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Thursday, December 29, 2016

LAST RANGER #07 - THE VILE VILLAGE

You guys know the story by now, right? America is a wasteland and the bombs have turned the clouds that funny shade of purple. People are sick and dying and our hero, Martin Stone, is riding his Harley Davidson through the carnage to rescue his kidnapped sister April. You down with it? Pretty simple story-line throughout this ten book series known as "The Last Ranger". Book number seven is "The Vile Village", written once again by Craig Sargent (house name for real author Jan Stacy) and released via Popular Library in 1988. Craig Sargent just sounds so much better than Jan Stacy. 

The book begins after that fallout of book six. Our boy Stone and his pitbull Excalibur are just cruising along on Stone's Harley when they get spit on by some radioactive clouds. The purple shit falling out of the sky stings the skin. Our boy is trying to drive through it, gets annihilated by this falling purple radiation jazz and wrecks the damn motorcyle. I swear to God this guy has wrecked the Harley a dozen times or more through the course of this series. Here's a thought - Don't drive through acid rain. Never a good judgment call. Stone and Excalibur plunge from the bike and get knocked out cold. An old farmer turned undertaker finds the two and brings them back to his farm. Something about his incident and exchange reminds me of an old western I've seen somewhere along the way. Only it was a guy falling off a horse and taken back by an old worn-out gunfighter. I dunno. 



Once there the undertaker gets his daughter LuAnn to nurse Stone back to health again. Leave it to our barrel chested hero to butt-plow nurse LuAnn for three pages. After the nursing and porn Stone gets down to business with the undertaker. Just like a western tale the town of Copexi (or something like that) is a small farming community that is caught between two rival gangs - The Headstompers versus The Strathers Brothers. No shit. The gangs are leaning on the farmers and shopkeepers really hard to pay weekly taxes for protection. They are stretched thin and dying. Stone ain't gonna stand for it. No sir. 

Our paperback warrior heads into town and immediately gets into a bar fight with The Headstompers. After shooting them down he approaches The Strathers Brothers with an offer - he'll be their gunman for money and they can call him "Preacher-Boy", because all gunmen need a cool name. You see Stone has a plan. He'll pretend to be a head-knocker for The Strathers Brothers while really just pulling the right switches to cause the Headstompers to get in an epic war with The Strathers' bunch. If they kill each other the farming community will be free of trouble and can get back to planting cabbage. Or whatever the Hell they do in Copexi. 

Everything goes according to plan and Stone plays the part. He gets in a few skirmishes along the way but his ultimate downfall is when The Strathers Brothers find out he isn't the "Preacher-Boy" that he claims to be. Just like the last book, and a few prior ones, Stone is clamped to a table for a good round of torture-thy-dick. Miraculously he escapes, kills all the baddies in the room and makes a break for it. Unfortunately The Strathers Brothers have Excalibur blocked off and Stone needs his dog. Badly. The end comes with a massive firefight between Stone, The Strathers Brothers, The Headknockers, The Farmers and a LION. That's right. A LION. Excalibur fights a lion. And wins. Big time baby!

Stone contemplates on going back to the Undertaker's house and banging LuAnn for days. But he knows his sister April is out there and he's vowing to get her back. That's a wrap! Book eight coming soon!

Monday, December 26, 2016

EAGLE FORCE #02 - DEATH CAMP COLOMBIA

Here comes that damn ex-CIA strike team known as Eagle Force. It's all action and all guts by author Dan Schmidt. "Death Camp Colombia" is book two of the series and serves up our talented four-piece of doom deep inside the jungles of Colombia fighting the evil cocaine kingpin Fernando Hernandez, known as El Diablo. 

The book opens with El Diablo held captive in a Florida mansion by the DEA. He's waiting for trial and contemplating the moments of his escape. Inside is the "inside man", a DEA traitor named Jameson. This two-timer has spilled the beans to El Diablo's goons and soon the DEA is wiped the F out by Jameson, El Diablo, the goon squad and a vile henchman named Raul "El Leon" Pizarro, who's sort of that mid-level video game boss with the big sword. 

After the escape we get down to Eagle Force, mainly Vic Gabriel and crew planning on the next mission - taking out El Diablo and his angel dust empire. Vic has a mad hard-on for coke...it killed his brother and he wants payback. Big time. To get to El Diablo they need to take out a mid-level dealer in Fort Lauderdale. The group enlist the aid of an ex-DEA agent and have a beach front shoot-out with the dealer and his cronies. From there it's off to a bar where they take out even more cronies and get the details of a Colombia Death Camp being ran by El Diablo. After taking Johnny "The Falcon" Lightning prisoner, he leads the group at gunpoint to an airport where they all have another massive firefight. Eagle Force grabs a plane headed to Colombia with "The Falcon" on board. 


Next is a meeting at a whorehouse...because all men's action-adventure tales end up at a whorehouse eventually. This one was a set-up by "The Falcon" and the entire Eagle Force squad gets taken out by poisonous darts. Shit, I hate a damn poison dart fight in a brothel. Really gets the old pecker limp. From there El Diablo's crew takes Eagle Force to the Death Camp Colombia where they are beaten and locked in a cell. 

Some of the fun festivities at the death camp include whips, ropes, piranha, venomous snakes and a pit filled with piss, shit and vomit. Three guys are lowered into the pits and die horribly...although the pit that has the piss, shit and vomit in it...how does someone die in that? The piranha pit and the snake pit...totally get that. But being submerged in a pit of piss and shit...not sure that is a life ending thing. But here, at the Death Camp Colombia, it certainly creates fatalities. 

It's just a matter of time before Vic breaks out, this time easily just reaching through the bars and squeezing a guard's face. From there it's disarm the troops time, kill them all and release the prisoners. They have a massive firefight with AK-47s and grenades and eventually El Diablo and that bloody vile henchman Pizarro die. Oh and Jameson dies too. Because he has to, right? Dirty treacherous bastard.

Much like the first book Schmidt absolutely creams the jeans with action. That's what I love about this series thus far. It's just firefight after firefight with some backstory and well developed villains. Unlike an M.I.A. Hunter book for example, these go beyond just search and rescue. Kudos to creating battles on the beach, at airports, in brothels and, of course, for delivering our heroes out of the bloody pits of doom...safe in the arms of victory. 

Next up for the series is "Flight 666" which promises "terror at 37,000 feet!" Oh yeah baby.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

LAST RANGER #06 - THE WARLORD'S REVENGE

Think of Craig Sargent's sixth entry in the post-apocalyptic series "Last Ranger" as the book that just sort of sits sideways on the shelf with its peers. Unlike the previous five books, which were pretty damn good, "The Warlord's Revenge" is stunningly boring. Halfway through I'm sitting there just wondering why I've dedicated this small little portion of my life to this paperback pile of poo-poo. Let's discuss...

Martin Stone, the hot Cherokee warrior Meyra and her tribe of Native Americans have escaped that madman with all the nukes. All that jazz happened in book five. Yet Stone was only able to shoot one nuke out of the sky. The other one fell and, needless to say, the skies are purple pink and some folks are growing tails. Like seriously radioactive. The first few chapters has Stone and the crew battle a little band of outlaws that lasts...oh...a half page. Then Stone bangs Meyra again which was a first of the series. Hitting the same tail twice. Stone is practically hitching his wagon indefinitely to Meyra. Player settling down?

