Showing posts with label Vigilante. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vigilante. Show all posts

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Please...Save the Children

William Dubay (1948-2010) was an editor, writer, and artist for Warren Publishing, excelling on books like Creepy, Vampirella, 1984, and Eerie. Later in his career, he wrote a story for Heavy Metal, became an editor of Archie Comics and edited titles for Western Publishing. Fitting for Warren Publishing, Dubay's writing had some seriously dark overtones, evident in the memorable, disturbing story “Please...Save the Children”, which was drawn by Martin Salvador and featured in the July 1977 issue of Creepy.

At the beginning of the story, readers see a condemned child-killer named Beau sitting in a prison cell awaiting execution on death row. A priest enters the cell to discuss the man's forgiveness, but instead he is treated to a bizarre conversation from this seemingly insane person. Beau explains that if the priest only knew what he knew, then the priest would become a baby killer too. Then, Beau begins to relay his personal history to the priest.

Beau explains that he was once a loving husband and father, but after spanking his three-year old daughter Cryssie, she wanders away from home and dies in a blizzard. At the funeral, Beau regrets his decision to punish his little girl and experiences traumatizing anguish knowing she died alone after thinking he didn't love her. This experience transforms Beau into a violent vigilante

Beau begins to watch parents in public dismissing their children, or simply neglecting or punishing them in cruel ways. In an effort to save the children from abuse, he goes completely Mack Bolan and murders these children with a gun. His reasoning for targeting the children he wants to protect? By killing the children, he ends their suffering. If he murdered the parents, which are his real victims, then the children would would continue to suffer due to the loss of their parents. It's a sick catch-22 where Beau deems himself a twisted psychotic savior. Ultimately, it is like an animal that eats its young to protect them from predators. 

These Creepy stories tend to have unique twists in the narrative and this story is no different. When Beau confesses to his brother that he has become this avenging angel, he finds himself captured by law-enforcement. But, the twist is learning who his brother really is. Salvador's accompanying artwork is simply outstanding, with the facial expressions of the characters resonating the tension, horror, and tragedy of the story. If you are looking for an intense narrative, look no further than this vintage short. You can obtain an old copy of Creepy for a few bucks on Ebay or comic shops, or read the story for free below:

Monday, July 17, 2023

The Brigade

Before the words “defund the police” became a hot media slogan, author John Shirley experimented with the idea for his hard-hitting crime-fiction novel The Brigade. Those of you unfamiliar with Shirley may remember that we have reviewed his installments of the post-apocalyptic series Traveler, written under the pseudonym D.B. Drumm, and his vigilante series The Specialist, written under the name John Cutter. The Brigade was Shirley's fifth career novel, originally published in 1981 by Avon and a year later in the UK by Sphere. It exists now in ebook format.

The sleepy fictional town of Salton, Oregon, population of 42,000, lies about 40 miles east of the scenic coast. The town's chief industry is paper milling. But, the two characteristics that make this town notable is its militant “people's police” called The Brigade and an active serial killer dubbed The Saturday Night Killer. How these two defining elements interact with each other in an ultraconservative town is the main focus of Shirley's propulsive crime novel.

The town voted to defund the police, dismantle the force, and save tax dollars by introducing a volunteer group of citizens, The Brigade. The town's former police constable and mayor lead this brigade of armed citizens, but as time goes on, the group begins a radical departure from upstanding people for the people to a militant mob that seeks a police state type of tyranny for the town. Hitchhikers are brutalized, petty thieves are executed, and citizens are required to carry “hall passes” that allow them freedom on the town's streets and sidewalks. Most of this is done discreetly, in a way that doesn't seem so oppressive on the surface. 

A young guy named Tony, a janitor, and his girlfriend Sonja, stumble upon a plot formed by The Brigade to quiet the serial murders committed by this Saturday Night Killer. The murderer, responsible for 13 savage slaughters, kills an outside reporter. To cover up the death, The Brigade throw the reporter over an embankment to disguise the fact that she was knifed by the serial killer. They don't want news agencies and outsiders to question The Brigade's efficiency to keep the town safe. But, without detectives who can stop the serial killer? Tony and Sonja realize that the killer is actually a member of The Brigade.

John Shirley's 258-page paperback is quite good, but is loose around the edges due to poor editing. Tony's side-story of finding a friend becomes too convoluted for its own good, and there are some messy plot points that are presented both in the present and the past. There is also an irrelevant side-story about a guy trapped in a well. I found myself skipping some of this, but overall the story was superb and tackled a relevantly hot topic that emerged just a few years ago. How does a small town function without police? Under Shirley's watch...not very good. 

If you love crime-fiction laced with savage deaths, graphic sex, and a unique political position, then The Brigade is a must. Recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Heller #01 - The Oil Rig

Author Frank Roderus (1942-2016) was a newspaper writer and author that penned over 300 novels, most of which were westerns. He earned two prestigious Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America and also earned a Colorado Press Association award for best news story. In 1984, Roderus began writing a crime-fiction series starring Colorado rancher Carl Heller. There were seven installments in the series, all published by Bantam. In a 2013 interview with Tom Rizzo, Roderus explained that writing westerns allowed him tax advantages on his horses. By having Heller ride a motorcycle, Roderus was also able to gain a tax advantage on his own motorcycles. Brilliant idea.

Carl Heller was fortunate enough to inherit several thousand mountain acres in the high-country from his great grandfather. Instead of running a beef operation on steroids, antibiotics, and modern efficiencies, Heller uses the old-fashioned method of allowing the herd to run free, culling them once a year. He's not wealthy, and admits to barely keeping up the tax payments on the enormous property, but he manages an average lifestyle. He's a law-school dropout that is described as a playboy that enjoys riding the mountains on his horse, Kawasaki motorcycle, or race-car styled BMW. He has a lukewarm relationship with a local gal in town, a school teacher named Donna. He's in excellent shape, works out each day, and serves as a paperback version of the modern cowboy. That's the origin tale of Carl Heller.

