The Re-Return ofTrash Lit From Hell: Vengeance Is... These Guys'

Back into one of my obsessions - those trashy "adventure series" paperbacks that only a few of us (including this guy - one of my favorite blogs, and if you like this post you can get happily lost reading back-entries there for days) still care about, much less remember. They were basically what the pulps of the 30's and 40's turned into during the 70's and 80's. I discussed that earlier, with a bit more here, if you missed it and are interested).

Anyway, I scanned some covers, 'cuz, really, that's the funnest part of these posts, ain't it? I haven't read some of these series yet, so the information will be pretty superficial, but whenever I get around to reading 'em I'll probably revisit them; this'll just be a "did you know these things exist?" post. Here goes...

1. The Bounty Hunter - Tiny Boyles and Hank Nuwer

Real-life bounty hunter Tiny Boyles (that's him sweatin' Seagrams on the cover) supposedly recounted some of his real-life adventures to Hank Nuwer (who probably did the heavy lifting when it came to the writing) and published four (I think) books as the adventures of a bounty hunter named Tiny Ryder. He's 6'6", 389 pounds, and rides a Harley (because a Suzuki's suspension just wouldn't handle that kind of bulk). And he deals out countrified justice with a .45 and a .357. I can't wait to read these, I'm totally expecting something Shakespearian. Vicar of Wakefield, with unfiltered Luckies.

2. The Lone Wolf - Mike Barry

Burt Wulff (not to be confused with the chef... or, what the hell, go ahead and confuse 'em, that'd be hilarious!) is another one of those cops who gets fed up with the system after a loved one dies, so he goes renegade vigilante and declares war on organized crime, specifically the drug trade that led to his girlfriend's O.D. I started one of these once and quit early because I hated the writing style... and only recently did I figure out why: it's written by noted sci-fi writer Barry N. Malzberg, and I almost always hate sci-fi writers. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I do know that despite their bloody-afro covers (this is the only one I've seen that looks like it's a race-war book, promise) these books are marked by self-impressed poetical digressions on things (read one at this review) and are kinda weird because this Wulff guy isn't a hero so much as an obsessed lunatic. It's also one of the few action series (and I'd say only, but I think it also happened in the last Penetrator book) where the hero actually gets killed eventually.

3. Stryker - William Crawford

I'm currently reading this book, and all I can say is, wheeeeeee! You could never publish this thing now because it's so politically-incorrect and offensive, which is Crawford's idea of talking tough, I guess. "Spics," "spades," and "queers" all get dumped on; the two hit-men after lead cop Stryker and his partner (who's Latino just so the author won't be called racist for all the slurs flying around) are gay and are reacted to by everyone with revulsion, especially the stereotyped "guinea" (which Crawford doesn't even spell correctly) Mafia goons who hired them. If you can get around the closed-mindedness-as-a-literary-device (and if you read this kind of book, you probably can, because the 70's books were full of such stuff), as well as a big preoccupation with graphic scenes of people defecating (seriously, it's like scat-porn! Unless you're the hero you're going to shit your pants at some point if you're in this book), it's pretty well-written and the writing's not quite as trashy as most series paperbacks; it's kinda like if Joseph Wambaugh decided to do some slumming. I scanned the back of the book, too, because that prose cracked me up. The coffee stain (at least, jeez, I hope it's coffee) that was on the book when I bought it kind of adds to the gutter-level reading experience. And what exciting cover art, eh? "I'm going to put this gun away now because it's too heavy for the deformed dwarf-arm I have, and anyway, I'm sleepy now."

4. The Ashes series - William R. Johnstone

Here's a bizarre one from the guy who I've always considered the absolute worst writer of all time. Advice to any aspiring writers out there: go get some William W. Johnstone books and read them if you ever feel discouraged; trust me, whatever you're writing is waaaaaaaaaay-ass better than this guy's crapspasm prose, and he's one of the most widely-published people in the business! There is hope! Your napkin-scribbles may be publishable! Anyway, if you're an ultra-right-wing conservative, this is a wank-book for you. In the "future" year 1999, America has been destroyed by nuclear and bio-warfare between the U.S., Russia, and China. A Vietnam vet named Ben Raines sets up a free zone called the Tri-States, where only conservatives are allowed because everybody else is stupid and bad and criminal and stinky anyway, nyaaaaah. Oddly, these staunch right-wingers live by pretty much of a Communist system, because Johnstone was a complete idiot who didn't understand his own politics -- he just knew he hated "liberals" (who are hilariously stereotyped in his books; even Michael Moore would want to smack these guys). Anyway, Johnstone's only method of moving a story is to get someone shot on almost every page, so there are reams of characters who haven't been developed at all being gunned down like cardboard standups, and you couldn't possibly care. Offensive racial and gay caricatures abound and are mocked with a dullard's aplomb. Also, he talks a lot about having great morality and values, but his books are extremely preoccupied with sadistic rapes, sodomy, and every kind of depraved graphic gruesomeness. If you combined a John Birch Society speech with a 12 year old boy's armymen fantasies and then had a pervert recount it to you, you'd get something like this book. And I've read better prose in the captions of coloring books. It's just dumb, dumb, dumb stuff, but it could be funny if the prose weren't so painfully awful.

