Showing posts with label Wasteworld. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wasteworld. Show all posts

Friday, March 13, 2020

Wasteworld #04 - My Way

With 1984's “My Way”, the four-book 'Wasteworld' series comes to an abrupt end. Authored by a combination of Laurence James and Angus Wells, this post-apocalyptic series centered on U.S. military veteran Matthew Chance and his perilous endeavors to reach his ex-wife and kids in Utah. Beginning in New Orleans, each book showcases Chance's road to survival through warlords, mutants and dictators in the same manner that popular doomsday series titles 'The Survivalist', 'Doomsday Warrior' and 'The Last Ranger' also did.

In the ‘Wasteworld’ third installment, “Angels”, Chance had seemingly met his match with a vicious gang of Hell's Angels bikers. Thankfully, a female Apache warrior named Kathi saved the day in the book's grandiose finale. “My Way” is a seamless continuation as Kathi and Chance head north into Nevada. After a couple of quick run 'n gun battles, Kathi's part of the narrative concludes and Chance arrives in Las Vegas to begin another adventure.

After meeting a nice mechanic and his hospitable family, Chance learns that Vegas is now controlled by two brothers, Al and Tony Clementi. Like a 1950s crime-noir paperback, the two brothers control the city's gambling venues and drinking halls. When they target the mechanic's young daughter, Chance is thrust into a war with a doomsday crime syndicate. After killing Al, Tony's faction declares war on Chance. While that narrative comes to fruition, a side-story develops with three bounty hunters from Texas hunting Chance through the Vegas rubble.

Despite the book's exciting premise, “My Way” fails to deliver a pleasant reading experience. Far too often the authors digress from the narrative to explain a minor character's history or to inform readers of an outlaw's infamous history. For example, there's a whole segment on Billy the Kid. While the action was enthralling, I felt it was misplaced and untimely. When key scenes required gunplay, the reader was served dialogue. But when a descriptive scene analysis is required, the characters just shoot it all to Hell.

While publisher Granada probably had a limited circulation (UK and New Zealand only), the sales numbers just didn't produce a commercially-successful series. Unfortunately, “My Way” wasn’t written as a series finale, so invested readers aren't provided a proper conclusion to Matthew Chance's epic struggle. This novel's poor execution ensured that interest in a proper ending likely dwindled among readers. Looking at the series as a whole, the first and fourth books were lukewarm while the second and third installments were very enjoyable. Having read the Wasteworld saga once, I'm not terribly interested in ever reading it again. It might be worth the time and effort to track down the series, but there are certainly far better books to pursue.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Wasteworld #03 - Angels

Laurence James and Angus Wells were both prolific UK authors that were at the core of the Piccadilly Cowboys group of western, action and science-fiction writers. The four-book series entitled 'Wasteworld' launched in 1983 to capitalize on the nuclear hysteria of the 1980s. It's a post-apocalyptic series written by James, Wells, or a combination of both. While the verdict is still out on who actually authored the series, it was certainly a great run of action-adventure titles. After a rough start with the debut, I enjoyed the subsequent novel “Resurrection” immensely. Does the third book capture that same enjoyment?

1984's “Angels” begins with hero Matthew Chance gathering supplies to continue his journey to Salt Lake City. His wife and kids are residing in a spiritual encampment, and Chance has traveled from New Orleans to Texas throughout the course of the first two books to free them. Still in Texas, Chance has now met up with a scraggly scavenger and his snarling dog. After an intense encounter, the two agree to work together to secure a souped up Dodge Charger across town. Unfortunately, its guarded by the Nightpeople (think of those sand creatures from Star Wars). I won't ruin the fun for you, but the authors inject some terror into this car heist.

However, the bulk of the narrative revolves around a sadistic group of Hell's Angels bikers and their ill-will towards Chance. Like a twisted scene from David Alexander's 'Phoenix' series, the bikers force Chance into a motocross nightmare featuring spikes, chains, traps and guns. It's an exhilarating sequence that propels Chance into another adventure that reaches fruition by the book's finale. I was surprised to find that “Angels” climaxes in a cliff-hanger requiring top dollar for the fourth and last paperback of the series.