While riding the rapids with a group of friends, Heller learns that a small group of farmers have been hoodwinked by big city shysters. The proposal by Mineral Consortium is that gold has been discovered in ecological surveys on the farmers' land. If the farmers will agree to allow Mineral Consortium to lease property, they will provide the farmers an excellent 30% royalty for all “metals” retrieved. When Heller becomes involved, he discovers that the contracts excluded minerals. The Mineral Consortium used this loophole to establish oil rigs on these leases to pull millions of gallons of oil royalty free. Their defense to the one-sided contract is that gold does exist on the property, but it's nothing more than the small grains found in seawater. They are happy to provide 30% for this small amount of gold retrieval.

Heller explains that there is a distinct difference between law and justice. To establish the character's validity, Heller confesses to Donna that he tracked down and killed a rapist that escaped a court of law. The reader gets the idea that maybe Heller has performed this sort of vigilantism more than once. Like Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder, Heller explains that he does favors for people. So, Heller's motivation is peaked when he discusses the dilemma facing the farmers. Additionally, there is an incentive of a monetary percentage payout if the leases produce money for the farmers instead of the Mineral Consortium. 

The book's first half was a real slow burn as Heller discusses legal avenues to explore. Included is a swindle Heller concocts to lead the Mineral Consortium into believing real gold does exist. To perform the trick, Heller establishes an identity of working for a mining company to construct a large mill. The evidence is convincing enough that the company wants to renegotiate the deal with the farmers. All of this consumes the book's first half, which in itself would be an average story. However, the second half makes all of the difference.

In the second half, Roderus fuels the fire with an action-packed, suspenseful narrative with Heller facing the bad guys around an oil rig at night. This was just an incredible page-turner as Heller was forced to rely on his wits to outsmart the armed gunmen. It's a violent smash-up that includes everything I love about 1970s and 1980s men's action-adventure novels. This closing second-half was well worth the price of admission.

Frank Roderus is a unique author that uses traditional western storytelling to plot modern crime-fiction. Often, he writes like a tough guy cowboy, so much that the wording is odd. For example, something like 3AM is pronounced “three ayem”. Heller's moral compass, good-guy characteristics, and the ability to be a strong, reliable protagonist kicks off the series in a promising way. This is the meat and potatoes of Roderus storytelling and The Oil Rig is recommended if you like that sort of thing. I do, so I'll be reading more. 

You can buy a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Rampage

Lester Virgil Roper (1931-1998) graduated from the University of Oklahoma and became a teacher. He later served in the Kansas House of Representatives for nine years. In his spare time, Roper authored 11 total novels using the pseudonyms L.V. Roper and Samantha Lester. Action-Adventure fans may recall his 1975/1976 two-book series starring New Orleans private-detective Renegade Roe. My first experience with the author is his paperback novel Rampage. It was originally published by Curtis Books in 1973 and remains out of print. 

Roper's idea for Rampage was simply to re-write David Morrell's 1973 novel First Blood. Obviously, names and places have been changed to protect the innocent, but Rampage is First Blood, or First Rambo, or whatever we are calling it these days. Here's how Roper's version of Rambo shakes out:

Somewhere in a tiny mountain town in Alabama, a young white school teacher defiantly decides that the region's barbaric racism must end. She orders the black and white kids to sit together in class instead of being divided by the invisible segregation barrier. The town's KKK warns her to stop, but she persists. Off the page (thankfully), four KKK members enter her house, chain her to a bed, and then rape her to death.

Not quite First Blood, but just hang in there.

In Vietnam, Mark Hastings reads a letter from his wife that suggests she may be in danger for combining the black and white kids in her class. He takes an emergency leave (AWOL) and heads home to screw his sister. No, wait, that was Brother and Sister. He goes home to kill the mobsters that have ransacked his family. No, wrong. That was War Against the Mafia. He comes home to become entangled in small town injustice from a bigot cop and his posse of cops and friends. That's First Blood. Also Rampage. Sort of.

Hastings, an Army Green Beret, hitchhikes into a small mountain town in Alabama and discovers that his wife has been killed. He then targets and kills the four men responsible by using hit-and-run attacks from his wilderness hideout in the hills. He also uses a special knife (I suspect a plain 'ole K-Bar) to gut his victims.

Eventually, the town's sheriff, who is a KKK member, organizes a posse to hunt and kill Hastings in the mountains. But, Hastings uses some deadly snares to trap and kill his opponents. He also has a .22 Colt Woodsman that he puts to good use. Needless to say, there is a huge body count in this one. After the police fail to apprehend Hastings, a Colonel from a local National Guard unit comes in to sympathize with Hastings. The end has a delusional Hastings being hunted by his fellow Green Beret A-team. 

There are no doubts that Rampage is a First Blood knockoff, like 1987's Black Moon by Ron Potts. I can't fault Roper because First Blood, and the Rambo films, inspired countless profitable pop-culture ventures. Despite being unoriginal and repetitive, Rampage is pretty darn good. Roper is an excellent writer who had a knack for this sort of suspenseful, cagey action formula. He also tackles a number of deep psychological issues of the era - Vietnam, social inequality, poverty, and plain 'ole everyday abuse of power. I can't remember the page, or the exact wording, but Roper has a character cleverly comparing Hasting's possible arrest for murder in Alabama coming at a time that he's been awarded for murder in Vietnam. These statements are essential to the storytelling, as borrowed as it may be, and adds a little extra emotional "oomph".

If you love these outdoor wilderness survival novels, or enjoy a great small town vigilante romp, then Rampage is worth pursuing. Keep in mind that it is a copy of First Blood, so be sure to read Morrell's classic, more superior novel first. Rampage is a blue-light special version of it that still possesses a level of nostalgic enjoyment.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Executioner #104 - Devil's Horn

Remember the one where Mack Bolan becomes the star of the Chuck Norris “bring'em back” alive flick Missing in Action? Well, it never happened, but it should have based on Dan Schmidt's The Executioner installment Devil's Horn (1987), the 104th book in the series. Like a combination of Missing in Action, Rambo 2, and an installment of MIA Hunter, Devil's Horn deposits Bolan and Jack Grimaldi in a Southeast Asia Hellhole as prisoners in a drug cartel's brutal labor camp. Interested? Read on.

