GUIDES TO THE MEN'S ACTION ADVENTURE GENRE
I’ve written a number of columns highlighting men’s action adventure paperback original series. In those columns, I mention reference works and websites where further information can be found. For this column, I wanted to gather those prior columns in one handy reference as a primer for those new to the men's adventure genre looking for a quick way to come up to speed…First up, the best places on the web to find out more about the genre...
I have spent way too much time perusing the many books of my misspent youth on Joe Kenny’s info packed Glorious Trash blog. Trawling the depths of forgotten fiction, films, and beyond, Glorious Trash is filled with reviews and biting commentary on an outrageous number of paperback original men’s action/adventure series. This is a must hangout for faithful acolytes of the genre.
Another site dedicated to reviewing men's adventure, pulp heroes, horror paperbacks, disposable culture, transgressive literature, and theme parks. I’ll admit this is the only site to include reviews of theme parks, but the inclusion illustrates each of these sites gives a different perspective and adds additional information on the genre.
Here you’ll find way too many desirable vintage men’s action/adventure paperbacks for sale. Spend too much time browsing and the irresistible offerings will steal cash out of your wallet like a thief in the night.
Celebrating the men’s adventure magazines of the ‘50s ‘60s and ‘70s, there is no other place on the web packed with so much information, original material, and wonderful cover scans of the men’s adventure magazines that dominated the magazine racks for three decades. Administrator Bob Dies has done a fantastic job preserving the history, cultural importance, and sheer over-the-top fearlessness of the men’s adventure magazines. Don’t go here unless you have several hours to spare. However, once you do visit, you’ll be drawn back again and again.
Kevin Burton Smith’s comprehensive Thrilling Detective website is the go to reference for almost any detective series or character ever to pull a gat, get hit over the head, or be a sucker for a dame. The listings are filled with inside info and provide full check lists of titles for every entry.
An extensive listing of detailed information on almost 6,000 spy novels from 1,000 different series. Also includes expanded details on movies, television episodes, and a ton of other pertinent information.
Subtitled, An Encyclopedia From Able Team To Z-Comm, Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction is available in both physical and e-book version. Either way, it’s a wonderful experience to browse through the pages. This extensive reference is not perfect. The complete lack of related cover art is almost criminal and, beginning as it does in 1969 with Don Pendleton's The Executioner, there are some truly great series and characters missing from the listings. However, this is the first overview ever of the serial vigilante genre and it really is a terrific effort and required reading. The book examines the connections between serial vigilantes and the pulp heroes who preceded them and how the serial vigilante has influenced a variety of tough guys, private eyes, spies and cops in different media. A complete bibliography for each series is featured as well as background on the authors, including those behind the many pen names, pseudonyms, and publishing house names.
Novelizations and movie tie-ins from A(ce) to Z(ebra). Only the uninitiated would not recognize Ace and Zebra as two of the main publishers of men’s action adventure series and a flood of other pop culture related paperbacks from action adventure TV shows and movies…Pinnacle and other publishers of similar fare also get spotlighted on this ongoing blog with a deep archive of material.
Book reviews, movie reviews, interviews (Anne Francis, Pam Grier, and many more)…If it can be labeled shlock, you’ll find it covered here. Temple of Schlock also has an Endangered Species List looking at those precious gems of pop culture threatened with extinction by the passing of time.
Bruce Grossman’s column on the Bookgasm hasn’t been added to lately, but the archives of the column still hits all the high points and low points of men’s action/adventure series. Grossman is knowledgeable and has an abiding interest in the genre that shines through in his reviews.
Marty McKee defines his blog in no uncertain terms—trashy movies, trashy paperbacks, trashy old TV shows, trashy...well, you get the picture. The description is not misleading. As in other sites mentioned in this column, Johnny Larue’s Crane Shot has extensive listings and reviews of all the stuff to satisfy a genre fan’s delight.
The Paperback Fanatic is the British magazine for collectors of pulp paperbacks from the 1960s and 1970s…Jam-packed with author interviews and articles about the weird and wonderful books from that era, The Paperback Fanatic is bursting with previously undocumented information and loaded with reproductions of many rarely seen covers.
A spin-off from the Paperback Fanatic, the three out of print Men Of Violence issues are extremely worth tracking down on the used market. Men Of Violence covers the lurid, often bloody, men's adventure paperbacks of the 1970s. Topics include intriguing aspects of the genre, such as a look at Manor Books—a New York-based operation that published some of the genre's sleaziest series, including Kill Squad, Bronson, Peter McCurtin's long running Marksman series, the western series Renegade starring Captain Gringo and more. Black-and-white cover reproductions are sprinkled across the pages giving a quick visual guide to what the genre is all about.
