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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

OVERLOAD #02 - THE WRATH

Bob Ham's Overload series debuted in 1989 with "Personal War". His follow-up is a few weeks later with entry two, "The Wrath". It's once again released by Bantam Books, complete with that lovable Red Rooster logo. 

The first novel introduced readers to Marc Lee and Carl Browne, Delta Force standouts that went to war with the Mob. Do we need even need a reason? Yeah...the Mob was putting the squeeze on Marc's father and his Texas freight company Leeco. All of this is recapped on the first page of "The Wrath", including the end result - nobody messes with Daddy. 

The fallout from Lee and Browne's first war is the ultimate premise of the sequel as both are forced into action against a psycho motorcycle gang (or club) called Lobos. The bikers were "cocaine cowboys" in the pipeline of trafficking and distributing that Lee and Browne shut down. The remains of this Mob family requests the bikers handle vengeance their own way. This leads to a crazy Vietnam vet named Bruno leading the bikers into war against the police, feds and our obligatory heroes Lee and Browne. There is some undercover FBI nonsense thrown in to add a little intrigue. Also, in shocking fashion, the US President makes an appearance requesting our paperback warriors report to some third-world country to stop terrorism. Yeah, our dynamic dudes are just that damn good. 

This all sounds promising, right? Delta Force warriors versus crazed motorcycle ruffians. But the whole thing craps the mattress thanks to horrible writing, a botched pace and one of the most ridiculous villains in pulp fiction. The author defies any logic by placing the bikers all over the interstate running and gunning through traffic with complete freedom. Where are the freakin' cops? Literally worse than Gotham's police force. The villains just run around on the loose and nothing really prohibits them from controlling American highways. This is just lazy writing, but ultimately leads to the Overload duo's barrel-chested bravado. Only they can stop the bikers since the law can't, right? And they do this, but only after the reader has thrown the book from wall to wall in utter disbelief and frustration.

There are more books to the series and I had a handful in my hand the other day. I quickly put them back on the shelf, discarded and abandoned...the only response Bob Ham is getting from me. Ugh.

Monday, July 10, 2017

OVERLOAD #01 - PERSONAL WAR

Big trucks…big men…riding for justice!

Here we go, the truck driving vigilante series known as Overload. According to my research author Bob Ham wrote 12 of these books total. The series shifts into drive with the first novel, “Personal War”, released in 1989 courtesy of Bantam Books (gotta love the red rooster logo). The book introduces us to the “Overload” duo of Marc Lee and Carl Browne. Both of these guys are Delta Force members, weighing in with a strong sense of male heroism courtesy of Ham’s overindulgence on survival instincts, martial arts skills and knowledge of all weaponry. I get it, Ham has to make these two guys the cream of the crop (and by book two even the White House is calling them this) but it seems a little like hyperbole with so many references to their military expertise. But, it’s Paperback Warrior for a reason and these two are getting the passing grade.

In the opening segment, we see some Mafia goons appear at a freight office to rough up a truck owner. We get a cool description of a sword carrying baddie that, unfortunately, never really gets utilized in the book. But damn if it ain’t cool. From there the goons advance and kill off a Leeco Freight truck driver who was just minding his own business listening to Reba tapes. He gone. Next, the big carrot gets dangled – the goons threaten Marc Lee’s Daddy, the owner of Leeco Freight. They tell him he’s gonna get the same treatment as all the others if he doesn’t sign over Leeco to them. He refuses and they tell him they’ll return a little later to re-negotiate with hot, smokin’ lead.

While all this is shaking, Marc Lee is on leave from Delta Force for a week and invites his colleague Carl Browne to enjoy some of mama’s chili down in Texas. The two arrive at home, find out about the goon racket and attempt to stop the baddies at midnight. It doesn’t go as planned, Daddy gets hurt the duo are seeking revenge - trucker style!