Around the 80 page mark Stone leaves the folks and heads back to his bomb-shelter hideaway to restock on Iodine tablets and motorcycle rockets. That's a real thing buster. Unfortunately he reads a note that says his sister, April, left the shelter because some mafia goons were chasing her and Doctor Kennedy (a minor character from a prior book, does it matter?). Here's the thing. Stone has this bad-ass fortified shelter that will sustain itself for ten years if he just did nothing but eat Ho-Hos all day everyday. He can sit in there and just chill out. Why in the Hell is he out on a motorcycle fighting cannibals and warlords? Tail. Gotta be the bimbo tail. 

By page 100 Stone is headed to the place where he thinks April might be. But shit...April was sold into prostitution by a mafia henchman named Scalzanni. He is running this shopping mall of sin. You can go there and gamble, do the wild-monkey dance and partake in enough drugs to float Keith Richards. Scalzanni has April there and Stone wants her back. Immediately our hero gets himself captured and Scalzanni tucks him away into a torture lab. A prostitute friend helps him to escape and he ultimately kills Scalzanni...with the help of Excalibur (the mutt that Stone pals around with). On his way back to the mall to get April he finds that she has once again been captured and taken to some place called Apaloosa. The end.

First off...I would lay down some ground rules for sister April. I mean this chick has been in captivity in some fashion since book one. If she isn't being hauled off to strip or whore around then she is being attacked at home by mafia goons. Christ almighty can she just lay low for a book or two? Second, Stone really doesn't do much of anything in this book. The first 100 pages has him wreck his bike, shoot down an outlaw gang and blow a helicopter out of the sky with a motorcycle rocket. I mean this just isn't wetting the old whistle like it used to. I think Sargent was just attempting to get Stone from Point A to Point B with this book and it really does little else. If you are reading the series in chronological order...you could honestly just skip this piece of shit. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

GUNSHIPS #01 - KILLING ZONE



















I stumbled onto the "Gunships" series at a used book store. "The Killing Zone" is book one of this four book series. It was released in 1981 via Zebra. I've Googled author Jack Hamilton Teed and can't find much of anything out there. Aside from this series he only wrote one other book, "The Blood of Dracula, that I could find. It's a shame because this first entry of the series is stellar stuff.


I'm not a big fan of the vehicular action books. There's a ton of stuff out there that involves planes, tanks, boats and motorcycles. Hell I think I even saw some RV action. I was thinking that "Gunships" would be 'copter action in Vietnam (the tag is A Vivid Journey Into the Vietnam War). Surprisingly, that isn't the case at all. The idea of why it's called "Gunships" is described by a soldier on page 228 of the book:

"Gunships! You ever thought, Sarge - we all gunships. Human gunships. We got more badass weaponry and infernal Goddamn machines hangin' from us than any other licensed killers in history. Only we could flap our fuckin' arms an' take off into the wild yonder, they wouldn't need no chopper-gunships at all."

Make sense? Yeah, sort of threw me with the title but it makes sense now. The book begins with a seedy General named Dempsey giving an order to our main character, Colonel John Hardin. Dempsey is running all sorts of shit in South Vietnam - drugs, whores and money. He is demanding that Dempsey run up north, watch an NVA patrol for a few days and then gingerly swing by a village to drop some important documents. Hardin knows it stinks and refuses to do the order. Dempsey is pissed and calls some meetings. That is essentially the 26 page prologue. 

"Part One" is a really interesting endeavor by the author. Dempsey is putting together a masterplan to eliminate Hardin using military resources that have gone south...for lack of a better term. Remember when Lee Marvin is recruiting the "Dirty Dozen" misfits from the lock-up? "Part One" is like that with little short stories that make up the files that Dempsey is flipping through. There are seven guys that the author vividly captures, each with their own history of how they ended up in the stockade. My favorite of the group is the story of O'hara, a really good guitar player who got drafted for the war. He had a tangle with his sarge and ultimately ended up behind bars. He is treated horribly and eventually fights back which creates an even bigger situation. "Part One" runs about 90 pages and is captivating stuff. I really enjoyed these short stories and overall they contribute to the grand scheme of things. Really freakin' solid stuff.

"Part Two" is the final 140 pages and I've gotta say...it is an absolute whirlwind of action. It's arguably some of the most exciting scenes of the entire genre. THIS SHIT IS MANDATORY READING. Here's how it goes down...Hardin gets an order to attend some sort of staff meeting. He boards a chopper that flies him all over the place with different directives. Finally he takes a nap only to wake up and find that he has flown into Laos solo for a drop mission. Before he can scream that this isn't his mission the craft is shot out of the sky. Now Hardin is alone with the injured pilot with hardly any firepower and miles behind enemy lines. It's FUBAR to the extreme. He knows Dempsey set him up. He attempts to negotiate with a nearby village but the NVA show up and start a long night of torture. The author holds nothing back and the waterboarding scenes are...really disturbing. 

Now Dempsey knows that Hardin has been shot down so the rest of the plan comes together. He is going to take the seven screw-ups and send them on a chopper into Laos to rescue Dempsey. Only he has instructions for Sarge Stocker to kill all of them at the drop zone and head back. Fortunately the crew turn things around quickly and find themselves up shit creek in Laos right outside of the village Hardin is held captive in. Here things really get fired up. There is a massive firefight as Hardin and two of the crew hole up in a hut and fight off waves of NVA using a special forces cache that was left at the village. This part is something akin to "Assault on Precinct 13" or, shit, "Night of the Living Dead". While that group is holding off hordes of enemy troops the remaining crew is fighting them flank-side from the mountain-side. It's this writing that Teed excels at. The action is fast, furious yet still atmospheric with a looming sense of dread and isolation.

Teed wraps up this story-line by book's end and I wonder what he has in store for the next books. Hopefully Hardin continues to be a main character but considering how abstract the author is with the genre...anything could happen. "The Killing Zone" is a worthy start to what should amount to a very entertaining and thought-provoking series. The author has a very gritty style and his presentation here is extraordinary. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

EAGLE FORCE #01 - CONTRACT FOR SLAUGHTER

Author Dan Schmidt has contributed immensely to the "Executioner" and "Super Bolan" series of books. Along with a few stand alone titles he was also the creator of a nine book series known as "Eagle Force". This team based series got a bit of a late start, originating in 1989, as opposed to lots of teams that had solid bibliographies by this point in time. Nonetheless...it's four guys heavily armed that actually name themselves. I mean this is the real deal. EAGLE FORCE has landed. The first book, "Contract for Slaughter", kicks it off in grand fashion.

While this book definitely has a plot, you can sense with only 159 pages that this one is really just the fleshing out process. Like a lot of these team based books this one goes through the recruitment phase. This is where the men compare sizes, review their badges and ribbons and make damn sure that all of them know which end of the barrel to point. We get the hard-nosed Vic Gabriel as the badass leader. He's a Vietnam vet who spent some additional time as a free lance CIA assassin. Now a days he's retired and soaking up the sun of Florida on his boat. However, catching fish just ain't firing up the furnace like it used to. Gabriel needs to get back to the killin'. Lucky for him a guy named Milton shows up with a story to tell.

Milton is the stereotypical wealthy guy with the spoiled daughter. Turns out the daughter has been kidnapped by an Islamic terrorist group called "The Sword of Islam". They are holed up in Tunis and waiting for some ransom money from Daddy Warbucks. Milton knows some CIA guys who turn him onto Gabriel. There's really an intricate backstory as to why they turn him onto Gabriel but I'm not gonna rattle that cage too much here. Milton throws his case at Gabriel and it's a reason for the old dog to rejoin the fight. 

