Number 1 with a whole buncha bullets and some fists
"I flaunted before him my open groin, the path to his salvation!"
That's a direct quote from one of the books I'm featuring today. If you can guess which one, you win a wonderful prize -- the admiration of your peers! Yeah, it's not much, but it's within budget.
I been readin' some stuff. They're all #1's in their series-es. Hence my clever title. Here we go...
Code Zero #1: Speedball - D. A. Hodgeman (Gold Eagle, 1992)
First in a three-book series about DEA agents taking on drug cartels. In the opening chapters a pair of drug-lord brothers massacre a bunch of cops at a traffic stop and kidnap an officer named Carmelita Mrales, who's been shot in the head but is still alive. A DEA agent named Harry Wolfe tracks them down and is determined to rescue Carmelita. The pursuit of the ruthless cop-killers leads to the formation of a special DEA unit known as Code Zero, which has a license to kill or do anything else necessary to stop the drug lords. The action scenes are great, very realistic, and display a lot of firearms, ballistics, body trauma, and combat strategy knowledge. Hodgeman has done his homework and has a skill at describing detail that makes you see the scenes in slow-motion, and he goes over gunfights several times from the point of view of different characters so you get the action from all angles. It's an interesting technique, and the writing and plotting is far more intelligent and high-quality than you find in most action paperbacks. Good stuff.
MacMorgan #1: Key West Connection - Randy Striker (Signet, 1981)
Written under a pseudonym by Randy Wayne White, who went on to become a big deal, this is the first in a seven volume series following the exploits of ex-Navy SEAL Dusky MacMorgan. Nicknamed because of nearly being killed by a dusky shark while on SEAL training, MacMorgan is a big blonde handsome action-hero stud, but other than that he's a little different than the usual. Most notable is the fact that the books are written in first person, and there are some odd quirks, such as Dusky's reminiscences of talking to Hemingway (while an orphan working in the circus). Dusky works as a charter boat captain in the Florida Keys until the perfect storm of vigilante-making hits him: his best friend is killed by drug smugglers who want his boat, and in settling that score Dusky finds out the head bad guy is an old nemesis from his SEAL days. Said nemesis then kills off Dusky's wife and two sons, and after that nothing is going to stop him. Armed with weapons from an underground arms manufacturer friend (including a poison dart pistol and a giant-mousetrap device that replicates a shark's bite) and a clearance from government agencies who need a guy like Dusky to be their troubleshooter, off he goes, kicking massive amounts of drug-dealin' ass. There are narrow escapes aplenty, an ever-escalating number of events that need avenging, and almost some sex -- every woman Dusky encounters tries to bed him but he's always too busy or gets interrupted. The writing's of a higher caliber than the usual action pulp and White keeps the pace relentless without sacrificing much in the way of character/setting/realism, and the ocean setting is nice. Good stuff.
Cutter #1: Panhandle Payback - Duff McCoy (Pinnacle, 1990)
I'd love for "Panhandle Payback" to be the title of a book about a butt-kicking homeless guy, but instead we've got a grimy Western that tries to out-violence the Edge series. It's strange that Pinnacle was competing with itself, since they were also Edge's publishers. A mean, emotionally-dead gunslinger named Cutter is out to kill the men who shot his Pa and branded him and sent him to hard labor in a prison ten years before. Of course, the guy he wants to kill has built up an army of gunmen so we'll have a bigger body count, but it's a cardboard one and even though the action in this book is pretty much constant, it soon becomes more tedious than badass. There's no attempt at characterization other than to establish that everybody's an asshole (except for a prissy dude artist who seems to be a decent guy but gets his hands chopped off for his trouble), and Cutter's so antisocial it's kind of mysterious how he manages to interact with anyone on even a basic level. I don't know how he even buys ammunition without killing somebody. Anything gross that can happen, does: loads of gore fly about, everyone vomits, everything stinks, and everyone's filthy. If that's the atmosphere you're looking for, then indulge. The writing is spare but full of period jargon (it's been a while since I heard anyone referred to as a "jasper" or seen anyone smoke a "quirly"). Not good, but bearable.
