Showing posts with label Paperback Warrior Unmasking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paperback Warrior Unmasking. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Hot Summer Night and the Unmasking of Elston Barrett

There’s nothing about this 1980 paperback that’s appealing at first glance. The cover photo is embarrassingly bad. A mystifying font choice makes the title, Hot Summer Night, almost unreadable. And the author, Elston Barrett, isn’t a name anyone knows. Is this a horror novel? A carnival thriller? Why would anyone buy this low-budget book and read it?

Actually, I searched rather hard to find a copy of this paperback. I did this because I have a theory about the identity of the author that I wanted to put to the test. I review the book below but first I want to attempt to answer the question:

Who the Hell was Elston Barrett?

I believe that Elston Barrett was most likely a pseudonym. I could find no record of any other novels published under that name. Unfortunately, Leisure Books never bothered to register the book with the U.S. Copyright Office, so that’s no help.

My theory - and I could be wrong - is that Hot Summer Night was actually written by Frank E. Smith (1919-1984), better known to Paperback Warrior readers as Fawcett Gold Medal and Manhunt crime fiction author Jonathan Craig. Here’s my circumstantial case:

In the 1950s, Smith’s literary agent was a guy named Scott Meredith whose clients were the top crime fiction guys at the time (Lawrence Block, Richard Deming, Donald Westlake, etc.). Meredith’s stable of authors also served as the farm team who wrote hardboiled stories for Manhunt where Smith - as Jonathan Craig - contributed a ton of stories.

The success of Manhunt spawned a bunch of other hardboiled crime digest imitators, including Hunted and Pursuit. During the years 1954 through 1956, Smith sold six stories to Hunted and Pursuit that were published under the name Elston Barrett. These would have been logical stories for the Jonathan Craig pen-name, but Smith probably didn’t want to piss off Manhunt who was providing him with a nice living at the time.

During the 1970s, Smith was living in Florida and authoring Gothic novels under the name Jennifer Hale until his death in 1984. If I’m right and Smith was the real author of 1980’s Hot Summer Night, it would have been his last published novel.

Not convinced? Here’s some more data points:

The publisher of Hot Summer Night was Leisure Books, founded in 1957 by a guy named Harry Shorten who retired in 1982. Shorten also oversaw a sleaze paperback publishing house called Midwood Books that drew upon writers represented by Scott Meredith to write erotic novels in the 1950s and 1960s. As such, it stands to reason that Smith and Shorten would have known each other for decades before Shorten bought and published Smith’s final book in 1980.

There are other things in Hot Summer Night where Smith left his fingerprints behind. First, the book takes place in 1932 in Missouri - not a typical year for a 1980 thriller to take place. It was, however, a year Smith would have remembered from his own boyhood in Missouri where his family relocated during the Great Depression. It stands to reason that Smith was drawing from his memories of struggling carnivals limping through Missouri at the time. I think the Missouri 1932 setting strongly implicates Smith as the author.

I’ll double-down and further guess that Hot Summer Night was likely a Frank E. Smith trunk novel that he probably wrote, but didn’t sell, many years before it’s 1980 publication. He probably blew the dust off the old manuscript, did some re-editing, and sold it for a couple grand to his old friend at Leisure Books while both men were at the end of their careers. The low-end paperback house slapped a crummy cover on the novel, sold a couple thousand copies, and the world forgot the paperback ever existed. The book does not appear in any bibliography of Smith’s body of work.

Anyway, that’s my theory. I could be wrong, but it makes sense to me.


The year is 1932, and the Great Stratton Shows traveling carnival has fallen on hard times. General Manager Brady Stratton is fighting to keep his family business afloat amid competitive pressures and the economic downturn sparked by the Great Depression. The only hope of solvency is winning the contract to provide the attractions for the Cullis County Fair, and Brady has only ten days to raise $10,000 for the participation fee.

There are a lot of plot threads in Hot Summer Night, all of which are quite compelling:

 - A black mechanic for the carnival is run off the road by rednecks for allowing a white female carny to ride in the front seat with him. The ensuing fistfight leaves one of the townies seriously injured and the rowdies are looking for revenge.

- Cindy Stratton, the little sister of the family, has a daredevil act where she dives sixty feet down into four feet of water. Meanwhile, she’s facing the distraction of a rich boyfriend from Kansas City. Evidently, a dive that high requires some precision and concentration. Who knew?

- Little brother Tommy Stratton rides loops on his motorcycle in the Globe of Death. He’s jeopardizing the carnival’s operations by making time with a jailbait girl.

- There’s a maniac on the loose planting incendiary devices at carnival hoochie-coochie tents. The maniac is driven by religious outrage believing that the girly shows represent a modern-day Sodom that needs to be destroyed. Can the arsonist be stopped before he turns the canvas tents into a Hell-on-Earth?

- An ex-con one step ahead of the law sees the carnival as a perfect mark for a payroll heist. All he needs is an insider to make it happen.

- A deformed teenage girl is dropped off at the carnival by her family in hopes of finding her a spot in the freak show exhibit. Could this be the girl’s only hope of finding a real family who will love her for herself?

There’s a lot happening in this 240-page big-font paperback. To the author’s credit, the many story threads are all interesting and resolved quite nicely by the end. At times, it felt like a special, two-hour episode of the Love Boat, but I was never bored. Contrary to the dreadful cover art, Hot Summer Night isn’t a horror novel at all. Some of the subplots are very suspenseful, but I found it to be a very mainstream novel with a fascinating settling.

The author clearly took the time to learn about carnival culture and slang. Early in the paperback, he introduces the character of a female newspaper reporter doing a feature on the carnival. She serves as a proxy for the reader while getting up to speed on terms like mitt camp, madball, grab stand, ten-in-one, etc. Anyone who’s into carny stuff is really going to dig this book.

Hot Summer Night wasn’t a literary masterpiece, but it was an enjoyable look at a subculture most of us don’t get to see from the inside. Whether or not it was written by Frank E. Smith or not, it’s an easy recommendation if you can find a copy on-the-cheap. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Paperback Warrior Unmasking - Philip Race

In the Cutting Edge Books reprint of the 1959 paperback Killer Take All, readers learn that author Elmer Merle Parsons (1926-1970) was as untamed as the criminals he fictionally fabricated. Born in Pittsburgh, Parsons was first convicted of burglary and grand theft auto at the age of 23. After serving three years in prison, Parsons began passing stolen checks. His freedom was short-lived, and Parsons was sentenced to San Quentin Prison for five years. While inside, Parsons discovered a dexterous ability to write, becoming the editor of the prison newspaper and crafting his first novel, Self-Made Widow (1958), which he sold to Fawcett Gold Medal for $3,500 under the pseudonym Philip Race.