Ham maximizes his 159 pages and brings to life truck driving shootouts, some wild torture (Browne shoves a gun barrel up a bare ass and pulls the trigger!) and a really cool forest chase in the snow. Escapes, gunfire, 18 wheels of justice…Ham pulls it off and makes this a really good action-heavy book with very little downside. If only he could have kept up the pace into book two…but more on that to come. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

LAST RANGER #08 - THE 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.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

OUTRIDER #02 - FIRE AND ICE

I’d have to say that Richard Harding’s first entry in the “Outrider” series was nearly brilliant. Aside from a few pieces of dialogue the book had a tremendous pace and engaging action sequences. Harding followed that book with a sequel in August of 1984, a mere two-months from the release of its predecessor. Where Harding had a story to tell with “Outrider”, it’s follow-up is absolutely abysmal. It’s sad considering how promising the series looked.

Our hero, the knife-wielding, super-car driving Bonner is laying low in Chicago and chilling with his hottie (Harding never elaborates much on this character but she sporadically appears in both books). His colleague from the first book, Starling, shows up to advise Bonner that it would be in their best interest to find some gasoline reserves. Bonner says he isn’t interested but Starling reminds him that if they don’t find the promised gas reserves (a character in the prior book, Cooker, said it’s the Heaven of gas reserves) then Bonner’s arch enemy Leather will get it. This strokes Bonner’s engines and soon he is out the door and the book’s premise is underway.

Bonner, Starling and The Mean Brothers team up with a locomotive engineer to find the gas and bring it back to “neutral” Chicago. Leather and his goons are on the hunt for the gas as well. It sounds good on paper, but Harding misfires terribly. The book just goes nowhere and the action sequences are few and far between. When the bullets do start flying…I just didn’t really care. In fact, I disliked this book so much that it took me nearly two weeks to read it – it’s only 214 pages in length. The huge fight that is brewing between Bonner and Leather (an anticipated continuation of their struggle in the first book) never comes to fruition. The only bright spot for me is the atmosphere. It’s cold, snowy and dark – key elements that keep this book from reaching the “burn the pages now” tier.


I have the whole series and will eventually get around to book three, but I might master the art of pruning banzai trees, take cooking lessons and grow my own wine vineyard before I get around to it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ROADBLASTER #02 - DEATH RIDE

Author Paul Hofrichter, also known here at Paperback Warrior as “he who creates the horror”, wrote three “Roadblaster” books total. The second, “Death Ride”, was released by the Leisure Adventure line in 1988. If you haven’t read my review of the first novel, by all means please do. It’s called “Hell Ride”, and it is easily the worst action-adventure novel that I’ve read. I would even push the envelope a little further and say it ranks pretty high in the “Worst Fiction Ever” list as well. It’s utter garbage…so it’s mandatory that you read it.

I was able to locate the second book at a local used store and figured…what the Hell. Basically, our hero, Stack, is a New York resident and ex-National Guard serviceman. In the first book, he’s in California on a little vacation and the big bombs fall. The US is a nuked-out radiation zone and the book picks up just a day after the bombs fell. With very little heroics, Stack saves a town and a young girl from being gang-raped by bikers. Really, after 24 hours we have rampaging bikers, perverts humping everything and even one-word nicknames for people living in Armageddon. It’s crazy.

“Death Ride” picks up at day three of post-nuke America. Stack is doing his normal gig, driving around in his van and generally doing a whole lot of nothing. The book starts with Stack visiting Rayisa, the young girl he saved from the bang-train. He tells her he has to head East to tend to his wife and kids. Rayisa doesn’t want him to go so he agrees to take her with him when he leaves. From there Stack heads out to the desert to talk to the “B-52” people. In the first book this damned B-52 bomber landed in the desert and it apparently has some nuke firepower on board. Stack wants to keep it in good hands and needs somebody wearing stars to step in and command the safety of the bomber. Here’s stupidity:

The mechanics working on the B-52 want Stack to take himself, and a “Harley Davidson” club, to San Francisco. The reason for San Francisco? Because the mechanics say that’s where the real authority lies. Once there, Stack needs to find someone in uniform that can have a message sent up the chain of command to notify someone in the ranks that an armed B-52 is sitting in bumfudge Egypt. Nobody gives a flying beaver. But Stack, needing to be in a hurry to get East to his family, agrees to do this. Along the way he promises he will search for the biker’s missing relatives. Geez.