Roadblaster #1: Hell Ride - Paul Hoffrichter (Leisure, 1987)
Post-apocalypse action with a generous helping of sleaze and some cover art and copy that doesn't really reflect what's inside. A guy named Nick Stack is camping in the California mountains when WWIII goes down and the U.S. is blitzed by nuclear missiles. He finds other survivors and they try to figure out what's going on and how they should deal with it. Meanwhile, a motorcycle gang worse than Hollywood's meanest depictions decide to take advantage of the apocalypse by doing whatever they feel like they wanna do, gosh. They take over towns and kill and enslave the citizens, and stand in line to force schoolgirls to give them all oral sex in scenes that are uncomfortably too-florid. Amidst all of this, a B-52 loaded with nuclear weapons has engine trouble and lands at a remote airstrip. Stack and the good guys have to fight off the evil bikers before they can get possession of the nukes. Stack's kind of an average guy (the back cover says he can build and repair any machine but that's not evidenced in the book) but he finds enough desperate bravery to fight back. He does make some odd decisions, though, such as when he's rescuing a girl who's being raped, he shoots the dick off the biker while she's sucking it. Isn't that risking shooting her in the face, when he could've more easily killed the guy outright? And is a severed dick in the mouth only going to worsen the horrible trauma he's trying to save her from? Anyway, the bikers are really evil (and have weird names like Billy Bullshit, The Black Donut, Monster Man, etc.) so you'll like seeing them get blown away. It's a lot better than just seeing them get blown. As if conscious of slandering bikers in the book, a few 99%ers show up and they're super-clean-cut nice-guy citizen clowns, so if you conform to the status quo you're an okay fella. If not, you're the scum of the earth. On the cover of the book, Stack's a long-haired guy (who's oddly mild-looking, even a bit Abe Lincolnish) wearing fancy Road Warrior gear, and the bikers are all armored, but in the book he's just a normal camper. Civilization has only been out of service for a few hours, there hasn't been time to get a fashion sense goin'. There's lots of action but it's mostly standard firefights instead of Road Warrior type stuff, but it's not badly handled. The writing is okay but pretty average.
K'ing Kung-Fu #1: Son of the Flying Tiger - Marshall Macao (Venus Freeway Press, 1973)
Kung fu movie turned into pulp fiction series, with the half-breed son of an American WWII pilot becoming the student of an aged kung fu master, Lin Fong. This pupil, Chong Fei K'ing, trains under him in the Gobi Desert, learning as much philosophy of the Tao as he does martial arts. K'ing is a calm, good-natured boy who wants only to learn, but then Lin Fong takes on another pupil, Kak Nan Tang, who is hot-tempered and ambitious. After battling an evil fighter and his pupils (part of the mystic Red Circle, which are enemies of the good-guy Blue Circle K'ing and Kak are supposed to be heir to), Kak turns on Lin and K'ing and becomes a deadly enemy. This is a well-written book with a leisurely pace (the author obviously loves Chinese philosophy and likes to impart it, and since the book was probably inspired in part by the Kung Fu TV series, readers would want that) and good action scenes. Kung fu fights are hard things to write, though, so the effectiveness of the fight scenes will be restricted to how well you can picture such things as "pounding wave" and "ram's head" and "buffalo horn" and "rock smash." If you've watched a lot of kung fu movies, that will help. Such a story could easily get pretentious and dull, but I stayed enthralled and am glad there are six more books in the series. A promising start, and purer to the tone of kung fu movies than anything else I've read.
By the way, today is the birthday of our esteemed colleague, Kicker of Elves, so massive happy birthdaze, fella! :) I couldn't think of what to get you as a blogday present, so here are some random bad scans out of Jhonen Vasquez and Henry Rollins & Glenn Danzig romance comics, taken completely out of context and made somehow even funnier (and bewilderingly awesome) thusly, or such is my theory. Enjoy!