THE JOURNAL OF JUNK
CULTURE AND FRINGE MEDIA
Each issue of Exploitation Retrospect is brimming with the kind of behind the scenes details that are catnip to genre fanatics. There are often articles on many of the men's action/adventure series, such as The Destroyer, Dirty Harry, and Ninja Master, as well as articles on Nikkatsu Erotic Cinema, Nazi Zombie Flicks, and a huge DVD review section of the best and worst in sci-fi, action, horror and sleazy trash sinema.
The above are the core sites and reference guides to the men’s action/adventure genre. There are certainly many others, which you can find by following the links on the sites above…
HIDDEN GEMS PART 1
Modern fans of hardboiled private-eye novels often discovered the genre via Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole or Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. Women hardboiled fans also read Crais and Parker, but they often come to the genre through Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone, or Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski—who have also entertained many male readers. Casual readers usually stop with these names from the bestseller lists. However, others find themselves on the dangerous path to hardboiled addiction.
Thinking they can quit at any time, they begin chipping the original masters of the genre—the godhead of Chandler, Hammett, Ross MacDonald. Quickly, still denying their addiction, they look for further highs, uncovering John D. Macdonald or Mickey Spillane before scoring more modern masters—Lawrence Block, Estelman, Max Allan Collins, Bill Pronzini, Robert Randisi, Walter Mosely, Dennis Lehane, Andrew Vachss...
Falling further into the depths of their addiction deepen, hardboiled junkies score their highs from the private eye characters created by the likes of Wayne D. Dundee, Joe Gores, the ever dangerous Andrew Vachss, Jeremiah Healy, Arthur Lyons, Michael Collins (aka: Dennis Lynds), Stephen Greenleaf, Joseph Hansen, Jonathan Valin, and an almost never ending list of other two-fisted sleuths.
Falling further into the depths of their addiction deepen, desperate hardboiled addicts go old school for their kicks with the likes of Mike Shayne, Cool and Lam, Shell Scott, Johnny Liddell, Ellery Queen, Nero Wolfe, Dan Turner, and others from the golden age of private eyes. But eventually, even these hardboiled speedballs aren’t enough to satisfy a mainliner.
There remains only one place for these sad souls to go, a place known to only the most devoted of hardboiled fanatics. It is an opium den where the air is acrid with the residue of smoking guns, healing bruises, laddered stockings, and the underlying strains of a dying torch song. Here there be treasure—the treasures of The Eye, a hidden cabal of the hardboiled inner circle who tightly guard long forgotten, gritty paperback original private eyes series, which are passed from hand to hand with whispered reverence.
In the spirit of the Masked Magician—only without the mask—who delights in revealing the mechanisms behind magic’s smoke and mirrors, I am going to devote the next few columns to unveiling the hidden treasures of private eye fiction…
First up is a personal favorite—Rafferty, a tough ex-cop turned Texas private eye created by W. Glenn Duncan. Starting with Rafferty’s Rules (#39: Smiting the wicked sounds biblical, but mostly it's good clean fun) in 1987, this PBO (paperback original) series ran for six titles.
At first blush, the framework for Rafferty appears to be yet another Spenser clone (Cowboy, Rafferty’s semi-sociopathic partner channeling Hawk; Hilda, Rafferty’s significant other who is a less irritating version of Susan Silverman; an equal number of wisecracks, fists, and bullets), but it’s quickly apparent in the first few pages of the series, Rafferty and company are in a class of their own.
Rafferty doesn’t play well with others. He is stubbornly contrary, refusing to be told what to do or how to do anything. Being able to back his mouth up with smarts—or brute force when intelligence fails—is half the fun of the series. Rafferty is a refreshing throwback to the golden age of good, clean, hard-hitting, men’s action and adventure. Rafferty’s seemingly endless collections of rules provide a warped sense of ethics to his actions and we are happy to be along for the ride.
Brash Books would drool to be able to reprint this series, but Duncan has somehow disappeared into the Australian Outback...Until search parties can locate him, interested parties will have to peruse used bookstores or the Internet.
THE RAFFERTY SERIES
Rafferty's Rules (1987)
Last Seen Alive (1987)
Poor Dead Cricket (1988)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time (1989)
Cannon's Mouth (1990)
Fatal Sisters (1990)
FOR MORE ABOUT RAFFERTY CLICK HERE
Another hidden PBO series horded by hardboiled aficionados is Ralph Dennis’, Hardman. Published in the ‘70s, the series remains one of the most overlooked and underestimated entries in the genre.
