Google+ Followers

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. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

EAGLE FORCE #4 - RED FIRESTORM

Somebody put the wrong bullets in the box. The calibers aren’t matching up. Dan Schmidt’s fourth novel in his team-based “Eagle Force” line is out of sequence from the other books. Events and locations are all out of whack as if the author wrote this book before the second and third entries. Not only is the book missing series mythology, it’s also poorly written. Schmidt doesn’t have the same energetic pace or attention to action based sequences that move the book forward from A to B. It’s just a complete mess.

The first “Eagle Force” book, “Contract for Slaughter”, ultimately assembled the team through the typical recruitment process and some flashback sequences to show history of the characters. The mission to rescue an heiress from the clutches of Islamic extremists was a failure but it led to the creation of the team and some funds to acquire gear and guns. In the opening pages of book two, “Death Camp Columbia”, protagonist Vic Gabriel (Eagle Force leader) recalls the team’s second mission on the icy slopes of Nepal. The mission left the team with a relocated headquarters from the Florida Everglades to Pyrenees along the French-Spanish border. It also mentions that the team dismantled a CIA kill-force and Soviet SPETSNAZ. The problem? That mission was never explained to the reader! As we begin book two it is really just the team’s second mission that the reader has experienced. All of the events mentioned never occurred in book format. These are just mentioned but never fully explained. The reader just has to assume the author never elaborates on it further and just takes the jump in the timeline and location and moves on. Thus, we have a new headquarters and the next missions which roll out in book two, “Death Camp Colombia”, and book three, “Flight 666”.

Book four, our current review, is called “Red Firestorm”. However, it isn’t really book four. Instead this is the entire mission mentioned in the opening pages of book two. So, it’s out of chronological order which makes me think two things must have occurred. Either the publisher agreed with me and decided that this book just absolutely sucks and sit it to the side and released the vastly improved books out of sequence hoping readers would identify more with the team, characters and Schmidt’s normally otherwise well-written action formula. The other thought was that maybe Schmidt had never planned on actually telling this story and then had second thoughts. Nevertheless, we have book four at our disposal and it’s really just book two in disguise.

At the beginning of “Red Firestorm” we get a little payback from Zak Dillinger and Johnny Simms on a local drug cartel in Miami. It’s clearly written right after the events of book one and has Dillinger and Simms locked into a firefight in a small club. Half of Eagle Force walks out alive and that’s that. The next sequence has a CIA task-force arrive at Eagle Force camp in the Florida Everglades to offer a proposition. It turns out that some upgraded U2 aircraft flown by the CIA (or it’s colleagues) over Russia crashed in the Himalayas on Mt. Makalu, also known as the fifth highest mountain in the world. The aircraft were flying surveillance and spying on Ivan’s nuclear capabilities. The wreckage includes Sphinx black boxes which will not only show the data of the mission but also create some serious red flags if Russian can report that the US were violating airspace. The CIA wants Eagle Force to prevent WWIII. Why don’t they use their own people? Why ask Eagle Force, a team that has no experience climbing in the Himalayas? These are great questions that the author apparently never asked.

From there this book is an absolute train wreck and feels really disjointed. Russia’s Kremlin send a team into the regions on and around Mt. Mikalu. They shove around the locals and create a few skirmishes. Of course, Eagle Force is in the area as well but the two never really exchange gunfire until the last couple of pages. The big confrontation never comes to fruition. Also, these black boxes could be anywhere yet the two factions are able to find them with relative ease. That’s illogical writing. It’s lazy. The hardships of climbing the mountain, surviving the elements and the hunt itself should have been the main focus of the book. It would have added just one more set of super-skills to our paperback warrior team. The author spends way too much time on the village, Eagle Force corresponding with the village and some quick chapters on a pilot trying to survive after the crash. It just never gets up to full speed and leaves the reader bored to tears. The end of the book explains why the team is in a different headquarters at the beginning of book two. It definitely fills in the blanks retroactively. 

Overall I think the book’s disjointed writing style left the publisher with no other choice but to keep the book’s release on hiatus until better quality stories were developed by the author. Once books two and three were released I’m sure they felt the series had a large enough fan-base to support a not-so-good book. Let’s hope for better things with book five, “Reign of Fire”.