When Devil's Horn begins, Bolan is in The Bowery, the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island, trailing the origins of a massive amount of domestic drug imports. His trail leads to Ronny Brennan, a top-tier drug dealer with arms in various criminal factions as a Mob businessman. After Bolan destroys a drug warehouse, he pressures Brennan to reveal the source of a huge opium farm in Thailand. After a furious firefight, Bolan forces Brennan to ride shotgun as drug enforcers and low-level dealers tail the two to a local airstrip where Grimaldi is waiting. Quickly, Bolan and Brennan climb aboard as Grimaldi rockets the trio to Southeast Asia. 

With a large load of armament and equipment, Grimaldi's plane flies over the whereabouts of the drug farm. But, he gets a little too low and the plane is shot down on the outskirts of the farm. While pushing Brennan into the bush, both Grimaldi and Bolan attempt to escape the onslaught of waves of Vietnamese soldiers, hired mercenaries, prison sentries, and drug enforcers. In a scene right out of Rambo 2, Bolan and Grimaldi climb a hill to make a final stand against the invading forces. Eventually, the two are forced to surrender and are ushered into the living Hell of prison life in the jungle. 

A sadistic warlord named Torquemandan controls the Thai drug farm and has two top henchman inflicting years of punishment on the farm's prisoners. Bolan and Grimaldi discover that a large majority of the prisoners are American military prisoners-of-war that have been transported into Thailand by the Vietnamese government. Bolan also learns that there's a CIA spook imprisoned as well as many South Vietnamese prisoners that were allies to the U.S. during the Vietnam War. 

The orientation outlines what Bolan and Grimaldi will expect in their new lives. The duo will join the other prisoners as slave labor. They work from dawn until dusk scraping the sap off of poppy seeds (opium) and placing it in buckets. Their only nourishment is a handful of rice and a cup of water at dinner. Most of the prisoners are on the verge of death and are routinely beaten, whipped, tortured, and killed. Bolan is warned by the prisoners to never eat the meat that is served with the rice - it's the cooked flesh of the prisoners that are executed! After the harvest season, the prisoners will carry 100-pounds of opium on their backs and forced to march 200 miles to deliver it. Most will then be executed or die of exhaustion. 

I read Dan Schmidt's Eagle Force installment Death Camp Columbia years ago and loved it for all of the same reasons I loved Devil's Horn. I enjoy Schmidt's workmanlike writing style and his use of ultra-violent prison settings for both of these novels. Death Camp Columbia was authored just two years after Devil's Horn, and features a similar premise when the four-man mercenary team Eagle Force becomes imprisoned in a Columbian jungle Hell. It was obvious that Devil's Horn served as a template for that particular novel. 

Schmidt is an on-the-nose writer that uses a low dose of gun-porn to describe and detail the harrowing action sequences in his men's action-adventure novels. His style incorporates a violent, gory combination laced with plenty of brutal scenes of torture and dismemberment. If you need “brains bashed into pulpy matter” then Schmidt is your guy. He was an active Bolan scribe and had a great handle on the high-numbered version of the character. In Devil's Horn, Schmidt also incorporates a human element to Bolan's suffering, but also a sympathetic, endearing quality to Bolan's love of American soldiers and the overpowering need to free the prisoners-of-war. I also enjoyed both Grimaldi and Bolan's chemistry while enduring the harsh elements and horrendous torture dished out by Torquemandan's henchmen. Needless to say, good things come to those who wait. The inevitable confrontation was worth the price of admission and felt like a satisfying conclusion to one of the most violent Executioner novels I've read. Devil's Horn is an absolute must-read if you love Mack Bolan

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Assassin #01 - Manhattan Massacre

Peter McMurtin authored the three-book series The Assassin for Dell in 1973. Double-dipping into the cookie jar, the author was also employed to write and edit for rival publisher Belmont. McMurtin cleverly used the character he created in this The Assassin trilogy for his long-running The Marksmen series for Belmont. In The Assassin, the character is Robert Briganti while in The Marksmen the name is simply changed to Philip Magellan. Same guy, same origin. Not to totally sweep-kick readers, but some of McMurtin's Sharpshooter series would feature the same character sprinkled in occasionally as Johnny Rock. 

This first installment of The Assaassin, titled Manhattan Massacre, plays out like your standard 1970s revenge yarn. There's nothing separating it from an early Bolan, or something akin to Death Wish, The Revenger, The Vigilante, etc. In this origin tale, Robert Briganti is introduced as a former trick shooter that worked the carnival circuit. Later, he began selling arms internationally for a firearms company while having some sort of connection to the CIA. Becoming a family man, Briganti settled down in Connecticut to run a sporting goods store.

A mobster named Joe Coraldi stops into Briganti's store and asks for a favor. He advises Briganti that his particular portion of the empire needs weapons. The deal is Briganti will be paid well, Coraldi gets the boom-boom and all is fair in war. But, Briganti declines the generous offer. Coraldi leaves, then later has his goons shoot up Briganti's car on the highway, shredding wife and kid and somehow sparing Briganti. 

Then, two-thirds of the narrative has Briganti arming himself and going after each of the men who murdered his family. The deaths are bloody carpet-soakers with the obligatory leaky heads and destroyed diaphragms. The funny stuff is that Briganti is running around with a monster boner and nearly explodes with one touch from a New York hooker. McMurtin also introduces a wild character named Mwalimu that provides a 14-page lecture to students about alternative history. His take is that Christopher Columbus was black and the reason the slaves willingly came to the U.S. was to get laid by white women. It's nuts, but ties into Briganti's final ploy to kill Coraldi. 

If Manhattan Massacre is a sign of things to come, then I'm in for an obnoxious, over-the-top kill-thrill as I waddle my way through two more Assassin entries before stepping over to The Marksmen. If the target is to be entertained with disposable fiction, then McMurtin scored a bullseye. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Joe Broderick's Woman

In the 1970s, Hollywood became fascinated with the large transport truck, aka “big rig”, “18-wheeler”, “tractor-trailer” or simply “Mack”. Films like Smokey and the Bandit (1977), White Line Fever (1975), Breaker! Breaker! (1977), and Convoy (1978) captured the heart and soul of the blue-collar truck-driving man, albeit with plenty of zany, over-the-top action hijinks that elevated the profession into a type of comic book heroism. The genre swerved into the men's action-adventure lane on occasion, prompting series titles like William W. Johnstone's Rig Warrior (1987) and Bob Ham's Overload (1989). 

