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

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.

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