This is one of the few pulp action-adventure series that have been widely made into audio books, for the simple reason that a lot of Johnstone's core audience can't read! If you doubt that, here's a really fun thing you can do: go to Amazon and look up Johnstone's books and look at the grammar and spelling in the positive reviews. If you can find one that doesn't read like the work of a second grader, you may have a cookie. They all read like the product of great labor with a dull crayon. Durrrg!

5. The Lady From Lust - Rod Gray

Action of a different kind... the bomp-chika-bow-wow kind. Like the action pulps of the 30's spawned "spicy" versions, so did the action series of the 70's. These are the adventures of Eve Drum, Agent Oh Oh Sex, who goes on seduce-and-destroy missions to save the U.S. of A. Haven't read any of the porn parodies yet because it's kind of a big time investment for satire, but I guess they could be funny. "L.U.S.T.," by the way, stands for "League of Undercover Spies and Terrorists." I know the curiosity was just killin' ya.

6. Cherry Delight: The Sexecutioner - Glen Chase

Another porn-action parody, this stars "Sexecutioner" Cherry Delight, Agent for N.Y.M.P.H.O. (New York Mafia Prosecution and Harassment Organization), who, I guess, uses her vagina to fight crime as often as she uses her gun. Or, probably, even more often. The suggestive titles of the books in this series are pretty funny, stuff like Treasure Chest, Over The Hump, Fire In The Hole, Chuck You Farley!, Crack Shot, Up Your Ante, Tong in Cheek, etc. might give you a hint of the snickering juvenalia to be found within. Weird thing about these and the "Lady from L.U.S.T." books - they're written in first person from a female point of view, by supposedly male authors. That had to be strange, writing those...

These books are so sleazy the model in the cover photo has a big herpes on her chin. Nice.

7. The Man From O.R.G.Y. - Ted Mark

Also written first person, by "Ted Mark," these are comedic sexual takes on Man From U.N.C.L.E. type adventures. O.R.G.Y ("Organization for the Rational Guidance of You") battles rival organizations such as S.M.U.T. ("Society for Moral Uplift Today") who try to censor porn. Again, I can't really picture devoting hours to reading this, but I suppose I could be missing something hilarious.

8. Dennison's War - Adam Lassiter

This was a short-lived but higher-class series about a team of trained experts fighting crime and terrorism outside of the confines of the law. I didn't read many of these, but I really loved the one I've got pictured here. How could you not: a badass chick declares one-woman war on outlaw motorcycle gangs, infiltrating them and then gunning 'em down with mighty mighty firepower. This series was such a step up from average that it gave you extra cover art on the next page, just to fit in more paintings of Special-Agent Scooterfox smokin' badguy hog-jockeys with her .12 gauge. Check it out:

Sha-weeeeeet! Might be time to re-read this 'un.

9. The Black Samurai - Marc Olden

One of the best-written action series (along with The Narc, which Olden wrote under the pseudonym Robert Hawke), these books were done by a black author and were one of the few series to get a movie adaptation, Black Samurai starring Jim Kelly (although since it was directed by Al Adamson, it didn't do the books justice). They're well-paced, intelligent, and effectively written martial arts books.

10. The Last Ranger - Craig Sargent

These are good friendly violent fun, even if they do get a bit ridiculous. In a post-nuclear world, a highly-trained warrior named Martin Stone emerges to battle mutants and warlords with is pitbull Excaliber, while trying to retrieve his sister from gangs of depraved bastards. It's been a while since I read any of these, but I remember liking them a lot even though they were a bit lunk-headed. Whoever painted the covers thought that having goggles on your forehead was a pretty good tough-guy look (he was wrong), and it's interesting that Martin Stone is depicted with crooked teeth. He looks vaguely like cornball wrestler The Ultimate Warrior. He and the pit bull are making the same face, which I find gigglesome. Anyway, as the post-nuke adventure books went, this was my favorite, and one of the few (along with The Doomsday Warrior series) to actually completely destroy the world eventually.