Now comes the "recruitment" portion that takes up the majority of the book. Gabriel goes out and puts the old band back together. He starts with grabbing Dillinger. His specialty is Ninja knives (what!) and two Colt .45s. Dillinger is wasting away these days as a gumshoe and fairly happy to join the band. Next is Simms, a martial arts master who plays a mean M-16. He's in debt and owes everybody and their mother. Once Gabriel mentions Milton is paying 50K a head...shit fool. Simms is down for it. The last one is a tough Dutchman named Boolewarke, who's in the middle of his own war in North Africa when the gang comes-a-calling. He has a slight beef with Simms but joins the ranks. Boom. The team's all here.

As the team travels to the ransom location the author throws some flashback sequences at us in all italics. Hard on the eyes Schmiddy. Geez. But these are great backstories that show how Gabriel was raised by his badass Green Beret father. We also get a look at his pussy brother. There's the history of why the CIA is interested in Gabriel's current whereabouts...but that's major spoilers that we will detour around. The history is really important and probably a "mythology" that will backbone the series in the future.

The final portion of the book is a glorious firefight between Eagle Force and "The Sword of Islam" cronies. There's some flamethrower action, a ton of explosives and the familiar barking of M-16s. It went down big time. The end was really a curveball out of left field. Major balls hung by the author. A rare dare. Loved it! The end of the book gives a preview of book 2, "Death Camp Colombia". Great book, great start to the series.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

OUT OF THE ASHES #02 - FIRE IN THE ASHES

One year after Johnstone kicked off the "Out of the Ashes" series he returns with book two. "Fire in the Ashes" was released in 1984 via Zebra and incredibly makes things even worse than ever before. How is this even possible?

In this ill-conceived second entry Ben Raines is running around the country after his rebels have fallen by the wayside. Some bigwigs named Cody and Lowry are pretty much running the country now and what is left is a stiff-armed police state. The duo use a mercenary team led by the beefy Hartline to punish the people and to keep the pockets of resistance at a minimum. For the most part things are back to normal. You know, like gang rapes and sodomy on nearly every single page. Ugh. Is this the post-apocalypse or point of entry?

Johnstone has a serious hard-on for the dirty stuff and doesn't leave any clean sheets here. This book is absolutely filthy kids. Like the uber dirty stuff. Hartline spends most of the book violating a reporter named Sabra, her young daughter and Ben's old flame Jerre. There isn't a single point to any of it. Throw in the rough patch here and there of sexual torture and you ultimately get the first 350 pages. It's nonsensical and totally classless. 

What is really happening? Well the government's military is backing Ben Raines and his rebels and soon the government is dissolved and Ben is made the president. Right. Yeah. Then the whole thing goes cream corn as a plague hits the country and kills off most of the population. It turns out all the dead bodies over the years have created a serious mutant rat problem that has spread the plague via fleas. Oh and guess what else is running around? Damn giant mutant boys. Ben fights a giant retarded mutant six-year old boy. Seriously. It is pretty much the highlight of the whole thing and comes painfully near the last chapter. 

I don't recommend this to anyone. It's political jibber-jabber through page after page of pointless right vs left drivel. Top it off with nearly endless flashbacks from book one and throw in a small firefight near the end. Lordy Mercy! Stay away from this shitball. 

OUT OF THE ASHES #01 - OUT OF THE ASHES

William W. Johnstone was mired in a variety of genres in the 80's and 90's. While known mostly for multiple western series' the author created a long line of post-apocalyptic books called "Out of the Ashes". The series ran 35 books and was spun-off into one additional series called "The Last Rebel" that only managed one book release before Johnstone's passing. His son, J.A. Johnstone, doesn't seem to have any interest in continuing the series so for now it seems like it has come to a definitive end. Hallelujah! 

The first book of the series, aptly titled "Out of the Ashes", was released in 1983 by Zebra. I know, I know...the series does have its fans. I am not one of them. About halfway through this crock of shit I questioned my own sanity. I'm as right as rain when it comes to politics but this stuff is extremely right winged to the point of...well Hell I don't even know how it got published. 

Essentially this one doesn't fit the typical mold of barrel chested bravado with big guns and even bigger egos. Instead this is more politically driven and sees the end of the world as more of a "Risk" styled board game than the action vehicles like "The Last Ranger" or "Endworld". There is certainly nothing wrong with this and I'm glad it coaches from the sidelines, but I was hoping for more on the field play. Johnstone apparently felt that was not the intention or goal of the series so here we are. Bored to tears as some guy named Ben Raines manipulates North America. Let's discuss...

The end of the world begins with a treacherous double-cross (or a triple cross?) that leads to a fun game of "you can't triple stamp a double stamp" played by a bunch of fearless Washington brass. The end comes with a series of dirty bomb nukes that wipes out most of the US cities. About 5,000 US militia were in hiding waiting for this move to come and they are known as "The Rebels" (so original). They want to see America become a sturdy right-winged government that throws out liberalism in favor of less government and more "lets pee off the front porch" freedom. That's cool. Whatever. But these rebels find that this was really just a trick by the new default president Logan, who wants military socialism in a nutshell. So they sort of quit and just await orders from an action author/alcoholic named Ben Raines. Huh? Something stinks in the backseat. 

Raines is a Vietnam veteran who was apparently really good at this combat stuff. He later went on to be a mercenary in Africa and did a lot of bang 'em. Afterwards he retired to Louisiana where he slouched on Scotch and wrote a bunch of pulp fiction. On launch day Raines ends up getting stung by yellow jackets and falls down with an allergic reaction. This saves him somehow from the dirty bomb attack on the US. When he wakes up several days later he realizes the end has arrived. What's he do next? He drives all over the country making notes and recording the end so future generations can read all about it. In his spare time...he chases female seat meat. I mean this dude gets hordes of leg. Like throwing rod with at least four to five different women. What does all this lead to? Ben finally decides to lead the rebels against the new government led by Logan. The last ten to fifteen pages has the most action as Ben's "Tri-States" region of resistance is decimated by the new US. 

Unlike Johnstone's western series', "Out of the Ashes" is extremely graphic. Think of David Alexander's porno streak and add torture. That's Johnstone throughout this book. Often it seems like the baddies are literally just running around with their dicks in their hand raping everything. I don't know how many gang rapes Johnstone throws at the reader but after pages and pages of it I was really unsettled. I can handle bits and pieces of that stuff if it contributes to character development or pushes the story. In this instance I think it was just there for shock value. I'm not a fan. 

"Out of the Ashes" or out of ideas. Johnstone misses badly. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

M.I.A. HUNTER #03 - HANOI DEATHGRIP






The previous "M.I.A. Hunter" titles by house name Jack Buchanan were written by Stephen Mertz and Mike Newton. The share ration between the two is anyone's guess. However with book three, "Hanoi Deathgrip" (say "Deathgrip" like a 'rassler), the talented journeyman Joe Lansdale ("Batman", "Jonah Hex") steps up. Newton/Mertz were great. Lansdale is aw-aw-awesome. 

We start where any action tale worth it's salt begins...a whorehouse. That damned Texan Hog Wiley is throwing bodies out of windows and tearing up the cathouse like a rat on a cheeto. Luckily Terrance Louglin and our "M.I.A. Hunter" Mark Stone arrives to get Hog and head out for another stinkin' jungle adventure. But first...cue the flashback and tell us what this nonsense is really about.