While in prison, Parsons authored two novels starring a craps dealer named Johnny Berlin – 1959's Killer Take All and 1960's Johnny Come Deadly (published by Hillman Books). Both were published under the pseudonym Philip Race. Using the name E.M. Parsons, the author wrote a suspenseful romance novel called Dark of Summer (1961) as well as three western originals – The Easy Gun (1970), Fargo (1968) and Texas Heller (1959). Later, the talented writer went to work for Hollywood, writing scripts for a number of television shows like Bonanza, The Dakotas, The Virginian and Sea Hunt. I've always enjoyed the proverbial “small town drifter” story, so the synopsis of Killer Take All peaked my interest.

Review: Killer Take All

Johnny Berlin flees the bright lights of Las Vegas due to a love gone bad. When readers first meet Berlin, he's driving a fog-shrouded highway in rural Oregon in an effort to start a new life in Portland. After becoming lost on the midnight highway, Berlin is aided by a man named Donetti who directs him to spend the night in a small town called McKaneville. Surprisingly, when Berlin rolls into the tiny hamlet, he discovers it's a booming lakeside village ripe with gambling clubs.

Parsons' novel puts Berlin back behind the craps table for a struggling club owner named Dan Gurion. After meeting an old flame, Berlin agrees to assist Gurion in an effort to rekindle the business and keep his new boss from being forced to join a pushy racket called the Gambler's Protective Association. With the mob running a number of gambling halls throughout the area, Gurion is one of the last few holdouts to join the association. Partnering with Berlin, Gurion goes against the grain to defy the odds and beat the rackets. But, when Berlin is nearly murdered and the premier head of the Protective Association is killed, things aren't quite as black and white as readers might think.

The first thing to know about Parsons' writing style is that he introduces over a dozen characters in the narrative's opening half. It's a large cast to contend with, a habit that threw me off of the author's similar novel, Dark of Summer. Both paperbacks feature lakeside communities that are mired in business transactions, lover quarrels and a penchant for violence. Dark of Summer was a dense romantic fling whereas Killer Take All is more of a violent crime-noir complete with painted ladies and jaded faces.

While Berlin isn't the stout heavyweight crime-fighter that readers typically associate with these types of stories, the vulnerable protagonist enhances the overall concept – a flawed human fighting a flawed system complete with flawed justice. Where the characters are sometimes subdued and emotionally wilted, it's the author's storytelling talents that truly blossom.

Parsons wasn’t a remarkable writer as his saturation of characters can, at times, make for a burdensome read. However, he's a solid writer with a knack for great stories. With just a handful of published novels in his career, Killer Take All's affordability as a used paperback and digital reprint is well worth the price of admission. You won't be disappointed.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Paperback Warrior Unmasking: Who Is Jack Baynes?

Jack Baynes was a pseudonym employed by Fawcett Crest for four paperback original crime novels starring Chicago private eye Morocco Jones published between 1957 and 1959. Recent eBook reprints of the novels brand the books as the War Against the Mafia series, a name that rings more than a few bells for us. Neither the original 1950s paperbacks or the 21st century eBook reprints answer the critical question:

Who the hell was Jack Baynes?

Bertram Baynes Fowler (1893-1981) was an editor and writer at the Christian Science Monitor with an interest in history and economics. He was also a popular public speaker on social science topics in the 1930s and 1940s. He wrote several non-fiction works advocating the formation of cooperative institutions such as credit unions and food co-ops as an alternative to the top-down approach of corporatism. Fowler viewed cooperative organizations as a way to split the difference between cutthroat capitalism and centralized government socialism at a time when America was struggling with those questions in the wake of the Great Depression and World War 2.

In the world of fiction, Fowler left only a few footprints behind. He sold two short stories to the pulps in 1936 using the pen name B.B. Fowler. In August 1936, Dime Mystery Magazine published his novelette School for Madness. He also delved into horror fiction with his story Huntress from Hell published in the October/November 1936 issue of Horror Stories magazine.

Diving into inconsequential paperback crime fiction during the late 1950s must have been a fun diversion for the writer, particularly with the commercial success Mickey Spillane was achieving at the time with his Mike Hammer stories. Recall that in the 1950s, paperback originals were lowbrow pop culture for the masses. As such, a writer and thinker whose ideas were often cited in economics journals would understandably want to publish his violent and tawdry fiction under the veil of anonymity that the Jack Baynes pseudonym provided Fowler.

The copyrights were never renewed on the Morocco Jones series which created an opportunity to bring these now public domain books back to digital life for an enterprising reprint house called Deerstalker Editions. The publisher is owned by Jean Marie Stine, a former editor at Leisure Books and assistant to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. On her blog, she says that she changed the titles of the Morocco Jones series because the originals “seem to have been created by an inattentive editor.”

The order and title variations of the Morocco Jones series are:

1. Meet Morocco Jones (1957). Reprinted as Morocco Jones and the Syndicate Hoods

2. Hand of the Mafia (1958). Reprinted as Hand of the Syndicate

3. The Peeping Tom Murders (1958). Reprinted as The Syndicate Murder Cult

4. The Case of the Golden Angel (1959). Reprinted as The Syndicate’s Golden Angel

Buy the books HERE

Friday, September 20, 2019

Paperback Warrior Unmasking: Mantee

I like boxing stories. I like Plantation Gothics. As such, I was excited to read “Mantee” by Robert J. Hensler from 1969. Based on the cover blurb, it’s about a black slave who becomes a boxing champion. Mandingo meets Rocky! What’s not too like?

Then I saw this posting on the Internet from the author’s son, Eric:

“My father wrote this book. He’s not proud of it or the other pulp he cranked out in the sixties but it kept food on the table for our little family. Before you judge too harshly, remember that somebody had to demean themselves to write this in the first place. Just a quick note to give a glimpse behind the curtain...”


At first this review/apology made me re-shelve the book. I read for entertainment and escapism, not to open the old wounds of a nice family’s shame. Upon further reflection, I needed to know if this book was something truly worth causing inter-generational embarrassment. Curiosity clawed at me every time I walked by my library. To be sure, plantation fiction was a salacious and tawdry sub-genre that leveraged America’s discomfort with topics like racism, inter-racial sex, and the repugnant stain of slavery on our nation’s past. However, I don’t think these books are racist. The slaves are almost always drawn in a sympathetic light, and their evil masters generally get their comeuppance in slave uprisings forming the novel’s climax.