Stack and the gang ride over to Frisco, find some military brass assisting with the wounded, helpless, starving people of the city. Stack tells the guy something like this: “Hey man, we are just driving around trying to find some missing relatives. We need you to help us”. This guy tells Stack that he is busy running a skeleton crew that’s rescuing senior citizens from apartment buildings and rooftops. He’s trying to run a hospital for the injured. Feed people. He’s basically Mother Freakin’ Teresa here. Stack looks at him and says in utter disappointment, “So you won’t help us at all?” Oh. My. God. The utter nerve of this loser. 

Later, Stack and the bikers find a young man who's on the run from a militant group called Vengeance Team. Apparently they are out hunting down the gay community to keep them from spreading AIDS. Really? No shit. Stack wants to help, so he puts aside all of the B-52 bullshit, looking for biker relatives and his family in New York. He is shown an underground cellar labyrinth of rooms and hallways that is never really described to the reader. What is this place? Why is it so large? Hofrichter never bothers with describing the setting, instead just picks a random place and says to the reader, "The gay folks are here, hiding out, underground, fighting to stay alive." Right. They are so weak aren't they Hofrichter? Needless to say this is 1988 and they need a savior so Stack is the guy. 

Stack runs back and forth from the cellar dwelling to Candlestick Park getting guns and ammo. He gives it out to the community and says he will defend them and make an attack formation to fight Vengeance Team. In an incredibly painful Chapter 6, we are forced to read nearly 30 straight pages of battle between members of Vengeance Team and the community that we have barely been introduced too. The author spends an enormous amount of time talking about characters that we don't know waging war with other characters we don't know. I can't even make heads or tails of which character is on which team. It's just senseless garbage from pages 116-191. A character goes up a few feet, fires. Another character returns fire. Rinse. Repeat. Agonizing.

The book really just ends after the last of Vengeance Team dies. No worries, no one gives a rat's ass who won, who died and who's left to rear their ugly heads in book three. Geez. This one is equally as bad as the first book. Paul Hofrichter...you are such a horrible author I am now deeming you as the dream killer. "Death Ride" is exactly that for any readers daring to jump on this wagon of putrid green horseshit. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

HAWKER #02 - L.A. WARS

This second entry in Carl Ramm's (real name Randy Wayne White) "Hawker" series, "L.A. Wars", was released in 1984. Like the series debut, "Florida Firefight", this one is very similar to the "Death Wish" series, notably "Death Wish 3". The book starts with Hawker on an L.A. rooftop discovering the body of a young woman. Her grizzly appearance suggests she's been raped and brutally beaten. In a wild opening sequence the reader is thrust into a short shootout between Hawker and a trio of gang members known as the Panthers. Hawker crotch shoots one dubbed "Cat Man" and leaves him to warn the rest of the gang -- Hawker's in their town now. 

The second chapter is essentially the set-up to how Hawker arrived in L.A., taking an assignment from his wealthy Chicago colleague Jacob Montgomery Hayes. Hayes advises Hawker that a suburban neighborhood in south L.A., Starnsdale, was a really wonderful place to live until it became a battlefield between two rival gangs. Now, residents are forced to stay in the neighborhood due to property values decreasing. They have little to no choice except living with the gang violence and staying out of the warzone. Hayes wants Hawker to clean it up. 

