially Zebra would have been doubling their money from avid consumers. Regardless of the publisher's marketing strategy, Doomsday Warrior's second narrative explores Rockson's attempts to locate a technologically advanced race in America's Pacific Northwest region.

The narrative begins with an expeditionary unit returning to Century City to report a strange mutant male they found near the Pacific coast line. This area remains vastly unexplored and the team was surprised to find people, evolved animals and a swath of jungle and wilderness that remains nearly intact despite the Soviet Union's devastating nuclear attack. Rockson, hoping to journey even further than the former team, recruits three men to assist him in exploring this new, untapped resource.

Stacy and Syvertsen really hit their stride in this second story arc. The narrative finds the crew battling mutant monsters, deadly quicksand, Soviet KGB forces and mutant, Neanderthal men. The team's exploration of a shopping mall was extremely enjoyable with just the right amount of humor to keep me laughing throughout. While the military style tactics utilized in the book's opening narrative are missing, Doomsday Warrior's second half is surprisingly far superior. The epic adventure, fast-paced writing, character development and action was absolutely top-notch.

The Doomsday Warrior series is off to a tremendous start with this rock-solid debut installment. As the series continues, I understand the quality begins to decline. However, knowing what the future holds for the series doesn't spoil the fun of this early volume. If you read nothing else by Stacy or Syvertsen, at least sample this novel. I think it represents everything that fans and readers loved about 1980s post-apocalyptic pop-culture. Recommended.

Buy a copy of Doomsday Warrior HERE

Paperback Warrior Unmasking – Jan Stacy’s End of the World

Beginning in 1986, Popular Library published a 10-book series of men's action-adventure novels titled The Last Ranger. It catered to pop-culture's fascination with the post-apocalypse and was fueled by blockbuster films like Mad Max and The Road Warrior. The books starred a lone hero named Martin Stone, a rugged journeyman searching for his sister after a Soviet nuclear attack destroyed most of North America. The over-the-top action featured zany villains, beautiful women, mutants and monsters all competing for authority in American's wastelands. Each novel of this enjoyable series is credited to an author named Craig Sargent. A deep dive online reveals that Sargent was actually Jan Stacy, a rather unknown author that contributed to other post-apocalyptic novels including Doomsday Warrior and C.A.D.S.

Unfortunately, Jan Stacy died in 1989 and his life has remained a mystery to readers, fans and scholars....until now. Paperback Warrior was able to locate Jan Stacy's only known living relative, his stepbrother Samuel Claiborne. In a lengthy interview, Paperback Warrior was able to piece together Stacy's short but remarkable life including his inspiration for writing, his fascination with doomsday fiction and his talented musicianship. Our latest Unmasking article hopes to answer questions that have been posed for decades about this mysterious author.

The end of the world leads us to the beginning...

Left: Jan Stacy / Right: Samuel Claiborne
Jan Stacy was born in New York City in 1948 and grew up during the “duck and cover” time-frame of Post War hysteria between the communist Soviet Union and the U.S., an era that reached a fevered pitch during 1962's Cuban Missile Crisis. Stacy was just a teenager when his father succumbed to alcoholism. His death eventually led to Stacy's dependence on heroin as a teenager. To break the addiction, his mother sent him to Africa to reside with his uncle, an ambassador. As a testament to overcoming drug addiction, Stacy later started a drug rehab program for teens called Encounter.

After attending the liberal arts college Sarah Lawrence, Stacy found himself as a mainstay in the beatnik culture surrounding New York City's Washington Square Park. It's here that Stacy began his artistic and politically charged endeavors.

“Jan began as a folk singer in Washington Square and it was like a really big network with people like Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. This hippie culture is where Jan's artwork and his music came from despite the masculine novels that he would later write. Jan's mother was extremely involved in the War Resisters League and worked a lot in The Village counseling young people on how to avoid the Vietnam War draft. I haven't been able to locate it but there is a photo somewhere of Jan burning his draft card in Washington Square in 1966,” explained Claiborne.

In addition to music, the early 1970s found Stacy exploring Xerox Artwork, an artistic trend that had become a staple in the punk music scene.