I couldn’t find much info about the author, and my initial attempts to contact his son failed. I know Hensler wrote an innocuous-sounding book about Washington, D.C. during his career, but I was unable to identify any other pulp fiction bearing his name. None of the vintage fiction experts I consulted knew of the guy. If he wanted this chapter in his life to be forgotten, he’s done a fine job staying under the radar for the past 50 years.

Anyway, onto the plantation book:

“Mantee” takes place on Alabama’s 250 acre Rosebriar Plantation in 1859 - four long years before emancipation- where the slaves pick cotton and take whippings from the dysfunctional Darby family. The cast of characters is an array of stereotypes. Benson is the patriarch who rules his land with an iron fist. Evangeline is his compassionate abolitionist wife. Lance is the cruel heir who loves to order up whippings. Marlena is the horny daughter - physically excited watching the muscular black bodies suffer abuse.

On the slave side of the plantation, Mantee is the biggest, strongest, and most handsome of the indentured blacks on the property. The comely Marlena is hot-to-trot and fascinated by the idea that Mantee likely has an enormous dong. You can see where this is headed. There’s a whole mess of slaves who fill every archetype required by the genre, and Hessler wastes no words detailing the rape and torture of slaves in graphic detail. After awhile, these scenes became rather stomach-turning and I can only imagine that they served to pad the page count and thicken the paperback to a market-friendly length. The consensual and non-consensual sex scenes were extra pornographic and extra long - even compared to other plantation novels.

Accused of rape, Mantee becomes a runaway slave leaving his torturers behind. It is during his flight that he encounters a series of white saviors and eventually the sport of boxing. The fight scenes are absolutely fantastic and resemble early MMA in their brutality rather than the gloved Queensbury Rules we know today. Once the boxing story kicked in, the author really brings his A-game.

To be sure, “Mantee” is an imperfect novel. The author’s choice to write the dialog in a phonetic southern dialect wore thin pretty quickly. I would have also preferred more punches thrown and fewer girls deflowered along the way as the sex scenes became tiresome and repetitive. Nevertheless, the paperback never failed to hold my attention, and I mostly found myself enjoying Mantee’s adventures - vertical and horizontal. Plantation novels were written to be salacious, but these fictional dramatizations will inevitably bring readers greater empathy for the people forced to suffer through this shameful chapter of American history.

And that’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

After I completed the “Mantee” review above, I finally heard back from the author’s son, Eric Hensler. He reports that his dad is still around at age 86.

“Our family grew up everywhere. New York, California, Texas, New Mexico, Connecticut, and Florida,” Eric said. “Within those states, we lived in more cities than can be counted without aid from him which is, unfortunately, not to be had at this point.

The reason for all the moving around? “His primary career was in radio,” Eric explained . “He was, I suppose you might say, an itinerant DJ. Rarely staying at any one station for more than six months, full of a wanderlust insatiable. Or such was the case until the early 1970s. At that point, he attached himself to WSST in Largo, Florida and stayed for nearly 20 years. He rose through the ranks and for his second decade there, he was the general manager.”

“My father never held particular political positions or otherwise,” Eric said. “He was an experimental man and a pragmatic one at the same time. He wrote hippie-porn, plantation fiction, poetry, non-fiction and on and on it went. He has published well over 50 books but the difficulty lies in that he used many different pen names. So many, in fact, that I have done much hand-wringing in trying to compile a bibliography. He is still alive, but unfortunately, he has advanced dementia and is of little help in this regard.”

Eric pointed me in the direction of a 1977 Pocket Books novel titled “Washington, D.C.,” a title so generic that it’s hard to find much information about it. Eric explained that it was the only other work of fiction released using his real name. I did find a single online review of the book that described the novel as being about power, sex, and sixties-style revolutionaries who want to blow everything up but are too inept.

Eric explained that a lot of his dad’s books were published under pseudonyms, including “Robert Scott, R.J. Scott, Arjay Scott and so on.”

Bingo! This explains a lot.

There were a bunch of Bee-Line erotic novels written under the pen name of Arjay Scott that are clearly the work of Robert Hensler. They had lurid titles like “Circus of Flesh” and “Fornacation, Inc.” His novel “Diabolical Chain” features the tagline: “Hollywood Voluptuaries in an Orgy of Lust...and Blood!” Most of his Bee-Line porno books have non-descript covers with no art. However, his paperback “The Swapping Game” features an attractive photo cover with some decent graphic design.

My personal favorite of Hessler’s titles was “The 27-Foot Long Love Machine.” However, my enthusiasm was dampened when I learned that the Love Machine in question was a camper van. His erotic fiction work for Bee-Line explains the author’s comfort in writing long, graphic sex scenes in “Mantee.”

“All of the pulp of any ilk that he did publish was through his agent, a man who went by the name Jay Garon,” Eric said. “We heard his name and saw the checks all the time when I was a boy.” I learned that Garon, who died in 1995, represented several working authors of pulp fiction around that era, including Michael Avallone, author of the Ed Noon mystery series.

Eric has heard rumors that his mother may have a box of dusty old books from dad’s writing career. “I need simply to convince my mother to direct me to it. She, you see, is a devout Christian and wants nothing to do with them, but as he fades, she softens to anything to do with his life and history,” he said.

Like many senior citizens in his condition, Hensler has good days and bad days. Eric told his father about the upcoming Paperback Warrior feature, “I explained what was going on to my father and he smiled and said he would like to read it. He was clearly amused, at least for a few moments until slipping back into his unfortunate fog.”

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Paperback Warrior Unmasking: Interview with Ralph Hayes

At 91 years of age, Michigan author Ralph Hayes is still writing men's action-adventure novels. With a resume boasting nearly 100 books, he's experienced five fruitful decades of published work in the US, UK, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Italy. At the time of this writing, Hayes has just released his newest novel, a gritty western titled “Wanted: Dead or Alive” for Black Horse, his publisher of the last 10 years.

In a series of letters, Paperback Warrior had the opportunity to interview the living legend about his career, his paperbacks and what the term “genre fiction” means to him.

