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.
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.