Combat reporter/insert hottie Jackie Winslow shows up looking like an 80's Kathleen Turner. She's at Mark Stone's private eye firm to beg...no plead...for his assistance in rescuing her father from his Hell on Earth. Major/Dr. Winslow was captured doing some volunteer medical work in Laos. Stone and Winslow have a little attraction that Stone dismisses later (remember that Paula Abdul video where she dances with the cartoon cat...that was cool). Anyhoo Stone finds that the ISA has targeted his home and attempted to steal a bunch of his files (remember paper files, what a lark!). He turns over a van and gets them back in a dashing display of bravado. Moving on...


The three main characters do the normal song and dance of the series. They meet with some freedom fighters to thicken up the gun-soup and head into the jungle for the rescue. In the meantime Lansdale introduces us to the captive Winslow and some other Americans that are being held at "Insert Random Prison Name". Let's call it "IRPN" from here on out. Winslow is getting the stuffing knocked out of him by the cruel camp commander Po. This guy is pretty much the cookie-cutter of the prior series' commander villains. Lansdale does descriptive work with more gritty, albeit grizzly, details than his predecessors. The harsh treatment is depicted with no holds barred. The snake scene left me disgusted to say the least. 

Our non-profit heroes are meeting by the river to scrape on some black goo and waterpoof the goods. There they find that Jackie has joined them in full fatigues and combat get-up. She's ready for a fight. Hog loses his shit and he ain't gonna fight side-by-side with no snatchy snatch. But once Jackie proves she can shoot straight and ride a horse...Hell old Hog is fine with it. Fast forward past the near drowning, the snake viper fight (second book in a row that has Stone vs Snake by the way) and we are in the middle of a Jean Claude Van-Damne tournament fighter movie. Let's delve...

Po's brother is a fat brute named Tho. Get it? Po and Tho? C'mon...you gotta at least smirk at it. That shit's funny. Turns out Tho likes to duke it out and squash people half his size. Po has a giant battleground pit inside the IRPN and throws prisoners in for Tho to digest. Tho kills off three guys at once, which proves that a Hog vs Tho contest is sooooo on. But before that Winslow knows that he is the next food for Tho's ghastly combat diet. He wants to break out on the same night Stone wants to break in. How about them apples?

Winslow's break-out attempt is quickly squashed by Po and the two square off in a deadly torture session. Before Winslow expires Stone blows the damn gate off and our boys (and girl) are ready to machine gun it up. The group lights up the M-60 guard towers and soon this book comes down to the meat and potatoes. HOG VS THO! The two have an epic slobber-knocker for a full chapter. Hog wins. Texas wins. Lansdale wins. Tho dies. Po dies. Our heroes have won book three. How do they get back to the US? Where does Winslow go? Can he get back into the country? These are all excellent questions that the "M.I.A. Hunter" series never has time to answer.

End result? Lansdale creates a gritty and uber-violent tale that shows Stone doing what he does best. Shooting snakes and Cong with CAR-15s (those are Colt AR-15s for the newbies). That's what we came for, right? 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

PHOENIX #02 - GROUND ZERO

 "Phoenix 2: Ground Zero". 1987. Leisure. This is absolutely the worst piece of shit that has ever existed. We're talking 1994 Tonya Harding knee assault kinda shit. Author David Alexander...oh the horror you have brought to the people. The horror! I love this stuff. I can't get enough of it. But "Phoenix"? Oh Dear God, where do I even start?

Remember the first book? Shit, I don't either but let's do the quick recap to get newbies up the on feces-storm that is book two. Phoenix (real name Magnus Trench) is currently an attorney, formerly a Vietnam vet bad-ass and is vacationing alone in California when the US goes total Nuke-soup. He survives because he has goes into a cave to avoid the bomb, radiation and this strange Russian virus they have plagued Earth with. Not sure why the teacher had us climbing under our desks for nuke drills. We should have found a damn cave to practice in! His wife and son are on the East coast so Phoenix is out to search for them across the American wasteland. He makes it into LA where he learns that only after 3 months since the nuke that the entire US military is gone. So are the cops and all semblance of law and order. Instead factions have arose and most people have dropped their first and last names and gone with cool monikers like "Uber Ballsack" or "Banana Dick". Magnus Trench becomes PHOENIX. Phoenix learns there are the Contams, folks that have the Russian viral shit. He also learns there is a New World Order called SCORF. He finds he is immune to the virus and a target for SCORF. They don't like all this immunity cock and balls and want him deader than Prince. That's pretty much the bullshit that made up the first book. Next pile of poo is book two. 

Phoenix and teen prostitute September Song part ways somewhere between LA and Las Vegas, leaving Phoenix in a little town called Trinity in the opening pages. He gets into a gun fight with some dudes and gets his ass saved by a midget named Big Wally. Adorable. Big Wally and Phoenix head into Las Vegas where the Sheik runs the show and controls EVERYTHING. You don't crap unless the Sheik okays it. Got it? Good. 


I love how Phoenix can walk into a shop and they just hand him awesome guns and loads upon loads of ammo. For God's sake it's the end of the world. No one rides for free...except Magnus Trench. He gets everything for free because he survived the bomb in a cave. It turns out that it's Murder Weekend or something in Las Vegas. The Sheik has his road games where contestants battle in fast cars toting huge guns. I called it "Death Race 2000". It's only a matter of time before our boy Trench gets to meet The Sheik. The Sheik needs a new contestant to represent his faction so Trench gets a sweeeeet ride called Death Wings...because everything has to have an awesome name. Guess what else Trench gets? For free? Sluts. Lots of them. For free. And food. And showers. And lodging.

After the hanky panky jazz, and there is A LOT, Phoenix enters the death race thingy and of course he can outrun everyone. He mops the track up with the clowns and then notices all of these troops and planes trying to shoot him down. TRYING. Guess what? Phoenix goes about 120MPH and then hits his nitrogen and jumps out of the race track using a well placed ramp. Convenience and total bad-assery. Did I mention that over the weekend SCORF went out and found 6 of Cobra's most vile villains to take out Phoenix. Yeah, in a weekend they found these goons, trained them and brought them in to kill Phoenix. I wonder if they had weighed in at the end to determine the biggest loser? Okay while those goons are training to take out the Phoenix....

Phoenix is outrunning a fighter jet in a car. Yep. He ends up wrecking and falling into another damn cave. Here's where the shit really gets crazy. You ain't seen nothing yet Junior. Inside the cave is a sex cult! Literally humpin-and-a-grindin. All day. All night. Why? Well they have this theory that if they talk in proverbs, use one word names (even in a cave they know this is obligatory) and screw the living shit out of each other then they can escape Earth during orgasm. I'm gonna stop right there and let you re-read that again....

Okay? Okay.

At one point Phoenix watches the ultimate of orgies go down and, in his infinite wisdom, asks when it can be his turn. I mean the dude has plowed his way through Vegas broads and that was only yesterday for God's sake. Well, leave it to a bunch of cave orcs to ruin a good orgy. They show up and start hauling the bimbos and penis wielders into the bowels of the Earth where they eat them. So Phoenix quickly learns that he is going to have to get the F outta the caves and forget all this Peter North bullshit. He's gotta go to the surface and fight it out with SCORF. Orcs or SCORF? No whammies, no whammies, c'mon....no whammies.