Jim Hardman, is a middle-aged, overweight, out of shape, ex-Atlanta cop turned unlicensed private eye. Despite his physical attributes, Hardman remains one tough bastard. When coupled with his partner, former Cleveland Browns pro-football player Hump Evans (yes, Hardman and Hump – get over it), the duo form a formidable team—Spenser and Hawk before there was a Spenser and Hawk. Despite the groundbreaking done by the television series I Spy, having an Afro-American sidekick who worked as an equal partner was fairly progressive for the time period.
Hardman’s beat is Atlanta, a great city for kick ass action, which Dennis brings to harsh life using spare prose with a sprinkling of real nightclubs, restaurants, bars, hotels, and street corner descriptions throughout the series. Atlanta was the author’s adopted home, and his affection for the city is obvious.
The books hold up surprisingly well. Dennis’ tells a good, violent, series of tales making Hardman, Hump, and Atlanta well worth making the effort to track down. The publisher, Popular Library, did the whole series a disservice—destining it for obscurity—by packaging it as a low-rent Executioner rip-off. The covers, however, are have become retro collectibles.
Hardman is another series ripe for reprinting, but the rights have proved difficult and expensive to disentangle. As an alternative, you can still find some of the series entries for affordable prices through the usual sources, but trying to put together the whole series from scratch will be a challenge.
THE HARDMAN SERIES
Atlanta Deathwatch (1974)
The Charleston Knife's Back In Town (1974)
The Golden Girl And All (1974)
Pimp For The Dead (1974)
Down Among The Jocks (1974)
Murder's Not An Odd Job (1974)
Working For The Man (1974)
The Deadly Cotton Heart (1976)
The One-Dollar Rip-Off (1977)
Hump's First Case (1977)
The Last Of The Armageddon Wars (1977)
The Buy Back Blues (1977)
FOR MORE ON HARDMAN CLICK HERE
HARDBOILED NOW: HIDDEN GEMS
In last week’s column, I spotlighted two private eye series familiar only to the acolytes of the hardboiled inner circle—The Eye—whose knowledge and fanatical commitment to the genre keep the embers of even the most obscure fictional private eyes and tough guys alive. This week, I’ll expose three more hidden gems of the genre.
I must admit, I’m having way too much fun with this theme. While compiling my own list of obscure tough guy characters, I also reached out to some of my co-fanatics who contribute to the Men’s Adventure Paperbacks of the ‘70s and ‘80s Facebook group—Celebrating the two-fisted, heavily armed paperback adventure heroes of long-gone publishers like Pinnacle, Leisure, Zebra, etc....The Executioner. The Destroyer. The Death Merchant. The Protector. Nick Carter, Killmaster. The Penetrator. Black Samurai. Edge. The Hook. And so many more. In short order, they inundated me with enough private eyes, hitmen, vigilantes, tough crooks, tougher cops, and troubleshooters to fill this column for the rest of the year. I had either read or was familiar with most of the characters they mentioned—from both series or standalone novels—but there were definitely some I needed to check out for myself.
Anyone serious about tracking down these series and others should be familiar with these Internet resources: Kevin Burton Smith’s THRILLING DETECTIVE website is a comprehensive reference site for almost any detective series or character ever to grace the page; Joe Kenney’s GLORIOUS TRASH blog—where I have spent way too much time perusing the many books of my misspent youth—is filled with reviews and biting commentary on an outrageous number of paperback original men’s action/adventure series; Bruce Grossman’s BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL, AND BOMBS column on the BOOKGASM blog hits all the high points and low points of men’s action/adventure series; JOHNNY LARUE'S CRANE SHOT blog—trashy movies, trashy paperbacks, trashy old TV shows, trashy...well, you get the picture; and the TRASH MENACE blog—a review of men's adventure, pulp heroes, horror paperbacks, disposable culture, transgressive literature, and theme parks. Each of these sites will keep both hardcore and new fans busy for hours…
This week, I’m continuing with my own list of obscure favorites. This dynamic duo, like the Rafferty and Hardman series from last week, have been off the hardboiled genre’s radar for far too long.
One of the toughest tough guys is Ennis Willie’s Sand—A former crime lord with a price on his head, an army of hit men on his back, and a .45 riding in a shoulder rig under his arm to do his talking. A man alone, with few friends and many hates. There is nowhere to hide…and it's too late to pray...
Short, terse, full of sex and graphic violence, the Sand Shockers, took their cue from Richard Stark’s far better known Parker novels. But Sand is far more than an imitation Parker. Sand’s violent cross-country crusade to break from his past as a mob hitman and rectify past wrongs—killing a morgue-full of minions and former mob bosses without qualms in the process—forms the template followed a decade later by Donald Pendleton’s Mack Bolan The Executioner series and its myriad of imitators.