Claiborne recalls, “I can remember Jan and I would cut the labels off of Campbell's soup cans and he would make these custom labels with odd artwork and put them on the cans. It became a huge hit and Jan would sell them on the street. Campbell's threatened to sue Jan for $16-million over it so he stopped. Later, Jan opened an art gallery in Soho called Fear of Art and it was just around the corner from Talking Heads' singer-songwriter David Byrne. We used to always think that Byrne got the inspiration for the album Fear of Music from Jan's Fear of Art gallery,”

It was in Washington Square that Stacy met his longtime writing partner, Ryder Syvertsen. After Stacy obtained a job working at the New York Times' Classified Advertising Department, both Stacy and Syvertsen began writing music with Claiborne and coming up with book and story ideas. In 1983, the two collaborated on a non-fiction book titled Great Books of Movie Monsters, published by Columbus Books. The two followed a year later with the Great Book of Movie Villains. In 1984, Stacy produced his first solo book titled Rockin' Reels: An Illustrated History of Rock and Roll Movies.

“Jan loved pulp and movie monsters and we shot a music video involving monsters and quite possibly the most cheesy stop-action movie monster of all-time. We loved the cheesy movies where you can practically see the strings. We did band rehearsals every Saturday and then that afternoon we would watch Kung Fu double-features. We would rehearse, then watch 4-hours of Kung Fu movies and then go smoke pot. But Jan loved horror movies and was a fan of Night of the Living Dead,” explained Claiborne.

Beginning in 1984, Stacy and Syvertsen collaborated on a post-apocalyptic series titled Doomsday Warrior under the pseudonym Ryder Stacy. The eponymous first novel is set in the year of 2089 where most of the world is either controlled by the Soviet Union or in a widely contested battle with the communist country. Most of the U.S. was decimated by nuclear bombs and the survivors maintain a meager living either as slaves or wretched scavengers who have succumbed to radiation's side-effects. The series was published by Zebra and ran for a total of 19 installments between 1984 through 1991. The first four novels, Doomsday Warrior, Red America, The Last American and Bloody America were authored by both Stacy and Syvertsen. The remainder of the series was penned solely by Syvertsen.

In 1985, another post-apocalyptic series emerged from Zebra titled C.A.D.S. (Computerized Attack Defense System). It also ran from 1984 through 1991 and consisted of 12 total novels. The house name given was John Sievert but this was a combination of different authors. The first novel, Nuke First Strike, was authored by both Jan Stacy and Ryder Syvertsen. Installments 2-8 were penned solely by Syvertsen with books 9-12 authored by David Alexander (Phoenix).

Jan Stacy's most prominent literary work would emerge in 1986. The Last Ranger series was published by Popular Library and ran for 10 total installments through 1989 (and ultimately Jan's death). The series protagonist, Martin Stone, is introduced to readers as an athletic, cocky teen who defies his father, a stern and conservative military leader. When the Soviet Union begins a nuclear assault on the U.S., Stone and his family retreat to an underground mountain fortress where Stone's father teaches him survival, martial arts and weapons for a number of years. Once his father dies, Stone emerges from the compound only to witness his mother being murdered and his sister abducted. The monomyth series emphasizes Stone's struggles with authority as he searches the wasteland for his sister. It was Stacy's third consecutive post-apocalyptic series of novels, a trend that may have been formulating at a young age.

“The doomsday thing was really a culmination of things. Jan growing up in the 1960s during the Cold War scare. His mom was Jewish and you have to remember that the European Jewish attitude is that God is out to get them. The idea that you just can't rely on anything was prevalent. Think of Woody Allen, a paranoid guy who thought the world was out to get him. Jan was like that and he loved Doctor Strangelove [1964 black comedy film]. Jan and his mom were also at odds and had a strained relationship. She was a committed pacifist and I think sometimes Jan would write these macho books as a way of defying her,” says Claiborne.

The Last Ranger's Martin Stone paralleled Stacy's own life in many ways. Stacy's strained relationship with his alcoholic father and his avoidance of the Vietnam War mirror events in the series self-titled debut. As the series continues, Native American mysticism is introduced as well as Stone's fighting skills in the martial arts.

“When Jan went to Africa to break his heroin addiction, he brought back these gorgeous African spears. I still have one of them. He also brought back a lot of Asian martial arts stuff. Jan was a great martial artist. He studied Chi Kung, Ba Gua, Hsing Yi and Tai Chi. Jan moved Chi around instead of just using brute strength. He was interested in internal martial arts. He also boxed at the famed Wu Tang Physical Culture Association. It was this crazy squatter place in The Village ran by Frank ‘The Snake’ Allen. Jan started training there and was a really short, fast wiry martial artist,” explained Claiborne.

