Showing posts with label Revenger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Revenger. Show all posts

Monday, July 11, 2022

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 97

On Episode 97, Eric and Tom collaborate for a comprehensive feature on Jon Messmann, the prolific author and creator of The Trailsman series, The Revenger, The Handyman, and numerous Nick Carter: Killmaster novels. Eric also reviews Messmann's stand-alone action-adventure novel, Bullet for the Bride. Tom reviews a vintage crime-fiction paperback called The Mob Says Murder by author Marvin Albert and Eric offers insight on his new projects with Brash Books and Cutting Edge. Listen on any podcast app, or download directly HERE.

Listen to "Episode 97: Jon Messmann" on Spreaker.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Revenger #02: Fire in the Streets

Paperback Warrior continues to devour the literature of Jon Messman. We've covered his series titles like The Trailsman, Handyman, Canyon 'O Grady, The Revenger, and even his gothic stand-alone novels under various pseudonyms like Claudette Nicole. My first experience with the author was the debut novel in The Revenger series. Inspired by Don Pendleton's The Executioner, the Signet series began in 1973 and ran six total volumes. The entire series has been reprinted in new editions by Brash Books with an introduction by yours truly. 

The book begins with some flashbacks to the events that occurred in the series debut. The quick story is that New Yorker Ben Martin is a Vietnam veteran who experienced the death of his son by mobsters. Avenging his son's murder, Martin became a one-man army and destroyed the local mob. At the end of that novel, he left his wife to pursue an indiscreet lifestyle using the new name of Ben Markham (Messman had never intended the series to continue). 

Now, it's explained to readers that Ben has lived in the Chicago suburbs for a year. He began working for Alwyn Beef Products and worked his way up to a senior manager due to his experiences as a grocery shop owner. But, Ben is attacked one evening at work by enforcers working for mobster Nick Carboni. After killing the attackers, Ben returns home and starts to question his life. In his own headspace, Ben realizes that he has always wanted to kill again, to right the wrongs, and fight evil. But, in a reversal, he also wants to live a normal existence that isn't smeared in blood. 

What makes The Revenger so great is that Messman doesn't deliberately set out to create a hero for readers. It's never just a good guy with a gun. Like the debut, he slowly has unfortunate events consume Ben's life. It is like an erosion of sanity that reveals Ben's hard-hitting talents. He's meant to kill the bad guys, and he has the skills and talents based on his experiences in Vietnam, but he is hesitant. Slowly, Ben is pulled into this mystery and must fight again.

Ben's employer is a friend, but he's also a terrible gambler. After losing a great deal of money in the gambling rackets, Carboni has struck a deal with him. The mob will infiltrate his business and in return, Carboni wipes the IOUs off the table. Once Ben learns the reasons for the attack, he puts together an elaborate plan to wipe out the mob at strategic locations. From rooftops, he begins assassinating key personnel with different European rifles, weapons he leaves at the scene to confuse Carboni. But Messman also has Ben fistfighting with mobsters as well as a fiery car chase on the highway. 

What makes this story unique is that it involves three separate women that are experiencing individual struggles directly related to Ben's mission. Carboni's wife is resistant to her husband's criminal behavior and wants out. When Ben's friend and co-worker is killed, he falls into a friendly relationship with the man's widow. But, Ben's love interest in the story is his employer's wife, a defiant woman that knows her husband is a gambling junkie. These three women are liberally featured throughout the 135-page narrative. 

