Okay, with a cover this cool Craig Sargent's "The Savage Stronghold" gets three bold faced statements on front and back:
"Martin Stone is The Last Ranger. America's last hope in America's Darkest Age"
"A third world war has left America a lawless and battered land. But amid the pillage and heartless killings, one brave young man has become America's last hope for justice and freedom"
"In a city enslaved by a savage new cult, he's fighting for freedom and revenge!"
I just recently bought a copy of this one used for a dollar. This came out in 1986 through Popular Library, a subsidiary of Warner Books. Let's face it, the 80s action genre was saturated with post-apocalyptic series' and novels. In my youth of the 80s and early 90s I watched a great deal of post apocalypse movies like the "Mad Max" trilogy, "Def-Con 4", "Red Dawn", etc. The books that I normally sunk my teeth into were more horror related, things like Stephen King's "The Stand" and Robert R. McCammon's "Swan Song". I did tend to read a few of the action adventure novels of this theme but there just seemed to be so much readily available. I remember seeing entries like "Endworld", "Deathlands" and "Out Of The Ashes" (I did enjoy William Johnstone's "Mountain Man" series) and it seemed appealing but I was really sort of burned out on those themes by the mid 90s. A few years ago it started all over again yet more zombie inspired than anything.
"The Savage Stronghold" is actually book two of a ten book series written by Craig Sargent. I've haven't had the opportunity to track down any other books in the series and this was my first venture in "The Last Ranger" series. After devouring this volume in less than two days I'm on the hunt for the other nine titles.
The book starts with a bang. We are introduced to the series' main character Martin Stone (of course his name is Stone!), his dog Excalibur and an armory fitted Harley Davidson. Stone is on a long stretch of highway in Colorado and runs into a camp of cannibals. His choice is to pay to proceed through this section of Colorado or simply mow them down with the handlebar mounted .50 caliber machine gun he is packing. Stone opts for gunfire and "The Savage Stronghold" is off to a great start.
In some flashback scenes of the first book America was bombed (nuked?) by the Soviet Union and what's left is simply a wasteland akin to Judge Dredd. I believe Stone, his sister and parents were living in a cave for about five years. I'm not sure if Stone was an Army Ranger or what the emphasis is on "The Last Ranger" bit of the series. I was never able to tell from this particular book what Stone's background was before the bombs. He lived in the cave and at some point a motorcycle gang of thugs called The Guardians Of Hell killed his family and kidnapped his sister. He fought the gang in Denver and wiped out a good portion of their headquarters before the leader, Straight, left town with Stone's sister. Now he is patrolling the country in search of his sister and any wrongs that need to be righted.
Stone wanders into Pueblo, Colorado and discovers a town that has been taken over by a bizarre church. The leader called The New Prophet tortures, crucifies and executes anyone who is different. Of course Stone faces off with him, the Guardians Of Hell and Straight in a battle to free his kidnapped sister.
This book was extremely exciting and never left me bored. I've read this sort of story a half dozen times, from Judge Dredd to the various spaghetti westerns that showed us a town that was controlled by a ruthless gang, criminal land baron or some sort of backwoods law enforcement. "The Savage Stronghold" is really no different yet it is written with enough gunpowder and grit to make it interesting. The profanity is thick, the violence is above average and there is a little bit of a love interest thrown in for good measure. If you have played video games like "Borderlands", "Rage" or "Fallout" then this book is mandatory reading.
MUSICAL SELECTION - Iced Earth - "Burning Times"