Stacy was in a lot of musical acts from 1978-1988 and when he was age 29 he asked the younger Claiborne to join his band. The two formed a trio with Peter Ford called Things Fall Apart, which Stacy named after the novel by Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart existed from 1983 to 1987 and had started to find their own sound and audience. The act began opening on Saturday nights at the famed CBGB club in New York City. Just as the band had begun making strides, Stacy surprisingly told the members he didn't want to play gigs anymore.

Left to Right: Samuel Claiborne, Peter Ford, Jan Stacy
Photo Credit: Peter Ford
Claiborne said, “I can remember Jan acting different by 1987. He stopped sharing his drinks or food with me and told me to start rolling my own. That sort of thing. When he said he didn't want to gig any longer we sort of became apart for a couple of years. I remember my daughter being born in May of 1989 and seeing Jan's mother at the hospital. I told her I had ran into Jan a little while back and he looked like death. She got so upset and I was later told that Jan had tested HIV-positive, but I knew right then he had AIDS. Jan was a bi-sexual in New York City and at the time they didn't know how to treat it. They tried AZT on him but Jan just couldn't tolerate the drug.”

In February of 1989, Zebra published the only stand-alone novel Jan Stacy wrote, a vigilante novel called Body Smasher. Claiborne explains the idea behind the novel:

“The book's cover features the real-life professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano. Jan got to meet the wrestler and talk to him about the book. The idea was the book was going to tie into a wrestling promotion. It was a whole cross marketing idea that was to be a successful series of books.”

Stacy's later installments of The Last Ranger were written in a dark, negative tone with Martin Stone facing extreme adversity. In 1988's The Damned Disciples, the series' ninth novel, Stone is enslaved by a religious cult, drugged and forced to stir an enormous pot containing a sedative called Golden Nectar for weeks. I think this novel best orchestrates Stacy's endless cycle of AIDS medications. His body's resistance to AZT could have been Stone's own resistance to the forced drugs provided by his jailer. Claiborne seems to think this was a case of life imitating art. In fact, Stacy may have been on his deathbed when he authored The Last Ranger series finale, aptly titled Is This The End?

Claiborne remembers Stacy's last days:

“Jan was still working at the New York Times when he got sick. I am speculating that he made about $5K per book for the adventure novels. St. Martin's Press was involved with the non-fiction books and they paid more. Jan also had received an advance on a memoir he was going to write about getting off heroin. But Jan did what a lot of people did with AIDS and just stayed distant. Didn't want to hang out. Didn't want to talk about AIDS or anything. I remember calling Ryder Syvertsen maybe in July or August of 1989 and he told me if I wanted to see Jan to go to the Cabrini Medical Center in New York City because he was in a coma. One of Jan's martial arts teachers, Mr. Chen, was this unbelievable World War 2 veteran and he gave Jan some Chi and was able to wake him up from the coma. Jan left the hospital and wanted to go to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to live with his mother and my father. I drove him up in a Dodge Astro Van and I remember he was so small at the time and he had difficulty getting up the steps. We got to the house and Jan was reserved. He motioned for me to come over and he told me he loved me. That was a rare thing and he told me he didn't want to die. His health got really bad at the house and my father and his mother put him back in the hospital where he eventually succumbed to his illness.”

Stone suddenly knew he'd be seeing his mother and father again real soon. Well, that would be nice. He wondered in a strangely calm way within the storm of his fear just what it would be like to die. And suddenly he wished with a burst of incredible force that surged through his body right up from the depths of his libido that he could get laid once more before he died. - Excerpt from Is This The End?