Ennis Willie wrote many novels published by the low-circulation sleaze imprint Merit Books in Chicago. Merit also published the nine Sand novels, but the distribution of Merit’s books was erratic at best, condemning the Sand Shockers to obscurity. However, the inner circle of hardboiled fanatics—in particular Stephen Mertz and Ed Gorman—have kept Sand’s flame alive, ensuring his continuing legacy.
A hardboiled icon in his own right, Max Allan Collins acknowledges his series featuring tough crook Nolan and his later series with calculating hitman Quarry (soon to be seen on Cinemax) were inspired by Sand. Regarding Ennis Willie the writer, Collins declares, Among American writers, only one caught Mickey Spillane's magic—only one managed to create a fever-dream world of sadistic gangsters, willing women and larger-than-life tough guys.
THE SAND SHOCKERS
Scarlet Goddess (1963)
Scarlet Goddess (1963)
Aura Of Sensuality (1963)
Haven For The Damned (1963)
Game Of Passion (1964)
And Some Were Evil (1964)
Warped Ambition (1964)
The Case Of The Loaded Garter Holster (1964)
Passion Has No Rule Book (1964)
Code Of Vengeance (1965)
The original Sand novels are incredibly rare and expensive, however, Ramble House has resurrected a number of Sand tales in two readily available collections, SAND’S GAME and SAND’S WAR
FOR MORE ON ENNIS WILLIE CLICK HERE
An American GI who remained in Tokyo as a Karate student after World War II, Burns Bannion was created by Earl Norman (Norman Thomson) in a series of nine paperback originals. Like the original Sand novels, the Bannion books are rare and expensive. Unlike Sand, there are no easily accessible reprints or collections.
In 1958’s Kill Me In Tokyo, Burns Bannion gets his start as a private eye when he is mistaken for a real Californian PI who has followed a lead to Japan. Racial stereotypes abound in Bannion’s Japan, but if you can get beyond the political incorrectness (by today’s standards), the books are quick, hard hitting, and enjoyable reads. They are also possibly the first action novels to feature a westerner with martial arts skills.
The covers of the first editions and all reprints have become collectable treasures, especially with great blurbs claiming Bannion to be blood brother to Shell Scott and Mike Hammer and a guy who keeps running into his two favorite pastimes—gorgeous girls and deadly killers.
THE BURNS BANNION SERIES
Kill Me in Tokyo (1958)
Kill Me in Shimbashi (1959)
Kill Me in Yokohama (1960)
Kill Me in Yoshiwara (1961)
Kill Me in Shinjunku (1961)
Kill Me in Atami (1962)
Kill Me on the Ginza (1962)
Kill Me In Yokosuka (1966)
Kill Me in Roppongi (1967)
HIDDEN GEMS PART 3
In last week’s column, hard-edged series characters Sand and Burns Bannion joined Rafferty and Jim Hardman on our growing list of hardboiled private eyes and tough guys little known outside of The Eye—the inner circle of acolytes committed to keeping the secrets of the hardboiled genre. This week, we’ll check out three more series entries, all of which should send you scrambling to your used book resources ready to crack your piggy bank open.
Before we start, however, I’m making an executive decision to expand the reach of this series of columns beyond officially licensed private eyes to add in hard-hitting tough guys (and maybe even a few gals) be they spies, Parker style criminals, vigilantes, troubleshooters, military grunts or whatever else strikes my fancy. While most of my buddies within the hardboiled inner circle know all about these characters, my goal is to expose these action-filled and deserving series to a wider audience.
I’m also going to be adding in more Internet sources and reference works—places where you can lose half a day simply browsing through the entries and still have much more to explore.
This week, I’m going to start with a great guide to retro-espionage series, SPY GUYS AND GALS, which contains listings and information on almost 6,000 spy novels from 1,000 different series, as well as movies, television episodes, and a ton of other pertinent information.
THE TRASH COLLECTOR is another dangerous website. Here you’ll find way too many desirable vintage men’s action/adventure paperbacks for sale. Spend too much time browsing and the irresistible offerings will steal cash out of your wallet like a thief in the night.