Manor Books published an action-adventure-trucker novel titled Joe Broderick's Woman. It was released in 1978 and was authored by a possible “one 'n done” author named John H. Arbor. My internet search produced no other results for the author. Based on the quality of the book, I was hoping Arbor had written more. 

Joe Broderick is the owner and operator of a trucking company in Baltimore called Broderick Lines. Joe is former military and now lives a peaceful and successful life delivering the goods to a hard-earned book of business. In the novel's opening pages, readers gain a glimpse of the trucker lifestyle as more of a business with a secretary, driving crew, and various clients adding shipments to schedules. Not exactly Lincoln Hawk stuff (Over the Top, 1987).

Unbeknownst to him, Joe is married to a mobster's former mistress, a nice woman named Aletha. The two met a few years ago after Aletha successfully escaped the clutches of Sartorius Roth, a New Jersey kingpin. Aletha created a new life for herself, but warned Joe that she has a shady past and that someday her past may catch up to her. Now, pregnant, domesticated, and totally in love, Aletha is finally found by Roth's hired hands. While Joe is at work, the goons break into his house and capture Aletha. 

Arbor's narrative is a three-way presentation consisting of the inner workings of Roth's empire and his right-hand man attempting to unseat him. This presentation also includes Roth's reunion with Aletha and the sentence he serves her. There's some graphic violence and rape as Aletha is thrown to the wolves as a sex servant for Roth's men, ultimately losing her sanity in the torture and abuse. The second presentation is that of Roth's current mistress, a woman named Rosalyn. She is skeptical of Roth reuniting with Aletha and wants to keep her position of power. The third storyline is Joe's hunt for Roth and his plans to rescue Aletha.

As a B-grade action novel, Joe Broderick's Woman wins on all levels. It has a great storyline that isn't far removed from the typical vigilante stories we all love – The Executioner, The Revenger, etc. It's brutal when it needs to be, emotional at the right times, and hard-hitting as a Mack truck when the bullets start to fly. I really liked Joe's character and his progressive relationship with a former mob girl named Darla as well as his team-up with a former military veteran named Hap. The vengeance angle never seemed forced to me, which is a testament to Arbor's patient writing style. It all comes to fruition in due time. 

Whether John H. Arbor is a real guy or not remains to be seen. His style is reminiscent of Jon Messmann, but I don't believe Arbor was a pseudonym he used. With Manor publications, unmasking the identity of authors and artists is like trying to locate an honest representative in Congress. We may never find the answer. But don't let the mystery keep you from enjoying Joe Broderick's Woman. It's an entertaining 1970s beat 'em up that crosses lanes with trucker pop-culture. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, March 28, 2022

Reprisal

Arthur Gordon (1913-2002) was a Yale graduate and Rhodes scholar that fought in WW2 and later became an editor for slick magazines like Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and Guidepost. His family has a rich lineage in Georgia. His aunt created the Girl Scouts organization and his great-grandfather started the Central of Georgia Railroad. His literary work includes the military-fiction novel Target Germany, A Song Called Hope, and an acclaimed biography about Norman Vincent Peale. 

My focus is on his only crime-fiction novel, Reprisal. It was originally published in 1950 as a hardcover by Simon & Schuster. Its success warranted a second printing by the publisher. In 1951, the novel was published in paperback by Pocket Book (#801) with a cover by Harvey Kidder (he painted the cover of another book we reviewed HERE).

The book's synopsis, printed on the back cover, peaked my interest. It says:

My name is Nathan Hamilton. I am black. My wife has been lynched! God knows what they did to her before they tied her to a tree and riddled her body with bullets. The killers were tried by jury. They were acquitted. Every white man in Hainesville knows that these men are guilty. But the town wants to forget. I can't forget. They lynched my wife because they know they could get away with it! They were sure nothing would happen! But something can happen. Something will happen! I'm starting for Hainesville tonight. There's a loaded gun in my valise with a bullet in it for each man who had a hand in the murder of my wife!

The book begins in a courtroom as the judge and counsel tensely await a jury's verdict. Three white men are on trial for the heinous murder of four African-Americans in the small, southern town of Hainesville. When the jury reconvenes, they find the men not guilty despite evidence that proves otherwise. The judge provides a verbal scolding to the courtroom and cautions the jury that he's ashamed of the justice system and the events that have unfolded to allow the men to walk free.

Gordon then begins introducing various characters and side stories that ultimately make up Hainesville. The main character is Melady, a brave reporter from the North that's covering the trial and its aftermath. He attempts to remain somewhat neutral early on, but by the book's end, he becomes heavily involved. Unity is another star, a receptionist who is involved in a relationship with a very bad man named Shep. Perhaps the most influential character is Yancy, an admirable African-American undertaker that tries to be the peacekeeper in the black section of town. Threading the characters is Nathan, a black man now living in New York after his wife was raped and murdered in Hainesville. Once he learns of the trial's outcome, he travels south with a gun.

There is way too much to unpack in one simple blog review. Reprisal is nearly 300-pages and has a character list that seemed a mile long. It's a lot to keep up with, almost like watching an entire season of Game of Thrones while running an org chart. There are affairs, attacks, backwoods justice, romantic relationships forming and ending, scandals, jobs, families, news-hounds, and so forth. It's daunting at times, but the investment is worth it. All of the stories tie together to present a turbulent era in the deep South. 

Surprisingly, Reprisal isn't as well known as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird, predating it by 10 years. That could be due to the length, the complexity of the characters, or the amount of sheer violence that Reprisal possesses. The central theme is revenge, similar to a dusty western tale as the protagonist hunts the killers. There are no real heroes, only misfortune and death told in a doom 'n gloom style by Gordon. Shockingly, I found passages that I re-read numerous times due to their similarities to what we still experience today. Reprisal is a prophetic, iron-fist look at the heart-wrenching extremes humans seek to hurt one another. While never preachy or condescending, Gordon presents a fictional account of real-world violence, then and now, that leaves a distinct mark on the reader. It's a powerful novel.

Reprisal was adapted to film in 1956, but unfortunately it was poorly devised. The setting changed to the 1800s and the entire narrative was modified into a western revenge tale. Sadly, Reprisal has never been reprinted.