Jan Stacy Bibliography:


Great Book of Movie Monsters (1983) w/Ryder Syvertsen
Great Book of Movie Villains (1984) w/ Ryder Syvertsen
Rockin' Reels: An Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (1984)

Body Smasher #1: Body Smasher
Body Smasher #2: Death March
Doomsday Warrior #1: Doomsday Warrior (1984) w/Ryder Syvertsen
Doomsday Warrior #2: Red America (1984) w/Ryder Syvertsen
Doomsday Warrior #3: The Last America (1984) w/Ryder Syvertsen
Doomsday Warrior #4: Bloody America (1985) w/Ryder Syvertsen
C.A.D.S. #1: Nuke First Strike (1985) w/Ryder Syvertsen
Last Ranger #1: Last Ranger (1986)
Last Ranger #2: Savage Stronghold (1986)
Last Ranger #3: Madman's Mansion (1986)
Last Ranger #4: Rabid Brigadier (1987)
Last Ranger #5: War Weapons (1987)
Last Ranger #6: The Warlord's Revenge (1988)
Last Ranger #7: The Vile Village (1988)
Last Ranger #8: The Cutthroat Cannibals (1988)
Last Ranger #9: The Damned Disciples (1988)
Last Ranger #10: Is This The End? (1989)

Buy a copy of The Last Ranger HERE

Monday, April 6, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 38

Episode 38 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast presents a feature on the life and work of post-apocalyptic fiction author Jan Stacy including a review of the first installment in his Doomsday Warrior series. We also discuss some recent purchases as well as a review of the Harry Whittington classic, A Night for Screaming. Please check us out on any podcast app, streaming below or direct download HERE

Listen to "Episode 38 - Jan Stacy and the End of the World" on Spreaker.

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?

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.

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

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.

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.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Last Ranger #04 - Rabid Brigadier

"The Rabid Brigadier" from Craig Sargent, real name Jan Stacy, continues the wasteland survival tale of the badass, barrel-chested Martin Stone. The book released in 1987 by Popular Library and is the fourth of ten books that fall under the 'The Last Ranger' series. Will it live up to the high-octane thrill ride of the first three entries? 

By 1987 Jan Stacy had completed the first four books of the 'Doomsday Warrior' series, co-written by John Sievert, and had 'The Last Ranger' series on his plate full-time by '87. Sadly, Stacy died from the AIDS virus in 1989 and I often wonder if his diagnosis this late may have had some impact on his writing style. This book is shoddily crafted and doesn't resonate with the same attention to detail that the series' first entries had. While the book is entertaining and continues the epic journey of Martin Stone, it leaves the reader with wanting a bit more out of this by book four. 

The novel picks up right after the events of the third book - remember dwarves, big Colorado fortress, huge explosion and the truckload of whores? Yeah, Stone gets buried in an avalanche of debris and wakes up to bodies everywhere. He gets his bearings, waylays some biker scum and finds his dog Excalibur. 
An injured water-logged Stone gets picked up by a new military force called N.A.A. - New American Army. They have little patches on their uniforms of two M-16s crossing the US flag that notates they are mutant killing baddies off to cleanse the world and create a new order. Stone befriends them at first and later finds they are indeed fascist bullies controlled by an arch enemy in the making called General Patton III. 

Stone gets invited to their camp and immediately gets tended to his groin by nurse Elizabeth. You can pretty much gather that any female characters that show up in 'The Last Ranger' series is really just fodder for a page or two of lovemaking. After that, Stone is all better and physically fit to join Patton's ranks as Major. But it doesn't last long as Stone eventually finds that Patton is in league with the devil and hopes to baptize the world with nuclear fire - three nuclear warhead launch sites are revealed. Stone stops one missile from being detonated by shooting it out of the sky with an anti-aircraft rocket. But, the General escapes and Stone sets out with his new buddies and three tanks. 

Unfortunately, this book really just doesn't do a whole lot overall. Stacy spends a big part of the beginning just showing us Stone nearly drowning and then ultimately being rescued. There's the whole Patton III character but he's rather one-dimensional. The character has no prior military experience, so there's not much to elaborate on in terms of depth or expansion. But, the end promises we haven't seen the end of this maniacal general. End result - obligatory read if you are doing the series chronologically. Otherwise, it's probably a skip on repeated reads.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Last Ranger #03 - Madman's Mansion

"The Madman's Mansion" is the third entry of this post-apocalyptic series of bullets and bravado. This was released in 1986 via Popular Library among the hysteria of the pending nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Those of you that have read my previous blog entries have already read my review of the first two books of this series. The premise is pretty simple - Stone was trained by his now deceased father, a highly experienced US Army Ranger. Stone's mother died in a post-nuclear battle with marauders and his sister was kidnapped. Stone was left with a pit bull named Excalibur, enough firepower and ammo to take out North Korea and a purpose to locate his sister. Along with the guns, martial arts training and "survival" education is a motorcyle that is armed with missiles. 'Streethawk', anyone?