While employed as a successful Michigan attorney, Hayes married a highly-regarded artist. Her passion and interest in the arts inspired Hayes to relinquish his law practice in 1969. The couple moved to Key West, and Hayes began a torrid affair with his typewriter, one that stuffed the paperback shelves with multiple series titles such as 'The Hunter,’ 'Agent of Cominsec,’ 'Stoner' and 'Soldier of Fortune.’ In fact, Hayes created and/or contributed to seven individual series' including the wildly popular 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' paperbacks.

“I didn't start writing seriously until 1969. A story of mine originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1967 called ‘The Gumdrop Affair.’ It was later included in two separate college textbook anthologies. I've sold almost 40 short stories to literary quarterlies, men's magazines and mystery magazines,” Hayes said.

When asked if any of his shorts were later re-worked into novels, the enthusiastic author was quick to point out that his short stories don't turn into novels. “I would never try to broaden a short story tale into novel length,” he explained. “Short stories are an art form apart, and in no way inferior in importance to the novel. On the other hand, when an editor asked me to cut a couple of scenes from a novel, I later developed those scenes into short stories. Writer's Digest asked me once to do an article telling other writers how I went about it.”

Hayes' robust bibliography includes riveting, exotic locales that are par for the course in the men's action adventure genre. Ranging from vigilante globe-trotting adventurers to mercenaries, Hayes has a unique sense of realism within his writing. “I have been to East Africa twice. I've also been to South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Morocco,” he said. “I have also been around Europe by both moped and car. I've went to Hong Kong and Peru to visit Machu Picchu. All of this with my artist wife, now deceased, whose art is in private collections all across this country and Europe.”

His earliest series, 'The Buffalo Hunter', starring western protagonist O'Brien, can be sourced back to its 1970's debut paperback “Gunslammer,” also known as “Secret of Sulpher Creek.” That series, which Hayes still contributes to, parallels the author's career from 1970 until now and encompasses 11 total novels. “Rugged, intimidating. Rawhides. Can't read or write but speaks several Indian tongues. A perfect wild-country survivalist,” described Hayes when asked to characterize his cowboy hero to unfamiliar readers.

The author lists his 'Buffalo Hunter' novels as some of his best work, but he is particularly fond of a 1979 book entitled “Hostages of Hell.” “This is based on a real-life terror attack on a US embassy. My research for the book included actual correspondence with the US ambassador in Khartoum,” he said.

From 1967 through the early 80s, Hayes wrote over 60 novels. The 1970s were a particularly  productive era for the author, growing series titles like Buffalo Hunter, The Hunter, Check Force, Stoner and Agent of Cominsec for familiar publishing houses like Manor, Leisure/Belmont Tower and Zebra. By the early 80s, one can see his writing reduced to just a few stand-alone novels, most as historical romance pieces.

“When publishing took a nose dive in the mid-eighties, we returned to Michigan where I resumed my law career, but still doing some writing,” Hayes explained. By 1992, Hayes began producing westerns again with two stand-alone paperbacks for Pinnacle. Just seven years later, Hayes would experience another productive era, penning westerns for UK publisher Black Horse, an imprint of Robert Hale Publishing.

“The recently published westerns at Robert Hale and Crowood have been newly-written novels, starting with ‘The Tombstone Vendetta’ about Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. ‘The Last Buffalo,’ ‘Fort Revenge’ and ‘Coyote Moon’ form a trilogy of O'Brien the Buffalo Hunter stories that make up one long saga, and I suspect ‘Fort Revenge’ is about the best of that genre,” he said.

The author, who cites his favorite writers as Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, John Le Carre and B. Traven, has a lot to say about what people perceive as genre fiction. “The idea that genre fiction is somehow inferior in quality to so-called mainstream fiction, and is not as literary, is artificial bull-puckey,” Hayes said. “Mainstream also is genre, psychological studies, social issues, etc. are all genres, and most of that is not as entertaining as other genres. Entertainment is the primary objective of all fiction, the other, lesser goal being enlightenment, which should never dominate the story. If you have a cause to espouse, the proper literary form is an essay or a non-fictional book.”

Hayes continued, “In drama, all of Shakespeare's plays were genre. Jane Austen's novels are genre. Poe's stories are genre. All in this developed use of the word. ‘The Sun Also Rises’ is genre, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is also, in my revised classification system. People who like to maintain the 'mainstream is superior' notion would rank ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ above Jane Austen's ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ a love story or light romance. But it isn't. The love story is better, both in entertainment and enlightenment.”

In conclusion, Hayes has a diverse bibliography that includes period pieces, mystery, adventure, vigilante, romance, science fiction and thriller - all thought-provoking and entertaining in their own right. “So, lets dispense with mainstream and literary as description of fiction and categorize all works as some kind of genre,” he said.

Ralph Hayes Bibliography


1. The Bloody Monday Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
2. The Doomsday Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
3. The Turkish Mafia Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
4. The Hellfire Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
5. The Nightmare Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
6. The Deathmakers Conspiracy - 1975 Belmont Tower


1. Gunslammer (aka Secret of Sulpher Creek) - 1970 Belmont Tower
2. Four Ugly Guns - 1970 Belmont Tower
3. The Name is O'Brien - 1972 Lenox Hill
4. Hellohole - 1973 Leisure/Belmont Tower
5. Treasure of Rio Verde - 1974 Remploy
6. Vengeance is Mine - 1978 Manor
7. Five Deadly Guns - 1984 Ulverscroft
8. Revenge of the Buffalo Hunter - 1992 Pinnacle
9. The Last Buffalo - 2013 Black Horse
10. Fort Revenge - 2013 Black Horse
11. Coyote Moon - 2015 Black Horse


1. 100 Megaton Kill - 1975 Manor
2. Clouds of War - 1975 Manor
3. Judgment Day - 1975 Manor
4. The Peking Plot - 1975 Manor
5. Seeds of Doom - 1976 Manor
6. Fires of Hell - 1976 Manor


1. River Run Red (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
2. Algonquin Massacre (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
3. Death at Spanish Wells (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
4. Winter Kill (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
5. Apache Revenge (as Dodge Tyler) - 1997 Leisure
6. Death Trail (as Dodge Tyler) - 1997 Leisure

* Ralph Hayes states he wrote a number of these books as Dodge Tyler. Author John Edward Ames wrote the last six installments of the 12 book series. 