Ongoing chapters are a bit cut and paste honestly. While I was never really bored with the book, it still left a lot to be desired. Hawker becomes a friend and teacher to the neighborhood and it's residents. He befriends the young female victim's father, Virgil Kahl, and uses him as an advocate for vigilante justice. Being the sap that I am, I actually enjoyed the love interest aspect of the story more than the crime fighting. Hawker meets a famous actress and gets invited to rub shoulders with some of Hollywood's elite at a beachside party. Eventually Hawker and the actress are bumping uglies in between training and preparation.

The finale felt a little fizzled out with very little gun on gunner conflicts. The idea of the series is to have Hawker be a vulnerable human hero. I like that part of it but the sacrifice is very little action. Our hero uses surveillance equipment, some intelligence gathering and a formulated plan to unite the gang leaders in one location. I've seen it done a hundred times and this one left very little surprises for the reader. I dunno...even though I felt it fell flat at the end, I'm still planning to read the next volume soon -- "Chicago Assault".

Monday, February 20, 2017

HAWKER #01 - FLORIDA FIREFIGHT

Randy Wayne White wrote the first “Hawker” novel, “Florida Firefight”, in 1984 under the moniker Carl Ramm. White would later go on to achieve much bigger success with his “Doc Ford” series. In a lot of ways “Florida Firefight”, and its sequels, remind me of “Death Wish” not only in the sense of vigilante justice but the way Hawker goes about it. It’s this formula that White builds on here and later utilizes to prolong the series.

The book’s opening chapter has Lieutenant James Hawker looking through optics at a Guatemalan madman holding hostage a room full of students. Hawker’s Chicago police force wants him to hold his fire and await further orders. Hawker has a clear shot but waits. Eventually the gunman becomes aggressive and two students fight back and are ultimately killed. Hawker, exhausted from the political games being played, fires one .308 bullet from a Remington 700 and puts the baddie down. Heroic? Yeah, but the force doesn’t like it and the lefty Chi-Town bureaucrats suspend Hawker. He one ups them and gives them his badge, done for good.
 
The next act opens with a rather outlandish scene with Hawker aiding two senior citizens in the park. It’s stereotypical and nonsensical but helps reinforce the morals and values of our hero. Later, Hawker receives an invitation from a wealthy man living in a posh Chicago suburb. He recognizes the name as the father of one of the students killed, Jacob Montgomery Hayes. Hayes wants to provide tools and resources to Hawker and allow him to provide vigilante justice. Hayes understands the world is changing and society is degrading and he wants to keep the criminal activity at bay. Hawker accepts the job and we now have a vigilante with endless supplies of money and guns. A series is born.

Hayes sends Hawker to the Florida Keys to bring the book’s title to fruition. The tiny fishing village (or drinking village as we like to say down here) has been plagued by Colombian drug trafficking. Hayes runs a scheme that introduces Hawker as the new owner of a local pub. This puts him into the local population and also gives him a vested interest in fighting the Colombians alongside the God fearin’ town folk. While Hawker helps mobilize the town he also invests Hayes’ money into rebuilding the fishing village. Without adding additional spoilers, the third act has Hawker and the town fight off the Colombians. Surprisingly a trip to Washington D.C. is thrown in with a slight political angle…but you’ll have to read it to learn more.

The “Hawker” series has a great level of support from fans of the men’s action-adventure genre. While it isn’t as over the top as some other vigilante novels, the injection of vulnerability really enhances the story-lines. Hawker gets his ass handed to him in some cases. That’s a rare trait with this sort of bravado writing. The other aspect is that Hawker attempts to talk his way out of some conflicts and typically makes allies quickly. While the action could be limited for some readers, I found it as an adequate amount to contribute to the storytelling. It’s a good read and a great introduction to the series.

Those of you that want to spend a smaller amount of money on this should look for the digital copies. They are available in the Hoopla library system (ask your local librarian) as well as Amazon. I believe the digital copies sell for about $2 and every title in the series is available. The cover art leaves a little to be desired and done by the same company that recently released the first 38 “Executioner” titles. The books are listed by Randy Wayne White now.