I really enjoyed the first two issues of the series. "Madman's Mansion" is a continuation of the story that book two, "Savage Stronghold", presented. Stone's sister April has been kidnapped by a wheelchair bound dwarf and taken to a Colorado ski-resort that is filled with baddies. These aren't just your normal 'Mad Max'' hooligans, instead these are the baddest of the bad that are up to all kinds of tom foolery. This resort is filled with sex, bondage, slaves, drugs, gambling and gladiator bouts.

The beginning of the book gives us a worn out Stone on his way back to his secret mountainside fortress to sleep, eat and reload. From there, he travels by motorcycle through back roads of Colorado wilderness on a trek to the ski resort. He stops for the night in a small town and engages in the obligatory game of cards that results in a few dead cheaters and a friendship with a traveling salesman named Kennedy. He explains to Kennedy that he is going to the resort and of course Kennedy is going there too. Apparently this traveling vagabond puts on a Christmas show in the resort every year and he can get Stone inside using a disguise. I am just guessing here...but baddies that are engaging in gambling, snorting and humping debauchery probably won't take the time to watch Mr. Kennedy's Christmas play...but maybe that is just foolish thinking. 

Once inside Stone penetrates a blonde bombshell in Chapter Fifteen and finds his sister being sold into sex slavery. He bids on her and wins but soon the disguise fails and the dwarf captures Stone. He then forces our hero into a water filled dungeon filled with snakes, giant roaches and killer rats. Conan couldn't escape this kind of nonsense, but Stone manages to free himself. The book comes to an abrupt end as Stone is left with a truckload of whores while Kennedy and April are somewhere in the vast wilderness waiting for Stone to rescue them in book four.

Jan Stacy is clearly having a ton of fun writing this stuff. His enjoyment absolutely conveys to the reader. "The Madman's Mansion" is the perfect example of why this sub-genre of action and adventure is so appealing. This post-nuke style is wide open and allows the author complete freedom to just run wild with it. No rules, regulations or restraints. This book is an absolute blast. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Last Ranger 01 - The Last Ranger

The Last Ranger series was published in 1986 through Popular Library. As a post-apocalyptic series, it's a monomyth as protagonist Martin Stone roams the wastelands of America searching for his missing sister April. The series ran a total of ten installments from 1986 through 1989 and was authored by Jan Stacy using the pseudonym Craig Sargent. Some may remember Stacy as one-half of the duo that contributed to the more popular Doomsday Warrior series of post-apocalyptic adventures. 

The opening chapters of this eponymous Last Ranger debut centers around Major Clayton Stone, the father of series hero Martin Stone. The author presents Clayton's early life as well as his exploits as an Army Ranger in Vietnam. Clayton is described as a menacing, mountain of a man, a war hero and survivalist. In fear of the looming Soviet threat (an 80s staple in pop-culture), Clayton creates an enormous fallout shelter inside of a Colorado mountain range,  supplying it with decades of power, food, water and every type of military weapon conceived by man.

Martin Stone is the exact opposite of his father. Before the inevitable nuclear attack, Stone marched in peace rallies, maintained many girlfriends and his claim to fame was being the captain of his school's swim team. Martin Stone was the stereotypical precursor to an ivy school, sweater-wearing yuppy. The two often disagreed on a variety of topics and, in 1989, come to blows after Clayton forces the family into the Colorado shelter before the Soviets bomb America into the stone ages. Father knows best indeed.

The family live in the fallout shelter for about a decade and Clayton teaches his son the tactics to stay alive. For years the two train in martial arts, explosives, various shooting styles and hundreds of different weapons from turret styled machine guns to revolvers and rifles. Clayton turns his son into Rambo while mom and sister serve as quiet spectators.

As the first half of the narrative closes, Clayton dies of a heart attack. Stone dismisses years of training and decides to leave the safety of the shelter. Using an RV, and carrying only a shotgun, Stone and his mother and sister journey into the desert where they are immediately mauled by biker gangs. Apparently, the 80s vision of apocalypse always features the most vial criminal element riding a motorcycle. Thus the enemy of Stone is a moto-psycho group called Hell's Guardians. After killing Stone's mom, the bikers kidnap his sister April and leave Stone broken and battered in the desert.