11. Mutants Amok - Mark Grant

I really need to make time to try reading one of these, because they look crazy. Apparently mankind engineers some mutant warriors by creating Dr. Moreau-style hybrids of humans and other creatures... but this brilliant idea backfires on them, and after a holocaust of some sort, the mutants hunt down humans, who must band together and become guerrilla fighters to save themselves from annihilation! I wanted to scan in the covers of all four that I have, because they're some crazy shit. Check out the one I did scan... the one guy has a bunch of little faces growing on the back of his head, like warts! And they're screaming! And then you have this Lovecraftian horror (in blue jeans and a vest he stole from the bassist for Foghat) about to get his piranha-face smashed in by Mark Trail himself! Hoohah! How could this not be a work of genius? Answer: it couldn't! It simply must be brilliant! One day I'll read 'em and find out instead of just gushing away in gleeful ignorance.

12. Omega Sub - J. D. Cameron

Still haven't read any of these yet, either, although I love the premise: the world is annihilated in a nuclear exchange, but an American nuclear submarine is spared, and it sails the oceans trying to find any pockets of survival... and, apparently, getting in fights with any survivors they do find. Sounds good. The cover paintings aren't so hot, though, because they feature this gooby-lookin' dude who always has his mouth open, yelling while he fires some weapon. He looks scared out of his mind, or possibly like a baby bird straining for a dangling worm, but definitely not badass. Mack Bolan always looks grim. Learn from that, you action-book-cover-painting fellas.

13. Crockett - Brad Lang

Definitely a product of its time, I had to scan the front and back of this one just because it's so 1975. "He's young, hip, long haired - a private detective." Yeah, baby, yeah! And look at the cover - is that really long hair? He looks like he was maybe patterned on Peter Fonda. Haven't read any of these yet (I think there are only 3, and I've got 2) but they look kind of interesting. This particular book is so cheap that it was cut all wonky -- all trapezoidal and off-center. That just makes it more funkyfied!

14. Mafia - Don Romano

With all these war-against-the-mafia heroes running around, it was inevitable that somebody decide to grant the bad guys equal time, so these books are (I think) the stories of Mafia torpedoes and such. Each title was "Operation something-or-other." Operation Porno sounds promising. And was that the author's name... or his rank? Hmmmm.

15. Israeli Commandos - Andrew Sugar

The author of the body-hopping-clone series, The Enforcer, turns his attention to butt-kickin' Jews for this series about a team of highly-trained commandos protecting Israel from Arab terrorists. Decently-written and unusual. Note that the guy on the cover has his goggles around his neck. He needs to confer with Martin Stone, The Last Ranger, to learn the cool way to wear 'em. On second thought, this guy's got a beautiful woman on the cover with him, while all The Last Ranger's got is a pit bull... so maybe around-your-neck is the way to go for goggles-wear.

16. Death Squad - Frank Colter

Why have one fed-up-with-rules vigilante cop when you can have three of 'em? And make it a rainbow coalition of a white guy, a Latino guy, and a black guy. Criminals are in trouble now, you betcha! The series was short-lived, though.

17. Kiai! - Piers Anthony and Roberto Fuentes

Okay, back there we had Barry N. Malzberg writing Lone Wolf books, and here's another sci-fi writer, Piers Anthony, turning out adventures of "Jason Striker, Master of Martial Arts." And I'll be damned if he doesn't look exactly like the guy on the Lone Wolf covers, too! Add some "wolf ear" grey streaks in his hair and it's the same dude. I never realized that you could name a whole series after a sound a guy makes when he yells. This makes me want to go out and write a series called "Yeeeaarrgggh!" Or the guy who wrote the Stryker series could up his descriptions of bowel activity and put out the "Frrrraccck, Plunk!" action series. A lot of these books probably got read in the bathroom, anyway, so why not? Anyway, this Jason Striker guy has apparently mastered all the martial arts, and is a peaceful guy... when he's not stomping ninja's faces into hamburger. Which is good, because action series about peaceful guys wouldn't be very interesting. And that's why there's nothing like Ghandi: Bombay Barbecue out there.