And for those who want to hold a physical book in your hands (there is also an e-book version) there’s Brad Mengel’s, SERIAL VIGILANTES OF PAPERBACK FICTION. Subtitled, An Encyclopedia From Able Team To Z-Comm, it is a wonderful experience to browse through the pages. This extensive reference is not perfect. The complete lack of related cover art is almost criminal and, beginning as it does in 1969 with Don Pendleton's The Executioner, there are some truly great series and characters missing from the listings. However, this is the first overview ever of the serial vigilante genre and it really is a terrific effort and required reading. The book examines the connections between serial vigilantes and the pulp heroes who preceded them and how the serial vigilante has influenced a variety of tough guys, private eyes, spies and cops in different media. A complete bibliography for each series is featured.
In 1978, the private eye novel Kyd For Hire made a splash on the mystery scene with the author Timothy Harris being touted as the next Chandler—which is never a good sign. None-the-less, while not exactly in Philip Marlowe’s league, Thomas Kyd does hit the sweet spot for most hardboiled fans. Kyd is a damaged Vietnam vet whose goal is to make it through to the end of each day as he bounces his PI license off the mean streets of LA. The three Kyd novels are well worth tracking down, especially if you can find the British paperback editions of the first two novels published by Pan. Placed side by side, the two covers complete a titillating and provocative painting—entitled Bodyguard 2—by Paul Roberts. I have a copy of this print rolled up and stashed somewhere on my shelves—a prized possession.
THE THOMAS KYD SERIES
Kyd For Hire (1978)
Goodnight and Goodbye (1979)
Unfaithful Servant (2004)
FOR MORE ON THOMAS KYD CLICK HERE
FOR MORE ON AUTHOR
TIMOTHY HARRIS CLICK HERE
TO SEE MORE WORK BY
ARTIST PAUL ROBERTS CLICK HERE
Before he began his bestselling Doc Ford novels, Randy Wayne White cut his writing chops on several different men’s adventure paperback original series under various pseudonyms. For a number of years, White attempted to distance himself from these early works, but eventually embraced them when offered a lucrative deal to republish all of them under his own name.
As Carl Ramm, he wrote eleven books in the Hawker series, featuring an ex-SWAT sniper turned vigilante in the Mack Bolan mode. After disobeying questionable commands and shooting a suspect during a hostage situation when the suspect opened fire on a group of rich teenagers, Hawker is made a scapegoat by weak-kneed political Monday morning quarterbacks. Angry and frustrated, Hawker tosses in his badge without any real idea of what to do next. However, he’s just the man a multi-millionaire needs to bring rough justice down on the criminals destroying society.
What raises Hawker above similar vigilante series is Hawker is not a mindless tool of destruction slaying away regardless of collateral damage. He's not afraid to kill when necessary, but he has some clear restrains—ethics that make him both powerful friends and powerful enemies.
While I liked the Hawker series, it’s White’s other early series, MacMorgan—written as Randy Stryker—I think is truly exceptional. A former CIA agent, with a major body scar from being bitten by a shark, Dusky MacMorgan is a kick-ass action hero, but the books also get deeper into character than almost all other men’s action/adventure series. This helps the reader come to know and like MacMorgan, as much more hot blooded action hero than cold killing machine.
Working off the books for a secret government agency, MacMorgan takes assignments where his job as a working charter boat captain is an advantage. An ex-Navy SEAL with three tours in Vietnam behind him, MacMorgan left the service for the Florida Keys and his own charter fishing boat. However, when his wife and twin boys are killed in a car bomb explosion meant for MacMorgan, there is hell to pay for the killers.
White uses his experiences as a real life charter boat captain, and his extensive knowledge of the Caribbean, to skillfully give the reader a vicarious experience of not only adventure, but culture, music, food, fishing lore, and a sense of place almost always completely absent from these types of series. The seven books in the MacMorgan series have been described as part Travis McGee and part early Matt Helm without being a cheap imitation of either. I agree…
THE DUSKY MACMORGAN SERIES
Key West Connection (1981)
The Deep Six (1981)
Cuban Death-lift (1981)
The Deadlier Sex (1981)
Assassin's Shadow (1981)
Everglades Assault (1982)
Grand Cayman Slam (1982)
THE HAWKER SERIES
Florida Firefight (1984)
L.A. Wars (1984)
Chicago Assault (1984)
Deadly in New York (1984)
Houston Attack (1985)
Vegas Vengeance (1985)
Detroit Combat (1985)
Terror in D.C. (1986)
Atlanta Extreme (1986)
Denver Strike (1986)
Operation Norfolk (1986)
FOR MORE ON DUSKY MACMORGAN CLICK HERE
YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW
“All right, you maggots! Fall-in! Your physical performances prove evolution is a lie. This is the Army, not the Girl Scouts. Reincarnation must be true because nobody could become this stupid in one lifetime. I’m gonna call every one of you Baskin, cause you’re all 31 flavors of screwed up…”
Oh, sorry…I got a little carried away. It’s the fault all the WWII action I’ve been reading in preparation to share the best war is hell series from the golden age of men’s action/adventure.