1. Scavenger Kill - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
2. Night of the Jackals - 1975 Leisure/Belmont
3. A Taste for Blood - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
4. The Track of the Beast - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
5. The Deadly Prey - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower


65. The Cairo Mafia - 1972 Award
67. Assault on England - 1972 Award
68. The Omega Terror - 1972 Award
70. Strike Force Terror - 1972 Award
73. Butcher of Belgrade - 1973 Award
78. Agent Counter-Agents - 1973 Award
86. Assassin: Code Name Vulture - 1974 Award
88. Vatican Vendetta (with George Snyder) - 1974 Award

SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (as Peter McCurtin)

4. The Guns of Palembang - 1977 Belmont Tower
5. First Blood - 1977 Belmont Tower
6. Ambush at Derati Wells - 1977 Belmont Tower
7. Operation Hong Kong - 1977 Belmont Tower
8. Body Count - 1977 Belmont Tower
9. Battle Pay - 1978 Belmont Tower
Vol. 2 9. Blood Island - 1985 Leisure


1. The Golden God - 1976 Manor
2. Satan Stone - 1976 Manor
3. All That Glitters - 1977 Manor
4. King's Ransom - 1978 Manor


Virgin Tate (romance) 1962 Vega
Black Day at Diablo (?)
The Visiting Moon (science-fiction) 1971 Lenox Hill
Treasure of Rio Verde (western) - 1974 Remploy
Love's Dark Conquest (romance) - 1978 Leisure
Forbidden Splendor (romance) - 1978 Leisure
Dark Water (thriller) - 1978 Leisure
By Passion Possessed - 1978 Leisure
The Killing Ground (as John Hardesty) - 1978 Leisure
Savage Dawn (romance) - 1979 Jove
The Big Fall (?) - 1979 Zebra
Hostages of Hell (action) - 1979
Adventuring (western) - 1979 Jove
Golden Passion (romance) - 1979 Leisure
Dragon's Fire (romance) - 1979 Leisure
The Promised Land (romance) - 1980 Leisure
The Sea Runners (action) - 1981 Leisure
A Sudden Madness (mystery) - 1981 Leisure
Last View of Eden (thriller) - 1981 Leisure
Charleston (romance) - 1982 Zebra
Drought! (romance) - 1982 Zebra
The God Game (thriller) - 1983 Leisure
The Scorpio Cipher (thriller) - 1983 Leisure
Sheryl (romance) - 1984 Leisure
Deadly Reunion (mystery) - 1984 Leisure
Illegal Entry (romance) - 1984 Leisure
Mountain Man's Fury (western) - 1992 Pinnacle
Mountain Man's Gold (western) - 1993 Pinnacle
Tombstone Vendetta (western) - 2010 Black Horse
Texas Vengeance (western) - 2016 Black Horse
Rawhide Justice (western) - 2016 Black Horse
Lawless Breed (western) - 2017 Black Horse
The Way of the Gun (western) - 2018 Black Horse
Wanted: Dead or Alive (western) - 2019 Black Horse

Monday, March 25, 2019

Russell Davis - The Ghost behind the Books: A Paperback Warrior Unmasking

It all began with a haircut.

I was waiting my turn at the barbershop reading a 1970s vigilante paperback, and the guy sitting next to me said, “Have you ever heard of a series of novels called The Executioner about a guy named Mack Bolan?”

I told him that I was very familiar with the series and regarded myself as a fan. In fact, I write for a wildly-popular blog covering vintage men’s fiction.

Then the guy said, “I wrote many of them. And lots of other books like that, too.”

He introduced himself as Russell Davis, a name I confess I didn’t know. It turns out that his anonymity as an author of genre fiction was no accident, and my investigation into his body of work uncovered some interesting business practices among house name authors. His story illuminates the difficulty in unmasking the real authors behind the legendary pseudonyms of men’s adventure fiction.

I checked the guy out with some writers and editors in the genre, and Davis’ claims checked out. He was the real deal. We met for coffee, and I heard his story.

His first sale was a science fiction short story in a 1998 anthology edited by Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg called “The UFO Files.” The story was published under Davis’ real name.. “I received a letter from a guy in prison who read my UFO story. The guy’s letter was rambling, but the theme – as far as I could tell – was that the creatures we perceive as aliens from outer space are actually angels sent by God. I had young kids at the time and felt increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of unbalanced readers posing a threat to my family, so I opted for pseudonyms wherever feasible going forward. Most of my short fiction has been under my name, though not all of it, and all but a few of the novels I’ve written have been under various pseudonyms.”

His first novel sale came in 2001 as co-author of “Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers #17: Cloak and Dagger,” and the success of that book opened new doors for Davis in the world of house-name fiction. “My mom met Tom Clancy before he died and told him that her son wrote one of his books,” Davis said. “Needless to say, Mr. Clancy was not amused.”

For Davis, 2008 was a big year for his writing career as a professional ghost. He sold two novels in Gold Eagle’s ‘Room 59’ spy series published under the house name Cliff Ryder. Gold Eagle, a Harlequin imprint, had always been generous with giving the real authors a writing credit on the copyright page. But having learned his lesson from his prison fan mail experience a decade earlier, Davis opted to have the writing credit go to a pseudonym he created to hide beneath the house name. “I began using the names Garrett Dylan and Dylan Garrett for the house name books I wrote to preserve my anonymity,” he said.

At the barbershop, Davis told me that he wrote two adult Western novels in ‘The Trailsman’ series as Jon Shape, but I was unable to find any record that this was true. Weeks later at coffee, I asked him about this, and he let me in on an industry secret. “Ed Gorman was contracted to write two books in The Trailsman series, but he was swamped with work at the time,” he said. “Ed called me and asked if I’d be willing to write the books for him in exchange for $2,000 per novel. Ed was probably making $4,000 per book for the job, so it was a win-win. I asked him if he’d created plot outlines, and he said he’d sold them on the basis of the titles alone – ‘Louisiana Laydown’ and ‘California Crackdown’ - so I had to write them with no guidance other than the titles. I finished the books quickly, and the publisher was never the wiser. Subcontracting your house-name work to other ghostwriters for a reduced fee was a common practice, but it was rarely discussed in public.”

Davis’ ability to write fast, high-quality genre fiction landed him an opportunity to work on the legendary Don Pendleton series, ‘The Executioner.’ “I was a fan of the series from way back, but I hadn’t read one in years,” he said. “The editor sent over a box of recent Bolans, so I could get a feel for the current format, and I got to work on my first one.” His initial outing was published in 2009 as “The Executioner #371: Fire Zone,” and the going rate for a Pendleton ghost at the time was a flat $4,000 fee per book. “I can only assume that the more seasoned and popular authors of the series – like Michael Newton or Mel Odom – commanded a higher fee,” Davis said. The success of his first venture lead Davis to author a total of eight installments of ‘The Executioner’ series as well as double-sized ‘Super-Bolan’ paperback.