Note - The hardback version of the book shows the main character as a white man. It is evident that the cover is depicting Nathan as he is retrieving the pistol from his valise. I assume it was too controversial to put a black man with a gun on the hardcover? 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, December 27, 2021

Doctor Death #01 - Doctor Death

Author Herb Fisher (1932-2001), a North Philadelphia native, began writing as a sports editor for his high school. On a football scholarship, Fisher attended Temple University and majored in journalism. Nicknamed Herbie or Fish, the author gained employment at Cherry Hill's East and West high schools as an English and Drama teacher while also coaching football. 

Beginning at age 55, Fisher had enjoyed writing so much that he wrote five screenplays, a novel and two television scripts. His agent suggested that one of the screenplays would be better suited as a book. The screenplay, Doctor Death, was whittled down to an epic novel. Eventually, that was trimmed and edited into a four book series of men's action-adventure paperbacks published by Berkley. The first novel, simply titled Doctor Death, was published in 1988 with misleading cover art and blurb. After reading it, I feel strongly that Herb Fisher deserved better treatment from his publisher.

Upon first glance, Doctor Death appears to be a late 80s cash grab targeting Mack Bolan fans. The concept of a Vietnam vet returning home to become a vigilante had become stale by the late 1970s. Dozens of movies and hundreds of books utilized the formula and most of them are all entertaining to a degree. But, after reading the first 100-pages of Herb Fisher's book, I began to understand that this isn't a cookie-cutter, “law in your own hands” styled action-adventure. It's much better than that.

The book's 18-page prologue takes place in the green jungles of the Mekong Delta in 1969. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) Sergeant Kyle Youngblood is fiercely defending an American camp as a large Vietcong battalion attack. As his fellow soldiers die, Kyle experiences a range of emotions from shock to raw, animalistic anger. Using grenades, mortars, wire, and guns, Kyle is able to hold the line while bleeding from a leg wound. When a backup platoon arrives, they find Kyle unconscious and nickname him “Doctor Death.”

The first chapter places the narrative in the present day where Kyle is now a farmer in Silver Lake, Nevada. He's living a happy, quiet small town existence with his wife and two young children. Everyone in town is fond of Kyle and considers him a hometown hero. In the opening chapters, readers are introduced to the Fallon family. They reside 25-miles west of Kyle and control a large portion of the Las Vegas underworld. In a backstory, it's explained that Marty Fallon was shot by rival mobsters and paralyzed from the waist down. He controls the action from a wheelchair in his posh, enormous mansion. His sons are screw ups, but they maintain a portion of the mob action. The youngest, Buddy, is Marty's pride and joy. But, Buddy is a wild man, sort of a juvenile delinquent right out of a 1950s crime-noir. He's a buck-wild drinker, gambler, and womanizer partying through life with his father's endless supply of money.

On Kyle's trip into town to purchase supplies, he makes a poor decision to stop in Andy's Place for a quick drink. Buddy is inside, backed by two enforcers, drinking and talking smack to anyone who will listen. Surprisingly, Kyle ignores all of it as a promise to his wife that he won't fight again. But, when Buddy's Lincoln and Kyle's beat-up pickup truck collide in the parking lot, all Hell breaks loose. Kyle is happy to swap insurance cards, but Buddy wants to swap fists. Provoked into the fight, Kyle ends up injuring the two enforcers and killing Buddy. The town sheriff is owned by the mob, so Kyle is jailed even though the fight was self-defense.

The court releases Kyle on bond, but he can't escape the trouble. When Marty learns that Buddy is dead, he places a hit on Kyle and his family. Several enforcers attempt to kill his family, but Kyle survives. In the book's third act, Kyle and his family are thrown to the wolves by the local law enforcement. They allow a mob army to descend on Kyle's farm to obliterate everything standing. The book's finale has Kyle defending the farm in the same manner as he did in Vietnam. But, instead of Army supplies, Kyle is left to make an unusual defense using farming tools and household items. The final battle is nothing short of spectacular. 

Herb Fisher gets everything right with Doctor Death. Kyle is an admirable protagonist and his willingness to sacrifice himself for his family transcends from the printed page to the beating heart. I cared about these characters and raced to the end just to learn of their fates. But, it's the little details that Fisher includes that make all of the difference.

So many books and films miss key moments to build small side-stories that will later become important events later. Fisher gets it. In the beginning, Kyle learns that the store owner doesn't have the ammo he needs. Instead, he has to settle on an undesirable caliber. This will play a large role in the book's finale. Or, something as simple as Kyle aiming a rifle, but placing extra shells between each of the fingers on his left hand for easy reloading. This reinforces battlefield experience. It's a statement that Kyle is a believable hero. Fisher even adds in the fact that the sheriff doesn't remove his hat when talking with Kyle, but the deputy does. It solidifies a good relationship, an alliance, between the deputy and Kyle. These little things are important. 

While I'm sure Fisher was delighted that his books were published by Berkley, the publisher misled the consumer. Kyle isn't the “M-16 vigilante of Vegas” like the cover suggests. I recently acquired the second and third books of the series and they have equally frustrating covers. While I enjoy The Vigilante, Sharpshooter, The Executioner, and so forth, Doctor Death isn't that type of debut. It's a different presentation and style, a screenplay to the extent that it fits into a novel. In other words, make an appointment with Doctor Death and take your damn medicine. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Penetrator #02 - Blood on the Strip

With the success of The Executioner, Pinnacle began creating titles that captured the action-oriented, vigilante feel. In 1973, the publisher released The Target is H, the first novel of The Penetrator series. It ran a total of 53 installments under the house name of Lionel Derrick. The odd numbers were written by Mark K. Roberts and the even installments by Chet Cunningham. I enjoyed the series debut and wanted to revisit the character. The second entry, Blood on the Strip, was published in October, 1973.

Cunningham begins the novel with an eight-page prologue recapping the character's origin story and events from the first book. The series can be read in any order and features hero Mark Hardin as a Vietnam veteran fighting crime vigilante style. He's aided by two behind-the-scenes allies in Professor Hawkins and a Native American named Red Eagle. This opener explains that Hardin destroyed a California mob family and he's now prowling Las Vegas searching for his next mission.

The book's opening chapters has Hardin detonating charges at a talent agency called Starmaker. After, he heads to Professor Hawkins and Red Eagle to summarize events in Vegas. Thus, his recount to them makes up this entire novel and explains the sequence of events that led to Starmaker's fiery destruction. I like when books start with the conclusion and then map out how these events developed. It's like starting with the Oreo stuffing.