18. Overload - Bob Ham

Yeee-haw, somebody finally done done it: married vigilante vengeance to the world of big-rig trucking! A couple of Special Forces buddies (one black, one white, both badass) fight back against the mob to save one of 'em's family trucking business... and decide, why stop there? Why not fight crime using eighteen wheelers and submachine guns and ATV's and such? Makes sense to me! This series ran for a pretty good while. I read one and it was pretty average, but not bad.

That's enough for now, but I do have more series in my hoarded piles o' trash-lit (and I'm always looking for more, although they're getting harder to find in used bookstores these days) so one day I'll probably delve back into 'em.


  1. I was a Last Ranger fanatic when the book was being published, though I think I only made it to volume 4 before I lost interest in the genre entirely. I've been meaning to re-read them, and as luck would have it last week I got volumes 5, 6, and 10 for mega-cheap at a used bookstore. Sheesh, now I just need the other volumes so I can check them out.

    THE post-nuke series however is Phoenix by David Alexander, so insanely over-the-top in the graphic gore department that it bests even Ryder Stacy's "Doomsday Warrior" series.

  2. I need to start reading the Last Ranger books again. I remember them being really entertaining. Occasionally a bit lunk-headed, but what the heck, that's part of the fun. It had kind of a Kamandi-without-the-animal-people vibe.

    I scored all the Phoenix books at a used bookstore several years ago in one fell swoop...they had all of 'em. The older lady that ran the store said she'd read them and liked 'em, which kind of surprised me - she didn't look like the type, but you never know. :) I haven't read any yet, but I need to move them up on my reading list.

  3. Two more things:

    Your dissection of the "exciting cover art" for Stryker popped in my head the other day and I nearly choked on my drink. "I'm kinda sleepy now anyway" and etc. Well done.

    And finally, how strange that you mention the finale of The Penetrator. I've been collecting the series over the past year and have luckily gotten it for cheap...for example my first buy was an entire box of them, like 38 books in the series, for 7 lousy dollars. Anyway, I finally got the last volume, #53: City of the Dead. I figured since it's taken my a year to get through 7 volumes, who knows when I'll finish the entire damn series, so no harm in checking out the last few pages of the last volume, right? Well...! It does in fact appear that Mark "Penetrator" Hardin buys it in the last volume of his own series! Sheesh! I wonder how that went over with the longtime fans??

  4. I'm the granddaughter of tiny Boyles.. I never got to meet him but we talk about him all the time when we have our family get togethers and every day I hear something new about him.. Very brave man who loved his family dearly...
    <3 krista Gorneault

  5. Sorry for being so late to the party but just wanted to say, I love this site!

    You've given me a new pile of books to track down, that's for sure - especially the Dennison's War ones - that cover art is fantastic.

    Also, the Overload series being written by someone called "Bob Ham" is so apt it hurts.

  6. Greetings from Texas,
    William Crawford was my stepfather. We talked about many of the things you discussed here, and in more than one case he would agree with you. The reason for the 'tough talk' was simple - it's what the publisher wanted. Also, the mindset very much came from life. He spent a number of years in law enforcement and from what I understand from his contempories in the 1960's that wass pretty much the mindset of burnded out jaded cops.
    (I know I can't spell-no reflection on him-made Bill nuts too!)

    Also you and one of the commenters mentioned the cover art of this book. There is a funny story about that in a pull your hair out bang your head against the wall sort of way.

    Bill was sent a print of the cover before it was published and had his editor on the phone in about a minute. It seemed the artist couldn't be bothered to read the material he had been sent, or at least didn't pay attention to it. Stryker was shown lighting up, even showed the brand of smokes. As you know from reading the story, Stryker didn't smoke. The artist was forced to redo part of the cover, which is why you see Strykers head and arm at such an odd angle for examing a snub nosed .38.

  7. ZWOLF! Dude "The Bounty Hunter" Series was my dad...I am the son of Tiny Boyles and Hank Newer hung around my father to write the articles that got him fame! He hung on ever last word my father said and he wrote it down so he can reap in the rewards and money that it brought! PLUS! He loved the lifestyle my father lived at the time and he knows it but Hank has a ego that won't let him admit it! Don't get me wrong, Hank is a ok guy, I don't really know him,....met him a few when I was a kid but lets just say my dad put excitement into his life! The stories in the books are not all real of course but my dad loved telling the stories!

  8. Hank was and is a smart man. I am honored that my dad is ur number one pick. Hank did the heavy lifting and liked my father. Thanks buddy, boyd