Writing these columns featuring men’s action/adventure series of the ‘60s and 70’s deserving of a wider audience, I keep finding more I want to share. However, there are also current books inspired by the same dynamic style of writing, which are also worthy of attention. Since I’m the czar of my 1,000 weekly words for Venture Galleries, I’ve decided to sprinkle a few of these new series into the mix.
This week and next, we’re going to be hitting the beach, charging once more into the breech, and taking out machine gun nests alongside some of the meanest sumbitches to ever spit out of boot camp.
To get into the spirit, I highly recommend A HANDFUL OF HELL, an amazing collection of over the top, emotionally stirring, war stories ripped from the pages of the men’s adventure magazines. Written by the prolific Robert Dorr, the stories in this tense, gritty collection drop readers squarely into the fiery crucible of action, both in the cockpit and on the front lines. In Dorr’s own words, “These stories were being read by men who’d been there, done that. I had to have the personalities and the details right. They wouldn’t tolerate having men like themselves overly glorified, or to have war made glamorous.” One of the toughest bastards with whom I’ve ever had the honor of being acquainted, Door passed away recently after a lifetime of proving he was a match for any of the heroes he wrote about.
Starting in 1980, Len Levinson (affectionately dubbed a trash genius—high praise by the way) wrote the first paperback original in The Sergeant series under the pseudonym Gordon Davis. The nine books in the series did for men’s action/adventure what Sgt. Rock did for comics—getting down and dirty in the mud and blood of WWII.
In an interview on Joe Kennedy’s GLORIOUS TRASH blog, Levinson explains, “During my three-year enlistment, I met many veterans of World War II still on active duty. One of my sergeants had survived the Bataan Death March. After a few beers, or during chow while on maneuvers, sometimes old sergeants told stories. All were very tough guys. Many had killed people. I admired them greatly and still do. The Sergeant series was based on memories of my former sergeants and of Walter Zacharius, President of Zebra Books [publishers of The Sergeant], who'd been a sergeant himself and participated in the liberation of Paris.”
The Sergent—or more correctly, Master Sergeant Clarence J. Mahoney—is a bruising, brawling, hardcore, hardcase—a coarse, hard-drinking brute who specializes in killing and fornicating. Always clever enough to avoid court martial, Mahoney is an amalgam of the Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and John Cassavetes Dirty Dozen characters rolled into one fighting machine—my kind of guy…
THE SERGEANT SERIES
Death Train (1980)
Hell Harbor: The Battle for Cherbourg (1980)
Bloody Bush (1980)
The Liberation of Paris (1981)
Doom River (1981)
Slaughter City (1981)
Bullet Bridge (1981)
Bloody Bastogne (1981)
Due to his prodigious output of paperback original novels, the ubiquitous wordslinger Michael Avallone was often called The Fastest Typewriter In The East. In my estimation, Len Levinson was most likely The Second Fastest Typewriter In The East. After the success of The Sergeant, Levinson switched from the European theatre to the war in the Pacific. Under the pseudonym John Mackie, Levinson wrote sixteen books detailing the harsh travails and harsher antics of The Rat Bastards.
Writing about his numerous war novels, Levinson states, “After The Sergeant, I felt inspired to write The Rat Bastards set during World War Two in the Pacific Theater of Operations. This series became a massive cauldron of jungle fighting, swamps, malaria, snakes and leeches, told from viewpoints of both American and Japanese soldiers and officers, including guest appearances by historical figures such as Major General Alexander Vandegrift and Lieutenant General Harakuchi Hyakatuke."
Whereas, The Sergeant was a one man Dirty Dozen (even though backed by a tough crew), The Rat Bastards’ Recon Platoon is made up of misfits, criminals, and barroom brawlers. As you would expect, they don’t like to follow orders and are tougher than hell in a fight.
Obviously, The Rat Bastards see a lot of action, but Levinson also exposes the flaws in his characters, including the fear and self-doubt experience by all men in combat. This deeper writing extends to Levinson’s treatment of his Japanese characters, showing some understanding and respect for their hardships, bravery, and loyalty, as opposed to stereotypical sadists.