Hardin meets a young woman named Sally Johnson, an aspiring model and actress trying to earn a living in Vegas. At a restaurant bar, she advises Hardin that the talent agency she is using wants her to begin stripping and prostituting. When she refuses, they issue violent threats. When Hardin attempts to escort Johnson to her car, he's jumped by enforcers of the agency. Sally is cut to shreds and left to bleed out in the parking lot. Thankfully, she's rushed to the hospital and Hardin begins assembling a plan of attack. 

Cunningham's narrative keeps a steady pace as Hardin investigates the agency and its owner. In what will become a familiar formula, the investigation leads to some hit and run tactics destroying parts of this immense criminal empire. The villain behind the agency is like a knockoff female nemesis of James Bond. She keeps sex slaves locked in cages and eventually captures Sally to lead Hardin to her enforcers. Readers know how the story ends, but the ride is a lot of fun.

Since this was Cunningham's first Penetrator novel, I think this installment is a feeling out process. Hardin doesn't necessarily behave in the same manner in future novels and it becomes less elementary and neanderthal. Roberts had a better version of the hero in the debut, but Cunningham eventually finds a connection to the character and delivers equally enjoyable installments (so I've been told). If you love  the 1970s men's action-adventure genre, The Penetrator is in the upper echelon.

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.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 91

Episode 91 is a special Father's Day episode! Eric and his father, Chris discuss the life and literary works of William W. Johnstone. We delve deep into Johnstone's prolific career, determine the identity of J.A. Johnstone and examine the publishing mysteries surrounding the Johnstone name after his death. The two discuss The Last Mountain Man, Rig Warrior, Out of the Ashes, Matt Jensen, The Eagles and so much more. Tom calls in with commentary on Johnstone's contemporary thrillers like Stand Your Ground and Black Friday. Listen on any podcast app, paperbackwarrior.com or download directly HERE 

Donate to the show HERE


Listen to "Episode 91 Draft" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Hawker #07 - Detroit Combat

The seventh installment of Randy Wayne White's Hawker series was published by Dell in 1986. Authored under the pseudonym of Carl Ramm, Detroit Combat once again places the series protagonist in a vigilante role. Unlike the prior novels, this entry excludes the mysterious butler Hendricks (my favorite character) and Hawker's wealthy boss Hayes. Other than just a brief mention about a prior conversation, Hawker's instructions and mission has already been established by the novel's first page.

In the opening chapters, readers find James Hawker stripping at a suite in a downtown Detroit office building preparing to have sex against his will. He's there to investigate missing girls, an assignment brought to him by Detroit police because legal obstacles have blocked their path to justice. These women are being captured and forced into sex slavery and trafficking by a woman known as Queen Faith. This downtown suite offers a portion of the puzzle – a discreet porn studio where Hawker has tracked one of the missing girls.

Whether intended or not, the opening chapters have Hawker captured by the sex slavers and forced into a porno shoot with an ugly female sporting a purple mohawk and a penchant for violent sex. At gunpoint, Hawker is forced to accept fellatio before finally breaking his restraints and liberating the girl from the sex racket.

After further investigation, Hawker teams up with two detectives to learn the whereabouts of Queen Faith. In the narrative's interesting, non-violent sections, one of the female detectives attempts to arrest Hawker for his vigilante justice. The two square off in a heated debate over the pros and cons of police procedures. Of course she's ultimately thrown into the novel as a mattress for Hawker, but kudos to White for examining vigilante justice in a debate forum.

Anyone who's familiar with the series, or these types of rapid-fire lone-justice novels, know the pattern and formula. Detroit Combat isn't any different and White proves to be a capable writer throughout the series. The book's fiery finale, set in an enormous mansion, delivers the expected thrills in grand fashion. The book is a testament to the elementary approach to the series: Hawker is a few-brains, all-bullets action-adventure series.

Easter Egg:

The author places a character in the book named Randy White. In one scene, it is said that White "wrote the book on the subject".

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Penetrator #01 - The Target Is H

Powerhouse publisher Pinnacle capitalized on its own success with 'The Executioner' with a wildly successful, over-the-top vigilante series entitled 'The Penetrator'. Beginning in 1973, the series launched with “The Target Is H”, the first of 53 installments published under the house name of Lionel Derrick. However, the series was masterminded by journeyman author Chet Cunningham ('Avenger', 'Pony Soldiers'), who wrote the even numbered volumes. The odd numbers were penned by Mark K. Roberts ('Soldier for Hire', 'Liberty Corps.'). I decided to check out where it all began - Penetrator #1: “The Target is H”.

The novel introduces series protagonist Mark Hardin and the events that led to his war on organized crime. Hardin excelled in sports, eventually lettering in wrestling, basketball and football in high school. On the cusp of a lucrative NFL contract, Hardin refuses to cooperate with gambling junkies during his last collegiate game and experiences a horrific back injury that ends his athletic ambitions (there's more to the story but I'm no spoiler). Hardin then joins the U.S. Army and finds that he is a remarkable soldier. After numerous medals, Hardin's military career ends with an exceptional record and an honorary discharge.

While hoping to find the gambling junkies that ended his sports career, Hardin and his girlfriend Donna Morgan run into a heroin distribution ring in Los Angeles. Too close to the fire, Donna is murdered and Hardin finds himself aligned with her uncle, Professor Hawkins, and a talented Native American named Red Eagle. As a trio, they launch a crime-fighting crusade from a desert fortress called The Stronghold.

This series debut consists of a number of guerrilla firefights between Hardin and a mob family led by Don Pietro Scarelli. Mark Roberts writes like Don Pendleton's clone, firing off an admirable Mack Bolan knockoff in Mark Hardin. Despite the book's cover (and most of the series for that matter), Hardin isn't some suit-wearing spy that's chasing brutes and babes. In fact, I was surprised that Hardin is mostly concealed in black fatigues without any bodacious beauties. It's all action, from car chases on windswept, desert roads to infiltrating the mob in a slick ambush. Roberts presents three distinct firefights that were above average for a 1970s vigilante paperback...and that's saying something.