Fire in the Streets is just as good, or better, than its predecessor and rivals some of Pendleton's best single-digit efforts on The Executioner. Imitation is the best form of flattery and Messman clones a Mack Bolan styled story while also injecting a great deal of emotional drama. It's violent when it needs to be, and Ben proves to be a capable hero when the gunfire begins. The end result makes The Revenger simply fantastic.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Revenger #01 - The Revenger

There’s no denying that Don Pendleton’s 1969 premier of The Executioner series was the prime catalyst for the gritty, vigilante vengeance sagas. The early 70s was a fertile time period, growing numerous series’ that commonly referenced “er” ending titles (i.e. Butcher, Penetrator, Enforcer). Author Jon Messman had contributed to the genre as early as 1968 with five Nick Carter: Killmaster novels over a two-year period. After his own failed series, Hotline, Messmann was placed on a Signet debut called The Revenger in 1973. As Glorious Trash scribe Joe Kenney points out, initially this was probably a one-off novel that escalated into six total volumes. The book exhibits no signs of a continuation and is missing advertisements for the next book. There isn’t a display indicating The Revenger is the first of a series. These are typical publisher traits inviting readers to stick around for the next installment – with their cash in hand. Regardless how it was intended, The Revenger is pure quality. The whole series now exists as a brand new edition through Brash Books.

Today, this plot has run its course and may have been treading familiar ground even in 1973. It’s the revenge yarn we’ve read and watched since the early pulp adventures and westerns. Messmann utilizes it really well by exploring the human emotions while simultaneously providing a very vulnerable “executioner”. Ben Martin is ex-military and served in Vietnam as a killer for various US branches including the CIA. In brief recollections, the reader tells us how Ben would wait patiently in rice patties or filthy jungles for days awaiting perfect shots. His skills were valuable and Ben served his time well. 

In the book’s opening pages, we see Ben as a produce shopkeeper in lower Manhattan. He’s happily married to Donna (they make love a lot) and they have a small son, Ben Martin Jr. Ben’s shop is experiencing the typical Mafia protection racket, this time extended by the Gennosanti family. They want payment for protection or the store owners will experience…stiffness. When they knock on Ben’s door, he sticks an envelope opener through a guy’s hand and disarms them. Coolly, he calls the police who ultimately are pressed by the attorneys to let the enforcers just walk.

This particular family is managed locally by Joe Colardi. The Colardi family presents itself as fine, upstanding citizens and attend PTA meetings and donate large sums to the school. Generally, they are well liked. Beneath the surface, Joe is under pressure to deliver results for the Don of the Gennosanti family. With Ben refusing to pay, roughing up his goons and generally resisting the mob’s presence, Colardi has Ben’s son kidnapped. After a brief phone exchange, Ben agrees to negotiate with the Colardi crew if they can safely return his son. Unfortunately, they accidentally allow the boy to walk off of a rooftop to his death. Colardi loses his mind knowing that the Don won’t be happy of the negligence and the kidnapping, which was unbeknownst to him.

The second half of the book starts to resemble The Executioner debut War Against the Mafia. Ben becomes a bone-chilling assassin, seemingly dismissing life, marriage or any semblance of normality. His only purpose is to kill the mob. Like Bolan’s first planned assault, Ben purchases long guns and optics from a sporting goods store and camps out in the city taking out targets. Ben kills 13 enforcers in a few short hours and puts Colardi on the run in a city he has sworn to rule. Eventually, the Don becomes involved with a strategic plan to eliminate Ben’s explosive vendetta. The finale occurs on an early morning Ferry trip as Ben faces Colardi and Don’s enforcers.

Overall, this book works exceptionally well as the typical revenge yarn. It keeps a a brisk pace considering there is seldom any gunfire exchanges. Ben is the believable action hero - making mistakes, carelessness, vulnerability. In this book, he’s simply a human doing very human things. Emotions, debating strategy, recalling experiences while still trying to communicate with his wife Donna post-tragedy. The breakdown from human to cold assassin is a slow burn, but a morbidly entertaining one. The book’s bloody closing pages sort of recycles Ben Martin’s life. Killer to family man to killer…and perhaps family man again? If only it were a stand alone novel. Five more entries prove that isn’t the case. Messmann would later go on to write most of the first 200 volumes of The Trailsman while dabbling in other genres like science-fiction and horror.