THE RAT BASTARDS SERIES
Hit the Beach (1983)
Death Squad (1983)
River of Blood (1983)
Meat Grinder Hill (1984)
Down and Dirty (1984)
Green Hell (1984)
Too Mean Too Die (1984)
Hot Lead and Cold Steel (1984)
Do or Die (1984)
Kill Crazy (1985)
Nightmare Alley (1985)
Go for Broke (1985)
Tough Guys Die (1985)
Suicide River (1985)
Satan's Cage (1985)
Go Down Fighting (1985)
FOR MORE ABOUT
THE RAT BASTARDS
My ammo supply of words for this week have been shot off faster than rounds fired through the 50 cal. machineguns mounted on the back of The Rat Patrol’s jeeps. Next week we’ll hit the beach again with other WWII action series of note.
YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW
This war, maggots! You screw up, you better die because the men around you are gonna die because of you. If you wanna get home and get your girlfriends outta the beds of all the four-Fs left behind, then you better pray you fight better than you…
Er…Sorry…I got carried away again…You’ll have to use your imagination to finish off the above sentence, which you should hear in your head in the voice of George C. Scott…Okay, then…It appears we are back this week with another look at the best of the war-centric men’s action/adventure series from the ‘70s and 80’s…
Billed as All Man, All American, Always In The Thick Of The Action, special agent and demolition expert Captain Mac Wingate needed eleven books to win the war single-handedly, but he did it…Published by Jove between 1981 and 1982 under the house name Bryan Swift, the Wingate novels are low level Guns of Navarone/Where Eagles Dare style WWII adventures. Casablanca, Albania, Crete, Corsica, Warsaw, Norway, Salerno, the Russian front, Anzio and anywhere Nazis threaten freedom, Mac turns up and blows stuff up.
Arthur Wise wrote the first and seventh books in the series with the nine books split between western writer Bill C. Knott and Ric Meyers—master of martial arts thrillers and many of the Dirty Harry books inspired by the movies.
I was able to ask Ric about his time with the series:
I had total freedom in plotting and creating my entries and truly enjoyed hinging the plot on actual WWII events—especially ones where something anonymous, unexplained, or mysterious happened, which I could then attributed to Mac.
I also will always remember it was on this series where I had the first instance of a character talking back to me. I was certain I was going to let one character live until she entered my mind and said, you know I have to die, don't you? Sure enough she did.
I also loved creating a character who had seen so many war movies he refused to make any hopeful statement such as, nothing can stop us now! Invariably, in the movies, that character is immediately killed by an enemy soldier who's not quite dead yet. I sorta regret having my character, in a moment of uncontrollable emotion, make the stupid statement he has tried so hard not to say and then gets killed. I shoulda let him live.
THE MAC WINGATE SERIES
Mission Code: Symbol (1981—Arthur Wise)
Mission Code: King's Pawn (1981—Bill C. Knott)
Mission Code: Minotaur (1981—Bill C. Knott)
Mission Code: Granite Island (1981—Ric Meyers)
Mission Code: Springboard (1981—Bill C. Knott)
Mission Code: Snow Queen (1982—Ric Meyers)
Mission Code: Acropolis (1982—Arthur Wise)
Mission Code: Volcano (1982—Ric Meyers)
Mission Code: Track And Destroy (1982—Bill C. Knott)
Mission Code: Survival (1982—Ric Meyers)
Mission Code: Scorpion (1982—Ric Meyers)
From the European theatre of WWII, we now fast forward to the fallout from the Vietnam War. The M.I.A. Hunter series led the charge for many similar themed books and movies starring either Sylvester Stallone or Chuck Norris. Conceived and edited by wordslinger extraordinaire Stephen Mertz—and written by some of the top names in the paperback original trenches under the house pseudonym Jack Buchanan—M.I.A. Hunter deals honorably with the genuine ‘80s concern there were living American M.I.A./POWs left behind after the end of the Vietnam War. Anecdotal evidence was rife unfortunately (or fortunately) solid proof never materialized. The sentiment, however, funs strong and you can still see the black M.I.A./POW flags flying today.
The M.I.A. Hunter is Green Beret and former POW Mark Stone. Along with giant red-headed Texan Hog Wiley and British demolition expert Terrence Lloughlin, Stone follows every clue to scour Vietnam for soldiers listed as Missing In Action. In later books, Stone and company expand into other countries and even take on work to help the CIA locate missing agents.
Over at his GLORIOUS TRASH blog, Joe Kennedy describes the series as an '80s action movie on paper. It's as if it was co-published by Canon Films or something.
I asked Steve Mertz about the genesis for the series:
My Mack Bolan novel, Return to Vietnam, pretty much knocked people out when it first appeared. The book was a tremendous success and made several trade bestseller lists. An editor at Jove saw the potential and asked me to sketch the M.I.A. concept as the basis for a series. Jove liked the characters of Mark Stone, Terrance Loughlin and Hog Wiley, and The M.I.A. Hunter was born. Interestingly, the books ended up resonating with a broad audience of readers beyond the general men’s series readership.