I've ran the gauntlet of 80s post-apocalypse paperbacks like 'Swampmaster', 'Phoenix', 'Roadblaster', 'Deathlands', 'Survival 2000', 'Last Ranger', etc. I'd say I've enjoyed this series more than any of them. You will too.

Note – Wells/James inserts a reference to Cuchillo, an Apache warrior that starred in the 'Apache' series of 1970s westerns penned by a combination of Laurence James, Terry Harknett and John Harvey. This mirrors the cameo appearance that Cuchillo makes in James' 'Deathlands' series. Wild!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Wasteworld #02 - Resurrection

The men's action-adventure genre of the 1980s was a license to print money capitalizing on Cold War hysteria. Pop-culture was consistently buzzing with what was conceived as an inevitable nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Films like “The Road Warrior” and “Mad Max” proved to be catalysts spurning the post-apocalyptic movement that eventually would permeate men's action fiction. With series' like 'Doomsday Warrior', 'Deathlands' and 'Out of the Ashes', the genre spiked by the mid-80s and created a number of shorter series titles and stand-alone novels.

U.K. authors Laurence James and Angus Wells were members of the “Piccadilly Cowboys”, a faction of British writers that concentrated on violent western titles including 'Apache', 'Adam Steele' and 'Edge'. James was a tremendous contributor to the post-apocalyptic genre as well, penning a number of 'Deathlands' novels as well as a trilogy called 'Survival 2000'. Teaming with U.K. publishing house Granada, and his contemporary Angus Wells, James launched a four-book series called 'Wasteworld' in 1983 that featured vivid artwork from acclaimed illustrator Richard Clifton-Dey (Blue Oyster Cult, Ray Bradbury).

The second entry, “Resurrection”, features survivor Matthew Chance driving a worn-out Daitsu through rural Texas. Readers were first introduced to Chance in the series debut “Aftermath”, where Chance's background as United States Marine Corps pilot led to a subsequent post-nuke campaign in the Crozet Islands in the Indian Ocean. Making his way through Mexico, Chance was shipwrecked in New Orleans on a quest to find his ex-wife and family. After disposing of a defacto dictator and liberating a tunnel of mutants, “Resurrection” picks up seamlessly from those events.

The book's opening scenes pits the wiry Chance against a gigantic mutant spider. The harrowing fight is a tantalizing suggestion that this book may be an improvement over the series' disappointing debut. After the spider fight, Chance finds himself in what remains of Austin, now a fortified, smaller city ran by Chance's brutish former father-in-law, Garth Chambers. The survivor settlement is now ruled by Chambers and features only two classes – military and prisoner.

The plot of “Resurrection” solidifies when Chambers imprisons Chance leading to their ironic twists-of-fate; Chambers needs Chance as a pilot in servitude, and Chance needs the whereabouts of Chambers' daughter and grandchildren. In an unlikely alliance, Chance is forced to work with Chambers until he can learn the location of his family. That brings the book's rowdy finale into view – the inevitable showdown between the two forces. However, to avoid the elementary premise, the authors introduce a mutant army called The Nightmen that will be forced to choose sides. Ultimately, a bomb shelter housing a lone prospector named Fairweather proves to be the key in Chance's fight.

Unlike the debut, “Resurrection” is an explosive action-adventure that meets the needs of avid post-apocalyptic fiction fans. High-octane car chases, gunfights with bandits, mutant insects and two charismatic forces enhance this ordinary “bully versus drifter” western archetype. In terms of genre quality, it ranks up there with the best of 'The Last Ranger' books and equals the chaotic enjoyment of the 'Traveler' series.  These used books are expensive and difficult to find, but based on this entry, it might be a worthy investment.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Wasteworld #01 - Aftermath

U.K. author *Laurence James has become a regular staple here at Paperback Warrior. I’ve covered a host of his novels ranging from the ‘Apache’ western series to his popular post-apocalyptic runs on ‘Deathlands’ and ‘Survival 2000’. The “Piccadilly Cowboy” had a knack for science-fiction and the post-nuke formula, evident as early as 1983 with the four-book series ‘Wasteworld’. It’s debut, “Aftermath”, was released in the U.K. by the Granada publishing house under one of James’ many house names, James Barton. Collaborating with Granada is popular British artist Richard Clifton-Dey (Blue Oyster Cult, Ray Bradbury). The talented painter showcases a barren, dismal “wasteworld”, accenting hero Matthew Chance’s post-apocalyptic struggle perfectly. With rather large print at 128 pages, this is two-hours…spent.