Phoenix using a small arsenal meets the SCORF baddies in an abandoned western styled town and takes them out. But SCORF's head honcho is there with a surprise and Phoenix is taken into his custody. 

David Alexander. Oh, oh, oh. You shit the bed. Big time. I am assuming this is comedy, it has to be right? But it isn't "Spaceballs" funny. It's just...simply awful at best. It's porn. Like not even the good kind. I mean every single male character is essentially running around with massive swollen man-sticks and ramming it in every female orifice. It's 16 year old stuff. It's gun porn too. But again, not a very good one. Get this...

"Autofire chattered as Trench hit the deck narrowly avoiding the brace of 7.56mm flesh-shredders that whizzed overhead from the chattering Steyr AUG .223 submachine gun."

If you don't know guns, .223 is the caliber of the Steyr AUG firearm. It shoots .223 bullets or what they refer to as NATO rounds in .556. It's your modern day AR-15. Very common. Yet the author mixes two different calibers together in describing the firearm. The 7.56 he is describing is essentially the .32ACP. It could be he was confused and was "shooting" for a 7.62mm style in .308. Either way it screwed the pooch. He does it again when talking about the JATI SMG piece. In most pages he has it shooting 9MM, which is what it is chambered for. But on page 185 he describes to the reader how it is chambered in .45ACP. Good God man! Your firearms aren't even accurate. 

If you are looking for all volumes of this series you can purchase them in digital format at Amazon. You owe it to yourself to at least pick the whole series up for $10 and just poke fun at what is essentially some of the worst fiction ever created. You buy. You buy now!




Friday, December 2, 2016

M.I.A HUNTER #02 - CAMBODIAN HELLHOLE

That old bear Jack Buchanan is back at it again. Buchanan, real name Stephen Mertz, brings us flush with the old glory hole itself - CAMBODIAN HELLHOLE (let "Second in the Explosive New Series" ring out an epic crescendo!). What's our favorite M.I.A. Hunter doing these days? Well shit, he's sucking soggy rice off his thumb in a bamboo cage in the middle of freakin' nowhere. What!?!

Okay. Back up. Let's break it down like Steve Stone calling an 80s Cubs game. Dang now that was a Stone with some balls. Remember that time he said relief pitcher Latroy Hawkins forgot to bring home plate with him from the bullpen? Or was that Chip Carey. Shit I can't remember. But that was ape shit funny. This isn't. Seriously. 

It's 1971 in South Vietnam and our boy Sergeant Mark Stone is out on patrol in the green slimy filth hunting some Cong. AK fire rips up the night and shreds the silence like a fat ass cleaver. Stone guns 'em down but almost gets killed in the process. Who's there to fetch his tail from the hot winds of Hell? His drinking buddy and RTO SP4 Jess Lynch. After Lynch saves Stone's ass he tells him "You owe me one". Later it is presumed that Lynch is killed in action and a letter is sent to his family from Uncle Sam. 

Fast forward to present day 1985 and Motley Crue has "Theatre of Pain" on the charts. That doesn't matter. Instead Stone is on a mission with his guys Hog Wiley and Terrance Loughlin to free some prisoners. Instead Stone royally screws up and damned if he don't kill every freakin' prisoner in an explosion. I hate when that crap happens at work. Stone, down and depressed about totally pooping in the tent, is in Bangkok doing a little business...GUN BUSINESS...mister. He gets a visit from a deep CIA guy named Carruthers who forces Stone to a house in the city. By force I mean "come with me or we will shoot your face off". Stone fights back and then eventually goes with the goons. 

At the house he finds that the CIA operatives are keeping a US prisoner of war on a dirty cot, malnourished and dying. The prisoner escaped his jungle Hell after thirteen plus years and was picked up. The CIA has no intention of helping the guy and don't want to admit to a US public that they dropped the ball on guys left behind. The prisoner tells Stone that Jess Lynch is still alive and is being held captive in Cambodia. This makes Stone furious...obviously...and he has quite the little skirmish with Carruthers and his men. Fast forward a day and Stone is picking up guns and supplies from his dealer and ready to hit the jungle for a shoot'em up. Carruthers gets in the way and Stone runs him off the road and into a truckload of horseshit...wait that was "Back to the Future 2"...but he does run him off the road and escapes.


Stone, Hog, Lough and a handful of mercenaries for hire are in Cambodia outside the camp where Lynch is being held along with twenty or more US P.O.W.s. Like seriously where does Stone get all this money? I checked Gander Mountain and C4 is outrageously expensive. We know Stone does some private investigating but he ain't making this kinda cabbage nabbing photos of future ex's doing the nasty. Instead of doing some more surveillance work and having an actual plan Stone decides to approach the camp and - get this - crawl through a sewer pipe and enter the camp stinkin' to high Heavens. It almost works. After slicing the head off a King Cobra with a knife he manages to walk right up to the cages and get captured by the enemy. What's with all this "Cambodian Hellhole" talk? Well Stone is about to find out. 

Our boy gets hung up like a bat and then gets the bat treatment. This ain't no rat with wings. Stone gets clubbed almost to death while the commander, Nguyen Ngu, goes on and on about confessing his real reasoning for entering the camp. Stone refuses to break so they light his foot on fire with a Zippo! Ouch. Stone gets dropped in a cage next to his old buddy Jess Lynch, who looks and sounds like he is approaching death's door. If a good nightly beating isn't enough, Stone awakens to find that all the prisoners including himself are going into the mines to dig for gold all freakin' day. That's what I love to do on my day off. Eat soggy rice, succumb to a hefty beating and then go lug rocks out of a dark cave for twelve hours. Geez. 

Alright, enough's enough. Hog and Lough plan the attack perfectly, blow the bridge and bring Hellish fire and thunder onto the camp. Stone kills off King Baddie and mostly all the prisoners are freed. Greyhound is running late so Stone tells them to walk their asses out of Cambodia - and that's just what they did. But before we close this...check this scene out. Lynch has his longtime torturer gutshot on the ground...

"Lynch forced the heated muzzle of his AK-47 between those skinny lips, his finger tightening on the trigger. He gave Needledick twenty rounds of mercy, shattering his skull and spewing bloody fragments of his brain in every direction."

TWENTY ROUNDS in the mouth. Whoa. Like that's heavy dude. You don't read that stuff everyday. 

"Cambodian Hellhole" was a decent read, plenty of action at the beginning, a short nod off in the middle but finished up with a solid ten pages of kill 'em all. Throw the snake in there, that CIA bullshit and a Zippo to the foot and you've got the makings of a real slobber knocker here. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

LAST MOUNTAIN MAN #05 - JOURNEY OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN

                            

The fifth book for what should be referred to as the "Smoke Jensen" series. I think at this point the whole idea of "mountain man" is sort of lost by the author. This Colorado rancher is more just a skilled fast-draw gunfighter with the ability to ride, shoot straight and speak the truth. I think I would have liked this series to be more like the first book but based on the state of affairs here it doesn't seem like that will happen. As the books continue on and on and on...Smoke has become the larger than life six-shooting hero (?) that literally kills everything printed on the page. He's unstoppable and his name is Smoke. C'mon peeps...the badassery bar is set pretty damn high.  

In "Journey of the Mountain Man" Smoke receives word that his cousin Fae, whom he has never met, is stuck in the middle of two range wars in Montana. One side is owned by a crooked rancher named Dooley Hanks (Tom's vile non-acting cousin), who borders on lunacy with his vile plans to own a huge chunk of Montana dirtpile. The other side is owned by a big land baron named McCorkle, who ends up to be a fairly nice guy who just wants to ranch like a good little rancher. Fae Jensen is stuck in the middle with portions of her land being infringed upon by Hanks' wranglers. She's on the verge of land rape and she's not gonna take anymore. 