Gold Eagle worked hard to maintain a continuity in the Mack Bolan universe. When Davis wrote a scene in ‘Super Bolan #148: Decision Point’ (March 2012) that found Mack flying an airplane, he quickly heard from an editor at Gold Eagle. “Mack can’t fly a plane,” the editor said, and this was news to the author. “I told her that he could fly a helicopter,” he said. “Why not a plane? She replied that it was in the Bolan bible. The problem was I had never been provided the document telling me what Mack could and couldn’t do. I’d learned on-the-job by reading books in the series. Despite my argument, rules are rules, and the airplane scene was cut.”

In keeping with his low-profile approach, Davis’ work on the Mack Bolan brand was credited to either Dylan Garrett or Garrett Dylan on the copyright pages. “And then for one book, Gold Eagle screwed up and gave me credit under my real name,” he said. “The moderator of the Mack Bolan fan website somehow put it all together and sent me an email asking if I had written all the Dylan Garrett titles in the series. I told the truth, and he amended his website crediting me for the books I wrote. Basically, I was outed.”

Davis has also worked on media tie-in novels connected to The Transformers, The Librarian, and The Twilight Zone. He’s also been active in the science fiction writing community, and is a former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). These days he spends his time working on screenplays and as a university professor at a Master of Fine Arts Program for Genre Fiction. “If you want a master’s degree in how to write paranormal vampire romances, I guess I’m your guy,” he said. “I’m also going to be back writing original novels soon, and there are some announcements coming very soon on that front.”

In any case, Davis’ days as a ghost writer for media tie-in books are likely over. “I enjoyed the work while I was doing it, and it was a good way to make some money. But there’s only so many hours in the day I can spend writing, and the idea of doing my own thing with screenplays and original novels is ultimately more fulfilling from an artistic standpoint.”

Selected Men’s Adventure Bibliography of Russell Davis

‘Net Force Explorers’ as Tom Clancy:
- #17: “Cloak and Dagger” (2001)

‘The Trailsman’ as Jon Sharpe:
- #319: “Louisiana Laydown” (2008)
- #324: “California Crackdown” (2008)

‘Room 59’ as Cliff Ryder
- #2: “Out of Time” (2008)
- #4: “The Ties That Bind” (2008)

‘The Executioner’ as Don Pendleton
- #371: “Fire Zone” (2009)
- #392: “Shadow Hunt” (2011)
- #395: “Hazard Zone” (2011)
- #405: “Lethal Diversion” (2012)
- #415:  “Ivory Wave” (2013)
- #416:  “Extraction” (2013)
- #428:  “Desert Impact” (2014)
- #436:  “Perilous Cargo” (2015)

‘Super Bolan’ as Don Pendleton
- #148: ‘Decision Point” (2012)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Robert O. Saber and the Con-Games of Milton Ozaki: A Paperback Warrior Unmasking

Between 1949 and 1956, thirteen original crime novels were released under the name Robert O. Saber by a variety of paperback publishing houses. Most of these were private eye books starring an assortment of hardboiled heroes including Phil Keene, Hal Cooper, Max Keene, and Carl Good.

Consistent with the era, the covers of Saber’s paperbacks featured lushly-painted illustrations depicting scantily-clad women, square-jawed heroes, and often a murder weapon nearby. When compared to the lousy cover art we see today, the packaging of these vintage novels demand that the books be purchased and read. Quite deservedly, the author was also a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

All of this begs the question: Who the hell was Robert O. Saber?

Milton Ozaki was a Wisconsin-born, Japanese-American crime fiction author who wrote mass-market paperbacks under his own name as well as the pseudonym Robert O. Saber in the 1950s while living in Chicago and also operating two beauty shops. The economic realities of the publishing world of the 1950s forced many writers to employ pseudonyms to make a living. Handi-Books, for example, probably didn’t want to flood the market with books by Ozaki, so about half of his novels were published under the Saber pen-name. No harm. No foul. Everybody wins.

However, it appears that his double-identity and 27 published novels - plus women’s hair styling - failed to bring Ozaki the lifetime of financial security he desired. As such, he decided to channel his creative energies elsewhere. Life began imitating art as the man who was author of many heist and con-man stories began to turn his fiction into a dark reality.

In the 1970s, Ozaki began operating a “diploma mill” mail-order scam involving the issuance of phony college degrees from non-existent universities including “Colorado State Christian College” and “Hamilton State University” in exchange for a $100 donation to the fake schools. Campus life at these universities must have been rather mundane since they were nothing but post office boxes in Colorado (As an aside, if your urologist received his degree from either university, you may want to get your vasectomy elsewhere). After realizing $70,000 from the scam, the courts ordered him to knock it off in 1974, according to an article by Mike Royko in the Chicago Daily News.

It seems that 1974 was a doubly-bad year for Ozaki who was also sued by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office for another con-game he operated. Ozaki was director of “Ko-Zee Products Corporation” where he sold a phony “mini-turbo charger” guaranteed to give your car 37% better gas mileage. The device didn’t work, but the government’s action did. The former crime writer turned scammer was put out of business, again.

Additionally, Ozaki ran a mail-order school teaching paying students how to develop their powers of E.S.P. and hypnosis. Given this skill set, you’d think Ozaki would have seen the government investigations coming. 

Regarding his multitude of failures as a professional grifter, Ozaki said, “We are trying to do good work, and we just ran afoul of these archaic-minded bureaucrats.” This quote sounds like a re-working of the famous lament of criminals from the Scooby-Doo universe, “And it would have worked if it weren’t for you meddling kids.”

Ozaki died in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1989 at the age of 76, and many of his mystery books are still available as eBooks and paperback reprints.

Buy Robert O. Saber books HERE

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Paperback Warrior Unmasking: James Marcott & Spike Andrews

In 1975, Fawcett Gold Medal published a stand-alone action-crime paperback called “Hard to Kill” by James Marcott. The enjoyable novel concerned a jailbreak expert named Richard Decker hired by a crime lord to spring a high-profile criminal from prison. The book was a fun read, but it wasn’t a commercial success. It never saw life beyond the initial 8,000 copy print-run. Copies remain available in used bookstores, and are often traded among vintage paperback collectors and readers, but it has mostly fallen into obscurity.

And the world never heard from James Marcott again – whoever he was. 