Like any post-nuke worth its salt, “Aftermath” curtain jerks with a paragraph explaining Afghanistan was invaded, the US took the banana countries and a war was fought over Cuba. The breaking point was an invasion into Libya as the parts of the world experienced oil shortages. The bombs went up and down…and now most of the world is riddled with radiation, disease and devastation. Marine Air Corps pilot Matthew Chance was fighting in a campaign over the Crozet Islands in the Indian Ocean when the nukes exchanged. Apparently, the bombs really had no effect on Matthew or the surrounding area. Surviving the ordeal, he somehow ends up in Mexico (told to the reader through a verbal exchange with a mutant) where very little devastation has occurred. Other than the air bases, Mexico has very little radiation or physical stress. As charming as it sounds, Matthew has to get to Texas to find his ex-wife and their two children.

The book’s opening chapters has Matthew washing up on a shore in New Orleans. He’s somehow sunk a cigarette boat in the gulf with kilos of cocaine and gallons of fuel. His bartering goods are ultimately destroyed and the only possession he can carry to shore is a fighting knife. This quickly comes in handy as Matthew fights off a gang of deadly, feral cats to prove his validity. Soon, he’s exploring the city only to find New Orleans is now ran by a voodoo priest named Amos. The African Americans have actually enslaved the white survivors and now serve as labor and enforcement for “king” Amos. After seeing Caucasians being buried alive, pale-faced Matthew quickly runs for safety. He runs into a swarm of 7-foot hunchback ogres and mutant, rabid dogs. His only safety is in the sewers where he befriends a female mutant named Alice Adams. In a wacky scene we learn Alice can only communicate by ESP and she’s a permanent resident – her mutant deformity is that she is bloated to a supersized blob of lethargic fat. With that size comes great stress – she can’t fit through the sewer exits.

Alice offers to aid Matthew in his journey to Texas (how?) if he will simply go kill Amos. Matthew makes a failed attempt only to be awarded with the obligatory jail time. Amos forces Matthew to shoot a few white prisoners while requiring him to fly a Cobra helicopter into the bayou to kill an army of Cajun opposition. It’s utterly ridiculous, made even more convoluted by an insane decision on the part of Matthew to blow the helicopter up. Why not just fly the damn thing to Texas and save the family? Instead, Matthew wastes an entire helicopter fighting rabid dogs and mutants near the sewer entrance. In the book’s finale, Matthew, now teaming with the very mutants he was fighting, attempts to exchange Amos for some Cajun prisoners.

I loved the brief backstory on Matthew and the mono myth creation. This really set the book up well, and despite our hero fighting cats, he’s introduced as a likable guy. The chase scenes within the brothel and wine cellar were very effective and bordered on horror’s penchant for dark spaces and hypertension. I found James really ahead of the game with an early style of writing in describing residency. A lot of the zombie fiction of the 00s would depict characters entering homes and finding dead bodies. I always found that part of zombie fiction entertaining…although oddly anonymous and thought provoking. Here, Matthew enters a number of homes and finds the same scenario. Often, he simply drags the bodies into a room or piles them up downstairs. I thought this was a unique aspect considering the time of release – 1983. By the middle of the book James’ throws the baby out with the bath water. Alice Adams is absolutely bizarre and the vile villain is dull and lifeless. Where the book’s beginning made Matthew interesting and somewhat respectable…the closing chapters are studies in character erosion. The book’s cover painting and slim design makes it collectible…but I would never read this again.

* Justin Marriott of Paperback Fanatic, Sleazy Reader, Men of Violence, etc. suggests that this book may have been written by a different Piccadilly Cowboy in Angus Wells. He cites two different sources for pegging Wells as the author. First was an interview he did with crime writer James Harvey, who had worked with Wells and James on prior work. Second is the fact that Laurence James excludes 'Wasteworld' from his bibliography submitted to Paperback Parade.