The whole "journey" bit is lost. Smoke really just rides over to his cousin's house and starts whippin' ass. Smoke soon finds himself with allies in both Fae and his cousin Parnell along with McCorkle and his hands. The enemy is a cookie-cutter one and Hanks does the normal house burning, cattle-steering and hiring of goons to harass both McCorkle and the Jensens. Obviously Smoke handles the issues with both barrels blazing and another chapter is written in this series.

Dooley Hanks is just cut-and-paste from prior villains in this series and honestly I can't even tell them apart at this point. Potter, Stratton, Richards, Hanks, Yosemite Freakin' Sammy...it's just all the same. However, it was interesting to read more about Smoke's family in Fae and Parnell. The Parnell addition added much needed humor to the tale and hopefully the character will appear again in the series. Overall this one was violent, gritty and action packed in true Johnstone style. One of the better ones of the first five books even when you consider the utter nonsense of it all. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

LAST MOUNTAIN MAN #04 - REVENGE OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN


The fourth book in the "Last Mountain Man" series centers on that age old formula - wife gunned down by thugs. I mean this stuff happens to every paperback warrior at some point in their fictitious life. Little Sally Jensen has three holes in her to prove it...three MORE holes I should say. 

As mentioned in the last books Smoke's reputation as quick draw killer has caught up with him numerous times. Every gunfighter, gambler and adrenaline junkie is gunning for Smoke and wants the gold ticket to Hollywood that comes with a fresh Smoke corpse. A few unwanted guests show up at the Sugarloaf ranch for their shot at American Idol. Unfortunately Smoke is out selling some cattle and his wife Sally takes the big hit. She is shot three times but the doctors patch her up (they do that in the West with boiling water and rags). Smoke sends her back home to the east after learning she is pregnant with the couple's first child. She's with child yo! 

Smoke finds out that the killers are from a desert Babylon in the southwest. Using a bit of detective work Smoke goes into the barbaric town playing a fool - he dresses like an eccentric artist and takes a beating a few times from some of the town's bullies and outlaws. But dressing like a fool allows him to do a lot of surveillance work. He soon meets up with a US Marshall in the woods, on his sleeping bag, and the two devise a plan to take out the town and free hundreds of prisoners being held against their will. Did I mention prisoners? They are beating brutalized and crucified all over the damn place! Is this "Last Ranger" or "Last Mountain Man"?

This book has a ton of dynamite and takes a unique Smoke approach by allowing the hero to do some investigative work before using his big 'ole Colt. 44. There are some fist fights, a few gun fights and a lot of anticipation knowing Smoke will turn the tables and fight back eventually. You can't keep a good man down. The addition of a few allies helped flesh the book out a bit and we get a good look at Sally's wealthy family back home and some of her backstory. 

Overall this one sort of mirrors events that happened in prior books - Smoke arrives in town, scouts it, attacks everything and then leaves. Plus the amount of bar fights are somewhat predictable. Almost every Johnstone scene in a bar is just an excuse for a gunfight or brawl. Why can't a man just get snozzled in the suds without a buncha grief? I'm filing a complaint. "Revenge of the Mountain Man" is just another good western, take it or leave it. I can't seem to get enough of this stuff so saddle up and hit the book trail Daddy-O. 

LAST MOUNTAIN MAN #03 - TRAIL OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN

The third book in William W. Johnstone's western series arrived in 1987 proving that the author was delivering a book a year for this series among all the other genre fiction he was writing at the same time. Either he was way behind on child support payments or had a serious insomnia issue. Nobody wrote this much, not even that Maine hack King. Amazing how much output came from this author in so little time. He was putting it out faster than Ginger Lynn back in the day. Nevertheless Smoke Jensen and his mountain man Preacher are back at work with "Trail of the Mountain Man". 

Smoke and Sally have settled down on their Sugarloaf ranch (Colorado) and are raising an adopted son named Ben or Billy (the stable boy from book two). A vein of gold is found in a little town called No Name and it sets off a furious chain of events for the Jensen family. Hundreds of gold rushers ride into town and start staking claims all over the area. With a gold rush comes a boom town and the ill-effects leads to gunfighters, brothels, gambling and reckless abandonment in search for the almighty dollar. Whorin', cheatin' and swearin' is what's happening and boys it's catchin'. With this much action threatening to consume the Jensen property into a boatload of sin...well it's only a matter of time before Colt .44 lead be a flying.

Smoke's land has a piece of the gold vein on it and even though he has staked the land and it's minerals to himself...there are still those bad old apples that have to break all the rules. Smoke fights for himself and some other homeowners who are too lazy to lift a gun once their rights are infringed upon. With a whole town of thievery and lawlessness Smoke is backed into a corner and fights his way out with the help of Preacher and some aging "last" mountain men. And boy are they just hankerin' for a fistful of fight. 

In many ways this is a more superior novel than it's predecessor and brings in some of the lovable parts of the mountain men. Their antics are pretty dang funny and when the bullets start flying they prove they are more than just fat fodder. This is laughable, enjoyable and action packed...I mean packed. It's quite simply just a good western tale and one that cements the early stages of this long running series. 

LAST MOUNTAIN MAN #02 - RETURN OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN

William W. Johnstone's sequel to "The Last Mountain Man" proves to be a little underwhelming considering the raw intensity and power of the first book. Once again the author brings fast-draw Smoke Jensen and Preacher into a wild west full of gunpowder and iron fists. This one came out in 1986 and marks an important turn of events for Smoke in the long running series. 


After his wife Nicole and baby Arthur were killed in the first book our hero lays low for a year or two and bides his time. Soon he straps on the Colt .44s, loads the Henry lever action and sets out for the town of Bury, Idaho where three outlaws, Potter, Stratton and Richards, are running the town off of blood money taken from Smoke's father and brother. He's coming and he's bringing hail with him...not the hot kinda Hell but hail, like a hail of bullets or hard ice. The hard stuff baby.  

Smoke's name and famed events from the first book are known throughout the country at this point so he changes his name to Buck  (Wild!) so he can get into town a little easier. Once there he settles into town life for a few days so he can understand the layout of the land and scope out a plan of attack to take the three outlaws down. He gains an assist from the old mountain men including Preacher and meets a young school teacher named Sally, who he will later spoon and then fork for babies. But this book is about revenge and that's what Johnstone delivers. 

After the first book's exciting turn of events, a rather epic presentation throughout, this one is fairly simple. Buck hits the town, bangs up the baddies, rides home and gets to the real bangin'. It's really that simple kids. However, true to Johnstone's style the book is filled with fast-draw showdowns on the streets of Bury and a climatic finish with a load of gunplay. Overall a decent early entry to a series that delivers way better than this one.

OUTRIDER #01 - THE OUTRIDER
















This is why I love this genre so much. "The Outrider" is the ultimate example of the post-apocalyptic hero formula done perfectly. Author Richard Harding excels in this action yarn that kicks off the "Outrider" series of books. The series is presented in five books and, according to some online reviews, never actually officially ended with a good send-off. Nevertheless, based on my experience with this first novel, we are going to get a thrilling five book run. This debut was released by Pinnacle in 1984.  