Overall, “The Target Is H” was a stellar first entry in what would amount to be a tremendously successful run of men's pulpy action-adventure novels. This one is a must read and thankfully Chet Cunningham's estate have made the first 26 installments available as affordable ebooks.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Executioner #11 - California Hit

After the deadpan narrative in “Vegas Vendetta”, the ninth installment of 'The Executioner' series, I was alarmed that author Don Pendleton had reached a subdued complacency. Thankfully the subsequent entry, “Caribbean Kill”, delivered what most would expect from these early installments – white-knuckle action laced with gunfire. After taking a year hiatus from Pendleton's novels, I was excited to read the series' 11th volume, “California Hit” (1972).

Bolan arrives in San Francisco to extinguish Roman DeMarco's criminal empire. Targeting the Capo Mafioso, Bolan sets his targets on DeMarco's two most loyal generals. As the book opens, there's a sense of familiarity as Bolan stakes out a mob dwelling called The China Gardens. In a blitzkrieg of explosives, Bolan eliminates dozens of enforcers before being ushered to safety by a bodacious Asian woman named Mary Ching. While on the run from a special police task force called Brushfire, Bolan roots out a Chinese criminal cell that is aligning with the mob to force a power struggle within the Mafia ranks. That's a lot to unpack for any reader.

Pendleton's narrative has a lot of forward momentum but mostly these battles have become commonplace within the series. Surprisingly, the most gripping portions were dedicated to characters from Bolan's past. For example, the novel's 10th chapter is titled “Alpha Team”. This of course is a tie-in to Bolan's firefighting team in Vietnam called Team Alpha. It is also the name of a successful spin-off series that debuted in 1982.

“California Hit” also brings to light the fact that Bolan served in some capacity during the Korean War. I'm not mathematically gifted but I think Bolan would have been too young for that campaign. Regardless, these history lessons are connected with one of Bolan's former squad members, Bill Phillips. It's Phillips that opposes Bolan's mission by attempting to quell the flames with his Brushfire team of anti-Bolan personnel. There are a number of cameos or mentions throughout the novel – Leo Turrin, Gadgets Schwarz, Rosario Blancanales and Bolan's brother Johnny.

While “California Hit” won't make any Bolan “best of” lists, it is about par for the course for the series' double-digit entries. There's a number of characters, narrative threads and series' characters to keep readers briskly flipping the pages. The book's last few paragraphs introduces the next mission – protecting Johnny in Bolan's hometown of Pittsfield. I'm excited to see how it plays out in “Boston Blitz”.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Sharpshooter: Killing Machine

The publishing industry for men's action-adventure paperbacks in the 1970s was a fertile ground to create house names, marketable characters and engaging series titles in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Marketing these books became a cash grab for whomever depicted the best guns and chests on the cover. That wild west mentality created one universal problem for publishers – time. As the production schedule moved at light speed, deadlines and quality became real antagonists. Nothing exemplifies that problem more than Belmont Tower's 1970s series trio 'The Assassin', 'The Sharpshooter' and 'The Marksman'.

Ignoring some very positive reviews from other critics, I've managed to avoid these three titles for a very specific reason. Literary critic and scribe Lynn Munroe outlines the entire history of these three titles HERE and explains that these books weren't published in the correct sequence. Shockingly, some of the books weren't even published under the correct series name. You may find
“The Sharpshooter Johnny Rock” starring as “The Marksman” or vice versa. You'll conjure up a headache of epic proportions by simply attempting to make sense of it all.

In order to provide insightful commentary here at Paperback Warrior, I've decided to read these books and offer individual reviews solely on the book itself. I may loosely mention continuity, but my main emphasis is story content (as it should be). My first endeavor is the 'Sharpshooter' debut novel “The Killing Machine”, authored by Peter McCurtin ('Soldier of Fortune', 'Sundance') and published by Belmont Tower in 1973.

The novel explains that the owners of Rocetti Designs were killed by a grenade after refusing to cooperate with the mob. In the book's prologue, their son Johnny, now heir to the company, miraculously survives a drive-by shooting that kills Johnny's brother and sister-in-law. In a thirst for vengeance, Johnny Rocetti is now “The Sharpshooter” known as Johnny Rock. By procuring enough wealth from the family business, Johnny now vows to hunt and kill the mobsters that murdered his family.

By 1973, every author and publisher wanted to recreate the success of Don Pendleton's 'The Executioner'. Essentially, “The Killing Machine” is a Mack Bolan clone - but an enjoyable one. Johnny's marksman ability in Vietnam is utilized to crush a northeastern Mob family. Like Pendleton's strategy with Mack Bolan, McCurtin has Johnny pitting two rival factions against each other. With the two warring families consistently mired in chaos and paranoia, Johnny's guerrilla snipe and run tactic is successful. Assisting Johnny is the voluptuous Iris, a widow in black who is wielding her own revenge against the mob.

While certainly not original or particularly clever, McCurtin's writing is an enjoyable, fast-paced blend of violence, mob politics and sexual foreplay. The heated chemistry between Iris and Johnny was a welcome addition, and I particularly enjoyed the rural landscape of Vermont as a unique backdrop for a mob-vigilante story. Overall, those of you who loved the pre-Gold Eagle era of Mack Bolan should find plenty to enjoy with “The Killing Machine”.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Avenger #02 - Houston Hellground

Journeyman Chet Cunningham authored a four book series from 1987-1988 titled 'The Avenger'. It's an odd title because the series was released by Warner Books, a publisher that already had another 'Avenger' title in their catalog. Warner published reprints and new titles of pulp hero 'Avenger' (released under the house name Kenneth Robeson) from 1972-1975, totaling 42 books. There's no connection otherwise between the two series, but it's nevertheless confusing.

The Avenger's second installment, “Houston Hellground”, was published in April 1988. I enjoyed the eponymous debut and this series does have a sense of continuity (unlike high-numbered titles like 'The Butcher'). The first novel introduced us to Matt Hawke, a San Diego DEA agent who finds his wife brutally murdered by drug cartels. Strained by the chains of bureaucracy, Hawke breaks free by quitting the DEA and running his own brand of unsanctioned justice. After annihilating West Coast drug distributors, he sets gun-sights on a Houston kingpin named Lopez.