Jump forward to 1982. Warner Books had a hit on their hands with the ‘Dirty Harry’ paperbacks and wanted to create a buddy-cop series along the same lines as part of the publisher’s new “Men of Action” brand. This was the genesis of the C.A.T.: Crisis Aversion Team series by Spike Andrews. The books featured frenetic action, sex, and violence to satisfy the men’s adventure market that was thriving in the early 80s. The plan was to release a monthly C.A.T. book and watch the cash pour in. Unfortunately, due to floundering sales, new editors at Warner Books decided to cancel publication after only releasing three installments.

And the world never heard from Spike Andrews again – whoever he was.

Connecting the dots between James Marcott and Spike Andrews required a deep dive into U.S. Copyright records that listed the name Duane Schermerhorn as the man behind both pseudonyms. Some further Google searches located a man by that name in Canada who is now a highly-regarded local photographer. Could this be the same guy? It seemed like a promising lead as “Hard to Kill” took place in Toronto – an unusual setting for an action novel at the time.  I found a Flikr page showcasing Schermerhorn’s photos and sent him a message through the app to find out if he was hidden author I was seeking.

Hours later, I received a message from Schermerhorn confirming that we was, in fact, the man behind the James Marcott and Spike Andrews pen names.

 “I had been a reader of mysteries all my life,” he explained, “and when I graduated from college, I decided to try my hand at writing them. I tried a number of different genres - eccentric amateur detective, private eye, innocent guy caught in a conspiracy - but it wasn't until I tried the anti-hero genre that I got a work published.” 

Schermerhorn created Richard Decker as a logical series character. “When I conceived ‘Hard to Kill,’ I was modeling the character, and to a large degree the story, on Richard Stark's Parker books. That series was, to my mind, the pinnacle of the anti-hero stories. I was thrilled to be accepted by Fawcett, and was very much aware of their role in the field. I was particularly fond of John D. MacDonald's books, and thought that most of Donald Hamilton's books in the Matt Helm series were better than their hardcover equivalents. It was, of course, a fantasy of mine to join the ranks of the legendary paperback-original writers.”

Both Schemerhorn and his literary agent were excited at the prospect that the Decker series may have a future “After I submitted the second manuscript in the series, my agent told me that there was interest in making the first into a movie with Roy Scheider playing the lead. Nothing materialized, which isn't uncommon for these sorts of projects.” 

Schemerhorn wrote a total of three books in the Decker series but after “Hard To Kill” failed to catch fire, there wasn’t much interest in publishing the other two books. They never saw the light of day and exist as pages collecting dust among the author’s unpublished works.

Even though Decker failed to make Schemerhorn – or James Marcott, rather – the next Richard Stark, it wasn’t all a loss. “It got me a New York literary agent, which was a big step forward.” This publishing industry contact opened the door to Warner Books who was looking for a buddy cop series, and the C.A.T. series was born. 

“I met with the editor to understand what sort of series this was to be.  He wanted a high-volume series, with books being published every couple of months.  This sort of pace basically cannot be maintained by a single writer, so there was to be at least two in the C.A.T. series - more if the series took off.  The two of us were contracted to write three books each. I wrote 1, 3, and 5 and a writer in North Carolina [George Ryan] was to write 2, 4, and 6.”

Schemerhorn wrote the ‘bible’ for the C.A.T. series to ensure continuity among the other authors who would one day be brought on board as the series achieved the literary status of The Executioner and The Destroyer. “After the release of C.A.T. #1, the editor sent a note requesting more sex and violence. So in #3, I raised the level to near-parody,” Schemerhorn confessed. “I wrote all three of the books I was contracted for and I assume my co-author did the same. But the series didn't do well, and I think only the first three were actually published.”

And that was the end of the C.A.T. series. Books 1-3 came and went without much fanfare and only exist today as collector’s items for men’s adventure paperback fanatics. Books 4-6 never saw publication, and it’s unlikely that they will ever be read by anyone. 

“After awhile, my interest in the genre waned and I moved away from novels. I wrote short stories, a screenplay, a play, and many poems. I had limited success - published poems and a play that was workshopped - but not enough to earn a living as a writer. So I left the profession all together.” Schemerhorn shifted gears in his artistic pursuits and found success as a photographer whose work is currently shown in Canadian art galleries.

The C.A.T. books were work-for-hire gigs for Warner Books, so Schemerhorn did not maintain the intellectual property rights to the characters, the stories, or the books that he sold to the publisher. “Hard to Kill” is a different story. Fawcett Gold Medal permitted authors to keep the rights to their work, which is why we still have the Matt Helm and Parker books available to us today as reprints.  As such, Schemerhorn still owns the rights to “Hard to Kill” as well as the two unpublished books in the Decker series. With the eBook and self-publishing revolution of the past decade, is it possible that the world may see the full Decker series available for modern readers?

“Yeah, it does sound interesting and appealing. I'd have to look into what all is involved. But I think I might have a look.”
Fingers crossed.


After jumping through the hoops and doing the online research to unmask Mr. Schemerhorn, I was embarrassed to see that the work had already been done by the excellent Trash Menace blog in their review of C.A.T. #1. So, a humble hat tip in to our colleagues over there for beating us to the scoop. Cheers!


This was the first time that Duane Schermerhorn was ever interviewed about his writing in the men’s adventure fiction genre. He seemed genuinely excited that anyone remembered and enjoyed his body of work in the paperback fiction world. After his interview with Paperback Warrior but before the publication of this article, we received word that Mr. Schemerhorn died suddenly from a ruptured aortic aneurysm on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. We are sorry Mr. Schemerhorn never read this article but happy that we could play a small part in remembering this aspect of his creative life.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Inside McLeane’s Rangers: A Paperback Warrior Unmasking

Unmasking the author behind a pseudonym is a bit of a pastime for modern readers of vintage adventure paperbacks. Recently, the desire to play armchair detective or cultural anthropologist lead to the discovery of the real man behind the somewhat obscure, five-book McLeane’s Rangers series written under the pen name of “John Darby.” A little digging revealed an accomplished journalist who later became a well-established writer in the mystery genre after authoring several other action novels many of you have undoubtedly collected and read. 

The choice of the John Darby pseudonym and McLeane’s Rangers series name is almost certainly a nod to WW2 U.S. Army hero William Orlando Darby who was fictionalized in a movie called “Darby’s Rangers” starring James Garner in 1958. The premise of the McLeane’s Rangers series from Zebra Books is similar to Len Levinson’s “Rat Bastards” novels or any number of the “team of badasses” war fiction subgenre in which a group of misfit military men participate in fictionalized versions of famous battles. In this case, the legendary conflicts involved pivotal moments in the Allied victories over Japanese forces.