Harding presents the familiar premise of a nuked America. While he never really elaborates on how far into the future this is, one would assume around ten years after the big one hits. The country is separated into districts and rulers. From Ohio through Pennsylvania and Tennessee lie the Firelands, a ruined stretch that saw the coal fields ignite and burn. This is Hell. The Slaverstates consume Washington, DC and run northeast. The soutwest is simply known as the Hotstates (not as Hot as the Firelands though) and the pacific northwest is known as the Coldstates. Chicago remains a neutral area and an open city, thus our hero Bonner lives there like a damn slacker.  

Bonner gives us a brief rundown of what used to be the Outrider clan. After the bomb groups of Outriders traveled through the country and provided supplies, support and law to the survivors. They were trusted and generally accepted by the remaining Americans. Somewhere along the way the Outriders stopped and unruly districts popped up. The horror! At the beginning of the series Bonner gets attacked by a baddie, a henchman sent by Bonner's enemy Leather (not Chastain's sexy singer), the sadistic ruler of the Slaverstates. The two have history together as Outriders but Leather took a left turn into barbarism. I assume a shortage on outpatient mental health care? He is holding captive Bonner's lover Dara and Bonner wants her back. He's got a little honey on the side but she ain't no damn Dara. 

Bonner quickly kills off the hitman and heads to a garage where a super Dodge buggy awaits. It has a .50 caliber gun mounted on it's rollbar, a weapon that Bonner quickly uses to annihilate a small squadron of armed goons right outside of Chicago. Our hero teams up with two guys, Starling and Cooker (a crazed gasoline lunatic that provides some humor) and journeys into the madness to kill Leather in Washington DC. 

After some shootouts early on the trio of badasses hit New York first to bail out an old friend of Bonner's. This portion of the book reminds me of John Carpenter's "Escape from New York". There is a huge prison there that is surrounded and manned by some wild crazies. The two free the coveted Harvey from his cell and pick up two behemoth twins aptly titled the Mean Brothers (think Haggard from Final Fight times two). This group then heads into Washington DC where they meet up with The Sisters, a commando force of women decked out in fine fashion and combat boots. No joke! This is so dope.  


With this many heroes and firepower the ultimate destination is Leather's fortress. Bonner uses too much bravado and becomes a full-fledged member of the Morons of Pulp Fiction. He gets captured and forced to watch his lover Dara get raped and beaten to death. Let me get you a Shasta to go with that. Thankfully Bonner's crew blows up a nearby building so Leather orders the death blows on Dara instead of the ill-advised gang rape. She still dies. There went a potential backstory that could run for years of publishing checks. Bonner escapes, hacks off Leather's hands before our arch enemy escapes for the next book. A hired killer named Beck sets out to kill off Bonner but has a change of heart at the end. Cue the credits kids as Leather seeks out a wench that will hold his junk to pee. 

This one is absolutely loaded with action, over the top characters and a furious pace from start to finish. I loved the book and huge props to Harding for including three outrageously bad-ass firearms for our heroes to utilize - Ruger Super Redhawk .44, Steyr Aug .556 and the Winchester tactical 12 gauge. Among Bonner's useful skills comes a ton of knife work. He is able to throw combat knives with extreme accuracy and that combined with Starling's ability with the bow and Cooker's flamethrower...well Hell it's like a comic book team of destruction in one fell swoop. We don't need no mutants.

Highly recommended for fans of high octane action! I'm searching for the other four books...throw me a bone if you know where to get them. 

TIME RAIDER #01 - WARTIDE


Another barrel-chested pulp fiction hero debuts with John Barnes "Time Raider" series. "Wartide" is the first of this series and was published in 1992 by Gold Eagle. Barnes is an American writer that has written a lot of science fiction tales in his career, notably the "Thousand Cultures" line of books. Whatever the frick that is. The "Time Raider" series was short lived with only three books instead of a long line of time traveling entries that could have made up for a lengthy writing endeavor if Barnes chose to pursue it. Maybe he won McDonalds Monopoly and eats Cheetos and Bon-Bons for a living now. Cha-Ching!

The book introduces us to a Vietnam War vet (of course) named Dan Samson. At the start of the book Samson is working with a buddy at a dojo for kids. We get a brief backstory on Samson - decorated veteran who is financially strapped selling cars for a dishonest dealer. To obtain some extra cabbage Samson agrees to a lab experiment that has something to do with cables attached to his head for some sort of hidden memory nonsense. Samson agrees to do it for a measly $200 bucks (donating sperm would have to pay more, right?). The lab tech gives specific instructions that Samson cannot move during the two hour procedure (red flag up the pole). During the experiment Barnes throws us a curve ball with some really jumbled writing that seems to suggest an AK-47 toting bad guy breaks into the facility and starts stacking up bodies. Samson moves and thus becomes TIME RAIDER.

Trapped in his own time Dr. Sam Becket leaps from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, hoping that his next leap will be the leap home....wait....that's "Quantum Leap" and this is something very similar. This is "Time Raider" and our time traveling hero awakens to find himself in Nazi occupied Italy during WWII. The author treats the whole thing casually as Samson just simply keeps on living in this world as if it's no big deal. I mean we all do this right, leaping around through time fighting wars from the history books. It turns out Samson is in the body of Private Houston, a pimping US Army hustler that has done some really bad things through the course of the war. Like he's a really bad guy. 


With very little concern or questions Samson kills off an Army rapist and then annihilates a squad of German goons. To prove he is a changed man he teams up with an Italian rebel to break into a German military base and kill off a few Jew-haters. The two then go back to camp and decide to break into another facility. They get caught, tortured and break out in true "Braddock Missing in Action" style. The whole purpose of Samson's trip through time is to defeat the Nazi regime's use of Sarin gas on North America. Or was it to make snow angels? Shit I can't remember. 


The book is really written without a whole lot of explanation or reasoning. Nevertheless Barnes gives us a whole lot of action including a much needed shootout in a wine cellar. Kudos to the author for delivering the goods with a fairly decent pace. Why Samson is a ping-pong ball in the time stream really isn't unveiled here. Instead a bunch of Asian prophecy crap is laid on us with the Winds of Time fortune cookie. At the end Samson learns that he can't return home and will be time traveling in lieu of collecting Medicare and playing church bingo. 

The next entry is advertised at the back of the book as the Mexican-American war. I'll be searching the book caves for the remaining two installments. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

LAST MOUNTAIN MAN #01 - LAST MOUNTAIN MAN


William W. Johnstone was an incredible talent that dabbled in a ton of pulp fiction during his 65 years around the sun. From early endeavors in the horror realm to explosive action series' like "Out of the Ashes" his writing style simply never let up. He loved to write and his passion and enthusiasm poured out on each and every page. Johnstone passed away in 2004 but his legacy lives on, not only through the books he left us but also through his son J.A. Johnstone. J.A. has continued and completed books that his father started and initiated a lot of his own series' based on characters or ideas that may or may not have originated with his father. 

One of William's enduring legacies is the Jensen family. This lengthy and all-consuming mythology of Johnstone books (both William and J.A. contribute) began in 1984 with this first book, "The Last Mountain Man", published by Zebra books. The book introduces us to two characters that will remain a part of the Johnstone collaboration for over 30 years and still continues growing to this day - Preacher and Smoke. 