Cunningham is the quintessential “meat and potatoes” author, simplifying the story and lacing it with high-caliber action. Hawke's mission is two-fold: Rescue a DEA agent from Lopez's grip and cut the distribution lines in and out of the nearby port city. Teaming with a beautiful ex-cop named Carmelita, the two become a destructive force under Cunningham's skilled hands.

“Houston Hellground” delivers a ton of gunplay, increasing the violence a notch or two to properly satisfy seasoned (read that as bloodthirsty) men's action readers. Remember, this is a late entry published in 1988. There's a brutal torture scene that involves sexual assault – not for queasy stomachs. Further, Hawke and Lopez (who's fighting a rival) collectively waste every adversary in vivid detail. Surprisingly, I was lucky enough to be one of the few survivors. “Houston Hellground” is another solid entry in an entertaining, yet neglected series.

Fun Fact – Artist Greg Olanoff did the covers for the entire series. His model was Jason Savas, the same model he used for the first five 'M.I.A. Hunter' books.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Butcher #23 - Appointment in Iran

Inspired by 'The Executioner', Pinnacle released a 35-book series titled 'The Butcher' from 1970-1982. Under house name Stuart Jason, a majority of the first 26 installments were written by James Dockery. These can be read in any order and the concept is fairly simplistic: Bucher was a crime overlord of the Syndicate's East Coast Division. After personal conflicts, he left the business only to find a price on his head from the international underworld. The 23rd volume is titled “Appointment in Iran”, published in 1977 with cover art by Fred Love.

The book begins with Bucher waiting on his 21 year-old sex doll Caroline to arrive at his apartment. Instead, he receives a call from the Mob stating they have his lover and request a meeting. Weary of the invite, Bucher hesitantly accepts and walks a half-hour to a nearby bar to discuss the details. After an introductory firefight – Koosh! - Bucher meets with lower echelon hustler named Jake the Juggler before being escorted to see kingpin Sleek Pazulli.

The proposal is intriguing. Pazulli and the underworld will collectively lift the hit on Bucher for one international favor – they want an assassination performed in Iran. They give Caroline back as an opening gift, then offer Bucher the job which he accepts. Only the details of the hit won't be provided until Bucher arrives in Beirut. The whole thing seems ill-advised, especially when Caroline mysteriously tags along. What's her purpose other than being a lousy lay?

The narrative's second-half is a tight thriller as Bucher attempts to learn more about the Syndicate's involvement in the Middle East. Along the way he faces Israeli intelligence, Palestinian terrorists and the Syndicate once he discovers the identity of the assassination target (no spoilers). Dockery's best ideas revolve around Caroline. She's sexy, flirtatious and dangerous, leaving Bucher an agonizing choice on which “rod” to use.

I almost threw this whole series out after reading Dockery's horrendous 'Butcher' debut, “Kill Quick or Die”. But, the cover art for “Appointment in Iran” seduced me and I'm thankful for it. The plot is easy to follow with a smooth narrative that led me to think this was written by Michael Avallone, who authored the last nine books of the series. But, according to Spy Guys and Gals, it was written by Dockery. I verified with a few resources online and it all led to the same conclusion. Nevertheless, “Appointment in Iran” was extremely enjoyable and provides a glimmer of hope that this series does include some gems.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, November 8, 2019

Vendetta

Joseph Gilmore's biggest contribution to the men's action-adventure genre is the 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' series. Beginning with “Strike of the Hawk”, Gilmore authored eight series installments from 1980 through 1985. According to Glorious Trash, Gilmore also wrote “Operation Nazi – USA” under the name James Gilman. My only experience with the author is his 1973 vigilante-styled paperback “Vendetta”, published by Pinnacle. The novel was re-printed in 1976 with the pictured cover art.

New York patrolman Alex Braley is on a mission to knock off key players in the illegal drug distribution game. While most 70s vigilante novels begin with the protagonist's loved ones being murdered, Gilmore takes an abstract approach. Instead, there's a brief explanation that one year ago Gilmore's wife got hooked on drugs and died from a poisonous batch. There's not a single individual or crime ring to avenge, so Braley starts with the top drug distributors and works his way down. Thus, the book begins with Braley hogtying a higher echelon gang leader before delivering the brutal kill shot to the cranium.

Like Robert Lory's 'Vigilante' series, Braley conducts himself like a straight-laced citizen to his friends, peers and co-workers while secretly planning mob hits. He utilizes a local book shop to purchase mystery and crime novels. In one hilarious scene the store owner condemns the 'Perry Mason' novels and proclaims that Mickey Spillane and Don Pendleton are far superior. Braley normalizes his everyman persona. He plays golf and racquetball, and as the narrative becomes a bit more dynamic, Braley even delivers a West Coast hit while portraying to co-workers that he was on a much-needed vacation in Bermuda. That's ballsy.

During the the Los Angeles killing, Braley falls in love with a single mom. This relationship begins clouding Braley's vigilante mentality. While delivering fatal blows to the Syndicate, it is Braley's love interest that starts to align his fake persona with reality. Soon, the NYPD begins sniffing Braley's trail to determine if he is the mob assassin. Gilmore takes the action from the West Coast, into Seattle, New York, Vermont and even Europe in a grand globe-trotting pursuit.

But is any of it really original or engaging?

Not particularly. In fact, this is like Pendleton's Bolan without the originality. As the pages turned, I was reminded again on how good Don Pendleton's 'The Executioner' novels are and the direct, albeit phony, comparison Gilmore makes to that innovative series. “Vendetta” isn't a terrible novel. Depending on how many 70s men's action-adventure novels you read in a year, this novel may perform better than expected. For me, I'm averaging 10-12 books per month and understand there are far better novels of this variety.

“Vendetta” is cookie-cutter, middle of the road fiction. Take it or leave it.

Buy a copy HERE

Monday, September 30, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 13

We close out the month of September with a feature on Max Allan Collins and his series of books starring the hitman Quarry. Tom reviews "Quarry's Choice" from 2015 and Eric tackles the 23rd installment of 'The Butcher' series, "Appointment in Iran". Tom and Eric look back at the best of September and offer a sneak peek at October's lineup of reviews. Stream the show below or on any popular streaming service. Direct Downloads LINK Listen to "Episode 13: Quarry" on Spreaker.