Showing posts with label Specialist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Specialist. Show all posts

Thursday, September 2, 2021

The Specialist #03 - Sullivan's Revenge

The Specialist is an 11 book series that ran from 1984 through 1985. The series was authored by John Shirley under the pseudonym John Cutter. These novels were originally published by Signet and are now available as affordable ebooks through Lume Publishing. I've read and reviewed the first two entries in the series and was happy to jump into the third installment to continue the series through-story. 

In the first two installments, Jack "The Specialist" Sullivan is featured as a vigilante that helps average citizens with various problems they experience. He never charges for these services but will gladly take any monetary handout. His experiences in Vietnam and Afghanistan enhance his resume significantly. Sullivan is an expert in weapons, hand-to-hand combat and military strategy. While he's performing these services, Sullivan also has a goal. He witnessed his wife's murder by a terrorist cell led by an individual known as The Blue Man. At the end of the second installment, Manhattan Revenge, Sullivan learns that The Blue Man may be running a terrorist training camp in the Oregon wilderness.

In Sullivan's Revenge, the third series entry, this backstory is resolved as Sullivan travels to rural Oregon to find The Blue Man. To accomplish the mission, he uses his friend Malta (his assistant in the first two books) to accompany him to the area to help plan the assault. Malta also recruits two hardened mercenaries to assist Sullivan.

Traditionally, men's action-adventure novels of this type require that the hero join the bad guys in an elaborate scheme to destroy the heinous organization from the inside out. Shirley's uses this genre trope to place Sullivan inside the terrorist camp. It's here that Sullivan passes a physical trial to join the organization. In doing so, he comes face to face with The Blue Man. A bulk of the narrative has Sullivan suppressing his rage to better coordinate an assault with his outside team. He also experiences a pleasurable relationship with The Blue Man's daughter. 

There's no real surprises here as Sullivan mows down the terrorists like a high-numbered Mack Bolan installment. Shirley is a great writer and I enjoyed the side story of Malta facing a group of racist local bullies. I don't own the fourth installment of this book, but the events in this novel's finale certainly seems to resolve this opening trilogy of stories. I found all three books to be enjoyable and a great way to propel this series into the upper echelons of men's action-adventure fiction. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Specialist #02 - Manhattan Revenge

Horror, action-adventure, and science-fiction author John Shirley used the pseudonym John Cutter for an 11-book vigilante series in the 1980s called The Specialist. I read and enjoyed the series debut, A Talent for Revenge, and have waited long enough to revisit this series. I'm picking up chronologically with the second installment, Manhattan Revenge, originally published in 1984 by Signet.

The early installments have a through-story that neatly allows hero Jack Sullivan to fight the villain of the week while still staying on task with his life’s greater purpose. Sullivan's reason to rise and exist each day is the hope that he will eventually locate his lover's murderer, a mysterious villain named The Blue Man. Because of this continuing storyline, readers should be reading the series in order.

In Manhattan Revenge, Sullivan is renting an apartment in a slummy area of New York City when he's approached by a knock-out named Tessa. She runs to his apartment after two men have broken into her place. After asking and receiving his violent assistance, Tessa rewards Sullivan with a sexy romp on the floor (a non-graphic presentation by the author). Afterwards, she introduces Sullivan to a guy in the building who has been asking about him. It turns out the guy is named Malta, and he’s an old ally of Sullivan's when he was working CIA jobs internationally. Now, Malta mostly just sells guns and information and offers both to Sullivan. The job this time recalled some terrifying scene out of Lee Goldberg's second installment of .357 Vigilante (aka The Jury series).

On the Lower East Side, a gang calling themselves Meat Hooks is assisting a sadistic married couple with child sex trafficking in a base of operations informally called The Meat Locker. Malta has learned about the operation due to a child who escaped the facility. The issue with the police learning about the place is that one of the detectives is in on it. If Malta goes to the cops, the bad cop then goes to the traffickers and the kids are possibly all killed in a scramble. Suspending my disbelief at such a preposterous plot, I went all in. And, I glad I did.

Manhattan Revenge is simply awesome. There's a lot happening at one time but the plot is never too dense to be overly-contrived. After taking the job, Sullivan begins killing Meat Hook members one-by-one with a variety of machine guns, sniper rifles, knives and revolvers (his boom-maker is a .357). While conducting hit-and-run tactics, Sullivan also pairs up with a female cop named Bonnie who has an extraordinary ability to shoot and fu...fight. She does the nasty with Sullivan repeatedly. Also in the mix is a tactic often used by Mack Bolan – turning the enemy against each other. By attacking the drug gang calling themselves Bowlers, it interferes with the sex trafficking ring and pits two criminal enterprises against each other.