The book begins with young Smoke Jensen working on the family farm in Missouri. Conditions are abysmally bad at this point in the 1800s, just after the end of the Civil War. Smoke's mother has passed away from illness, his brother has been killed in the war and his father Emmett is just coming home from years of fighting the Union. After a quick reunion the two decide to just start over and leave the farm. Emmett wants the two of them to push westward into the mountains. Unfortunately neither of them really know about the wilds and dangers of pushing that far west in the 1800s.

The two try going into Idaho and quickly find they probably don't have the skills and preparation for living in the wild. Thankfully an old mountain man named Preacher finds them in the mountains and begins a close-knit relationship with young Smoke Jensen. They all find themselves in a tangle with Indians (at the time of this writing they weren't using the term Native Americans) and Smoke quickly reaches manhood by shooting some Indians with an old Navy Colt. Preacher is impressed with the man and senses that Smoke's father may have a different reason for heading west. Preacher promises to teach Smoke how to live off the land and fight for a living in the high mountains. 

After some skirmishes Emmett confesses to Preacher that there is another agenda for the push west. After the war Smoke's brother was killed by Union soldiers in an attempt to steal Confederate money. They had planned on taking the money and heading west and had killed the Jensen boy and shot Emmett in a firefight. Smoke's father was dying but wanted to ride on and kill the outlaws and get back some of the stolen money. Preacher promises to raise Smoke as Emmett rides off to fight the outlaws.

Preacher spends a winter teaching Smoke how to draw fast, fight with his feet and hands and how to survive in the forest hunting and trapping. The character Preacher is extremely funny and Johnstone portrays the character in a warmhearted way. In true pulp western style Emmett is killed and Smoke needs revenge. After Emmett is buried both Smoke and Preacher head into the towns of the west to hunt the outlaws. This culminates in a firefight in a place called Canon City with tons of Henrys and Colt .44s. After cleaning up the town Smoke is still left with a decision - pursue the remaining outlaws or just go and lay low for a while. He chooses to head back into Idaho and settle there with his newfound love Nicole. The two live on the ranch and give birth to a baby son named Arthur.

In a surprising and whirl-wind ending to the book both Nicole and Arthur are killed in an attack by the baddies while Smoke is out gathering supplies. Johnstone rushes the ending a bit but adds some gruesome carnage along the way. Smoke kills them all, buries his family and vows for revenge.

This closes a very busy and exciting first chapter in a series that will last for years. Preacher turns out to be a popular character throughout so Johnstone decided to tell his origin and how he came to be a mountain man in his own series aptly named "The First Mountain Man" or sometimes just "Preacher". 

Highly recommended for fans of westerns or just action in general. The hand to hand fighting and use of guns and techniques should please fans of most "rough and tumble" genres. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

LAST RANGER #05 - THE WAR WEAPONS
















The doomsday epic from Craig Sargent rolls on as Martin Stone continues his pursuit of that raving lunatic Major Patton...although he isn't really a Major and he doesn't even have a military record. But Hell, it's doomsday and anything goes. After Stone saved the world in book four, "The Rabid Brigadier", he sets out on a path to crush Patton and take the world title championship belt. 

This one picks up as Stone and his rag-tag clan of overnight heroes pursue the Major in Bradley tanks across the desert. Sargent does his best detailing the Bradley machines and their positioning and pursuit of the baddies. I think he's probably a bit off with the tank mechanics and technical prowess but who cares when he is providing this much explosive firepower. Right? Right. And what's the deal with this superpooch dog Stone has been carrying around through the wasteland? You are telling me this thing has lived through maniacal rapers and apocalyptic raiders? I call bullshit.

After a hot pursuit through the desert the gang gets obliterated, wreck the tanks and Stone ends up being captured by the Major. In true "Missing in Action 2" and "Rambo 2" style the Major and his savages go to work in the torture chapter. Stone gets annihilated by beatings and then staked out on a massive wooden X after being dipped in Honey Smacks....no Teddy Grahams....wait just some sort of sweet sticky substance that attracts massive ants. Do they have honey mustard in the apocalypse? Soon Stone is a Golden Corral buffet as the ants swarm onto him and start chewing up the baby fat like a rat on a cheeto....or a mutant ant on honey dipped man-candy. "Left to die in the wasteland" doesn't last long though. A hot-ass Cheyenne warrior named Meyra shows up for the triple-X action. Before Stone begins to bone...the Cheyenne warrior princess rubs "healing paste" all over our hero and makes him good as new. Goldbond powder? After a miracle healing and a good lay Stone joins the Cheyenne warriors on an all-out assault on the Major and his goons. Wham-Bang-Boom and this one is in the books...the book...the book series. 

Afterthoughts...yeah it was predictable and maybe even a little short on plot but the end result is another classic 80s action yarn in what has been a really good post-apocalypse series thus far. 

Bring on book six and the return of another vile villain with "The Warlord's Revenge"!

Friday, July 29, 2016

LAST RANGER #04 - THE RABID BRIGADIER

"The Rabid Brigadier" from Craig Sargent, real name Jan Stacy, continues the wasteland survival tale of the bad-ass, barrel-chested Martin Stone. The book released in 1987 by Popular Library and is the fourth of ten books that fall under the "Last Ranger" series. Will it live up to the high-octane thrill ride of the first 3 entries? I'm on pins and needles - let's roll baby. 

By 1987 Jan Stacy had completed the first four books of the "Doomsday Warrior" series, co-written by John Sievert, and had "The Last Ranger" series on his plate full-time by '87. Sadly, Stacy died from the AIDS virus in 1989 and I often wonder if his diagnosis this late may have had some impact on his writing style. This book is shoddily crafted and doesn't resonate with the same attention to detail that the series' first entries had. While the book is entertaining and continues the epic journey of Martin Stone, it leaves the reader with wanting a bit more out of their paperback warriors. 


The book picks up right after the events of the third book...remember dwarves, big Colorado fortress, huge explosion...and the truckload of whores? Yeah Stone gets buried in an avalanche of debris and wakes up to bodies everywhere. He gets his bearings, way-lays some biker scum and finds his dog Excalibur. Die dog die, for God's sake just die. From there it's cut and paste and I nailed it within the first 30 pages...


An injured water-logged Stone gets picked up by a new military force called NAA - New American Army. They have little patches on their uniforms of two M-16s crossing the US flag that notates they are mutant killing baddies off to cleanse the world and create a new order. Stone befriends them at first and later finds they are indeed fascist bullies controlled by an arch-enemy in the making called General Patton III. He wants all the warehouses of Bounty Quicker-Picker-Upper and he wants them NOW! Not really. But what does he want? I mean it's the end of the world. You can do anything, go anywhere...postal is totally the new black. What's with all this remaking America garbage. 


Stone gets invited to their camp and immediately gets tended to his groin by nurse Elizabeth. You can pretty much gather that any female characters that show up in "The Last Ranger" series is really just fodder for Stone's apparently massive penis. It doesn't take long before Stone is jack-hammering nurse Elizabeth and what amounts to a XXX rated two and a half pages of "pee on your butt". After that Stone is all better and physically fit to join Patton's ranks as Major. Purged baby. But it doesn't last long as Stone eventually finds that Patton is in league with the devil and hopes to baptize the world with nuclear fire - THREE nuclear warhead launch sites. Stone stops one missile from being detonated by shooting it out of the sky with an anti-aircraft rocket (Stone is Reagan's Star Wars program!).  BUT the General escapes and Stone sets out with his new buddies and three tanks. Oh and he has that dog. 


Bring on book five, "The War Weapons", to find out who Stone bones next and where the Hell Patton has ran off to. That silly fanatic.