The novel's second half premise begins with Stone being rescued by Native Americans. Apparently they have returned to the ways of the land, hunting animals and worshiping Earth spirits. In a scene taken right out of a Man Called Horse, Stone is hefted up on hooks through his chest and suspended in mid-air for the night. This painful journey into the spirit world deems Stone a true warrior. He beds a beautiful tribe chick and then returns to his shelter to arm himself for war; a motorcycle with a .50 caliber machine gun turret on handlebars and enough guns and ammo to supply Israel for a weekend.

I thought this was a solid series debut. Clayton's introduction at the beginning was necessary to validate Stone's ascension as the heir apparent. I think the transition from chump to champ was an entertaining read and the eventual story-line of April's disappearance is a good through-story that treads through each of the series' installments. As the series progresses, more of the story will begin to parallel Jan Stacy's own life. You can learn more on author Jan Stacy in our Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 38 HERE

Buy a copy of the Last Ranger debut HERE.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Last Ranger #02 - The Savage Stronghold

The 80s action genre was saturated with post-apocalyptic media. In my youth, I watched a great deal of these movies like the 'Mad Max' trilogy, 'Def-Con 4', 'Red Dawn', etc. The fiction that I normally sunk my teeth into were more horror related, things like Stephen King's 'The Stand' and Robert R. McCammon's 'Swan Song'. I did tend to read a few of the action adventure novels of this theme, but there just seemed to be so much readily available. I remember seeing entries like 'Endworld', 'Deathlands' and 'Out Of The Ashes' (I did enjoy William Johnstone's 'Mountain Man' series) and it seemed appealing, but I was really sort of burned out on those themes by the mid 90s. A few years ago it started all over again, yet more zombie inspired than anything else.

"The Savage Stronghold" is the second entry in the popular post-apocalyptic series 'The Last Ranger'. This came out in 1986 through Popular Library, a subsidiary of Warner Books. The author 's name on the cover is Craig Sargent, but in reality this was Jan Stacy. The author wrote several other books like this - 'Doomsday Warrior' and 'C.A.D.S.' among others. I've haven't had the opportunity to track down any other books in this particular series, so "Savage Stronghold" is my first venture in 'The Last Ranger' books. After devouring this volume in less than two days I'm on the hunt for the other nine titles.

The book starts with a bang. We are introduced to the series' main character Martin Stone (of course his name is Stone!), his dog Excalibur and an armory fitted Harley Davidson. Stone is on a long stretch of highway in Colorado and runs into a camp of cannibals. His choice is to pay to proceed through this section of Colorado or simply mow them down with the handlebar mounted .50 caliber machine gun he is packing. Stone opts for gunfire and 'The Savage Stronghold' is off to a slobberknocker start.

In flashback scenes of the first book, America was nuked by the Soviet Union and what's left is simply a wasteland akin to Judge Dredd. I believe Stone's parents and sisters were living in a cave for about five years. I'm not sure if Stone was an Army Ranger or what the emphasis is on 'The Last Ranger' bit of the series. I was never able to tell from this particular book what Stone's background was before the bombs. He lived in the cave and at some point a motorcycle gang of thugs called The Guardians Of Hell killed his family and kidnapped his sister. He fought the gang in Denver and wiped out a good portion of their headquarters before the leader, Straight, left town with Stone's sister. Now he is patrolling the country in search for her and righting wrongs. Keep it simple stupid.

Stone wanders into Pueblo, Colorado and discovers a town that has been taken over by a bizarre church. The leader called The New Prophet tortures, crucifies and executes anyone who is different. Of course, Stone faces off with him, the Guardians Of Hell and Straight in a battle to free his kidnapped sister. This book was extremely exciting, well-written and just a whole lot of senseless fun. I've read this sort of story a half dozen times, from Judge Dredd to the various spaghetti westerns. It's the "town under seige" formula - a town is controlled by a ruthless gang, criminal land baron or some sort of backwoods law enforcement. 'The Savage Stronghold' is really no different yet it is written with enough gunpowder and grit to make it interesting. The profanity is thick, the violence is above average and there is a little bit of a love interest thrown in for good measure. If you love the post-nuke stuff like I do...put this one on the must read list.

Buy a copy of this book HERE