John Shirley is such a talented storyteller and he clearly received some influences from the crime-noir genre. At one point, Sullivan uses the alias “Richard Stark”, a tribute to Donald Westlake's pseudonym for the Parker series of heist novels. Also, he has Judas Priest playing in a nearby car when Sullivan is searching for gang members. I couldn't help but think Shirley was thinking of the Priest classic hit “Grinder” with the lyrics fitting the story – “Grinder! Looking for meat!” Get it? Sullivan looking for Meat Hooks. Shirley was winking and typing.

The through-story continues with Sullivan learning from Bonnie that a criminal enterprise led by a nickname Blue Man was being run in the Pacific Northwest. During the battle, Sullivan often tells the consumer that he's headed to Oregon in the next installment. That was an invitation that I gladly accepted with my $1.50 token of appreciation at the used book store. Look for my review of Sullivan's Revenge soon.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, October 21, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 16

This episode delivers an informative feature on Richard Stark's iconic anti-hero "Parker". Tom also reviews the fifth entry in the Parker series titled "The Score". Eric takes his first look at the 1980s action series "The Specialist" by John Shirley. Additionally, Tom tells viewers about his acquisition of exciting vintage crime-noir. Stream below or download directly (LINK).  Listen to "Episode 16: Parker" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Specialist #01 - A Talent for Revenge

Along with writing for rock act Blue Oyster Cult and sci-fi/horror genres, John Shirley kept fairly busy in the 80s authoring a number of men's action adventure works. As D.B. Drumm, Shirley wrote a majority of post-apocalyptic books in the 'Traveler' series. As John Cutter, Shirley wrote an 11-volume series entitled 'The Specialist' for Signet. The series debut, “A Talent for Revenge”, was released in 1984.

The central theme of the series is “toughest action hero of them all” Jack Sullivan's quest to find his wife's murderer(s). Along the way there's plenty of high-stakes adventure and assignments to pad the series. While there isn't a lot of detail in the debut, we do learn that Sullivan is a Vietnam veteran. We also come to the realization that he was involved in the C.I.A. and fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Born in Missouri, Sullivan was raised to do the right thing and help others. His father routinely advised him that “the world is kept from falling apart only by people who help other people without being told to”. Now, in the present day, Sullivan is a mercenary fulfilling the needs of those seeking revenge. The adage of pretending to do it for the money helps rebuke those looking to take advantage. His assistant is a former C.I.A. operative named Malta, who's more of a supplier than a fighter. 

“A Talent for Revenge” has Sullivan accepting a job from Julia Penn. Her sister was killed by a terrorist named Ottoowa, a former African madman who now resides off the coast of France. Penn wants Sullivan to break into Ottoowa's sea-side fortress, decapitate him and bring the head to her on a platter. Seriously. John Shirley seemingly always looks to jump the shark. Built into the narrative is a diverse cast of characters ranging from former allies turned criminal, aspiring madmen, a young beauty/love interest fodder and the cops – the cops who really just stand in the way of justice when it comes to this specific genre.

At 186-pages, and smaller fonts, Shirley pads the novel to a rather unnecessary length. Considering the font size, this should have briskly passed the time at 160ish pages. Often, I felt the climax was above the glass ceiling. I knew the fortress invasion was inevitable, but counted pages until the boots hit the sand. Shirley kept things interesting with plenty of firefights and a tongue in cheek presentation that lightens the mood. Sullivan toys with the bad guys, ridiculing them into killing each other or accepting his challenge despite inexperience. It's these elements that kept me in the fight to the finish.

“A Talent for Revenge” is entertaining and adds a little bit of humor to what is ordinarily just another good guy with a gun prose. There's a contribution to the bigger mystery here, a compelling puzzle piece that may lead Sullivan to his wife's killer. The second book was already written upon this book's release. That allows the reader a sneak peek of “Manhattan Revenge” in the closing pages. Overall, a solid story that left me wanting a sequel. 

Note - A 1994 film entitled "The Specialist" is based on this series. The movie starred Sylvester Stallone as "specialist" Ray Quick. I can't find anything from that film's plot that mirrors events from this book.

Buy a copy of the book HERE