Basic internet queries came up empty for any clues regarding the real identity of author John Darby. Likewise, the writing style didn’t provide much of a lead as all the books seemed to be written in the same voice (ergo: likely a pseudonym, not a house name).

All of this begs the question: Who the hell was John Darby?

While internet search engines provided no clues, a deep dive into the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright database revealed that the MacLeane’s Rangers series was authored by someone named Michael Jahn. 

Now we’re getting somewhere. 

According to Wikipedia, Jahn was hired as the first rock music journalist for the New York Times in 1968, a job largely unheard of at big-city newspapers at the time. In that capacity, the Times sent him to cover the now-legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 among the 400,000 muddy attendees. He remained at the Times for three years covering rock for the “Paper of Record” during a remarkable time in music history. 

Jahn later shifted gears to mystery fiction where he won an Edgar Award in 1978 right out of the gate for his novel, “The Quark Maneuver,” about a homicidal Vietnam vet. This lead to a popular mystery series starring NYPD Chief of Special Investigations Captain Bill Donovan that spanned 10 books between 1982 and 2008. His papers and manuscripts are stored at the at the Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. 

Interestingly, no available bibliography of Jahn lists the McLeane Rangers series as part of his body of work. Luckily, I was able to track down Jahn, now 74, and ask him if he was, in fact, John Darby. 

“Guilty as charged,” he replied. “You’re the first to ever notice that they even existed.”

It turns out that McLeane’s Rangers wasn’t Jahn’s first foray into Men’s Adventure Fiction. Starting in 1975, Jahn wrote five TV tie-in “Six-Million Dollar Man” paperbacks, including the popular, “The Secret of Bigfoot Pass.” Fanboys of the Bionic Man praise Jahn’s adaptations for merging the divergent continuities of the TV series with the Martin Caiden’s “Cyborg” novels that inspired the show. 

Soon thereafter, Jahn wrote two paperbacks tied into the “Black Sheep Squadron” TV show that spun off from the movie “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” as well as a 1981 installment in the Nick Carter: Killmaster Series, “Cauldron of Hell” (#153).

All of this experience opened the door for his own original action series in 1983. “Those days I was friends with a bunch of guys who wrote military-related adventures and I had a history in the genre. Zebra Books was an imprint of Kensington, which was best known for romances. I was invited to write those but never did. I did the McCleane’s series plus four quickie novelty mysteries under another name for them. Zebra paid less than anyone but tended to like everything you did,” Jahn said. 

“When I had offered McLeane to Zebra, it seemed like a good fit. I don’t recall whose idea it was. The Zebra editor was not especially action-oriented. But I think they wanted something different than ‘Black Sheep Squadron,’ maybe an infantry thing suggestive of ‘Merrill’s Marauders.’ I was a fan of ‘Rat Patrol,’ so a handful of men was good.”

Although Jahn was the brains behind the series, the authorship remains a less-than-straightforward affair. “There was a friend of mine, an aspiring writer, who was on the verge of getting evicted and was desperate for money,” Jahn said. “I was up to my ass in work those days with lots of contracts, so I gave him McLeane’s to write and cooked up the byline John Darby. He struggled severely, and I had to re-write his work. After the first two books, I basically took the series back and finished it myself. So if the books seem a bit choppy, that’s the reason.”

Who are McLean’s Rangers? The team of American ass-kickers consists of:

- McLeane: the fearless leader of the group who takes his orders from the top and manages to have a good bit of graphic sex between adventures.

- Contardo: the violent, Brooklyn-born psycho is likely to fall into a deep depression if he doesn’t tear off someone’s face at least twice per week.

- Heinman: the hillbilly of the team earned a doctorate in Oriental Studies from Oxford. Conveniently, he’s also a martial arts expert and speaks several useful Asian languages. 

- O’Connor: the mandatory Chicago Irishman of the team is an explosives expert built like a bull with fists like hams. Spoiler alert: he’s not afraid to use them.

- Wilkins: the expert marksman of the group is also the youngest among them. He knows how to ventilate any enemy with his rifleman skills. 

During the fictional team’s time in WW2, the men covered a lot of ground:

#1 “Bougainville Breakout” - the group’s first adventure pits the Rangers against the entire Japanese garrison in Bougainville. The mission is to destroy a Japanese ammo depo invulnerable to American air attack while securing the release of a captured spy. 

#2 “Target Rabaul” - During World War II, Papua New Guinea was captured by the Japanese, and it became the main base of Japanese military activity in the South Pacific. McLeane’s Rangers are sent there to bring their jungle warfare talents to the Japanese stronghold. 

#3 “Hell on Hill 457” - McLeane and his men parachute into a heavily-fortified Japanese position around a mountain fortress that can only be dealt with using some heavy explosives. 

#4 “Saipan Slaughter” - Only McLeane’s elite commando unit has the skill and the nerve to penetrate the island of Saipan in advance of the pivotal U.S. invasion. 

#5 “Blood Bridge” - In this final adventure of McLeane’s Rangers, the team embarks on a mission to save China from a deadly invasion by the Japanese military juggernaut. 

The McLeane’s Rangers series touches all the important bases of 1980s Men’s Adventure Series Fiction - violence, drama, sex, gore, salty language, and excess testosterone. The paperbacks are generally well-written but clearly not the work of a professional historian or anyone with great inside knowledge of the U.S. Military. For example, the McLeane’s Rangers are a U.S. Marine Corps unit, yet the term “Rangers” is strictly a U.S. Army designation. For readers capable of suspending their disbelief and embracing some fictional escapism, there’s a lot to enjoy in Jahn’s version of WW2. 

For his part, Jahn is learning a lesson about the enduring legacy of Men’s Adventure Fiction of the era. “You know, there’s something going on that I never expected,” he said. “Despite my Edgar Award and the 10 Bill Donovan Mysteries, all of which were critically well recieved, what I’m being remembered for is the 70s and 80s paperbacks. There’s a whole thing about the Six Million Dollar Man. My 1982 space shoot-em-up book ‘Armada,’ which in my opinion was ripped off by the film ‘Independence Day,’ was nearly made into its own film a few years back. I’ve also been asked about Nick Carter. And now you’re asking about McLeane. This is fascinating to me.”