Mertz has taken advantage of the e-book format to not only make all the M.I.A. Hunter books available, but to also—after twenty years—add new titles. As for the time gap, Mertz says, Stone will remain at the age when he’s in his physical prime, in the time honored tradition of Mack Bolan, Mike Shayne, and many others.
When an M.I.A. mission goes terribly wrong, Mark Stone and his team are thrust into a showdown with terrorists who have seized control of an isolated Texas border town. But the invaders have not counted on the fury of Mark Stone, Terrance Loughlin and Hog Wiley. It’s a deadly race against time to rescue a church full of innocent hostages when world terrorism strikes the American heartland.
In his review of Hostage Town, James Reasoner (an amazingly prolific wordslinger himself) states, nobody does this sort of book better than Mertz. Compelling characters, fast action, a real sense of urgency and suspense. He's one of the best adventure writers of our time, plain and simple. Highly recommended.
MARK STONE: M.I.A. HUNTER SERIES
M.I.A. Hunter (1985—Michael Newton)
Cambodian Hellhole (1985—Michael Newton)
Hanoi Deathgrip (1985—Joe R. Lansdale)
Mountain Massacre (1985—Joe R. Lansdale)
Exodus From Hell (1986—Chet Cunningham)
Blood Storm (1986—William Fieldhouse)
Stone: M.I.A. Hunter (1987—Chet Cunningham)
Saigon Slaughter (1987—Joe R. Lansdale)
Escape from Nicaragua (1987—Arthur Moore)
Invasion U.S.S.R. (1988— Arthur Moore)
Miami War Zone (1988—Bill Crider)
Crossfire Kill (1988— Arthur Moore)
Desert Death Raid (1989—Bill Crider)
L.A. Gang War (1990—Stephen Mertz)
Back to 'Nam (1990—Bill Crider)
Heavy Fire (1991—Stephen Mertz)
China Strike (1991—Stephen Mertz)
Hostage Town (2016—Stephen Mertz)
THE GOOD, THE BAD,
AND THE VERY BAD
Fargo lives with a gun in his fist. Guns and killing are all he knows. And Fargo likes what he knows. Want to start a revolution? Want to stop one? Send for Fargo. Want to blow a bridge, stage a prison break, rob a bank? Fargo’s your man.
The Army taught Fargo how to kill with pistol, rifle, machine gun. He became an expert with knives, shotguns and women on his own time. Fargo hates the quiet life. He knows he’s going to get it sooner or later. He hopes it won’t be too much later because he wouldn’t know how to be old and comfortable. So while he lasts, Fargo plans to grab the world by the throat and take what he wants. If the world doesn’t like that, it can try to stop him ... if it can...
Recently, I’ve blogged about a number of relatively obscure series from the men’s action adventure genre. Continuing the trend over the next couple of weeks, we saddle up for three iconic ‘60s western series written by John Benteen—the pseudonym of well-regarded and prolific writer Ben Haas.
The main characters from all three series—Fargo, Sundance, and Cutler—have a devoted cult following among genre acolytes. The novels in each series stand apart from the other violence soaked westerns of the era, such as Edge, Crow, Claw (and countless others) written by the Piccadilly Cowboys (CLICK HERE). Neither do they fall into the arena of the popular adult sex-and-six-guns shoot-em-up western series like Longarm, Jake Slocum, or The Gunsmith (CLICK HERE). However, their combination of harsh, realistic ferocious action and adventurous backgrounds also set them apart from the more traditional Louis L’Amour style westerns.
During the course of his career, Ben Haas wrote 130 novels under his own name, a dozen pseudonyms (including John Benteen), and a handful of publisher’s house names. The uniting factor of this vast output was the highly readable and sheer storytelling force he brought to every page. Haas’ goal was to be a mainstream writer, but needed to pay his bills while waiting for his serious fiction to find a publisher. Taking an opportunity to write a western for paperback publisher Tower Books, Haas furiously banged out Hell Of A Way To Die, quickly developing the spare, tightly written prose for which he became known. The novel became the fifth entry in Tower’s new Lassiter series (originated by wordslinger W.T. Ballard) published under the house name Jack Slade.
Impressed with Haas’ fast-paced muscular prose—a perfect fit for the burgeoning paperback original market—Tower publisher Harry Shorten asked Haas to create an original western series of his own. Recognizing a regular paying gig, Haas returned to assaulting his typewriter letting loose the taciturn, granite-hard, Neal Fargo in a series of neo-westerns now considered classics of the genre.
Under the pseudonym John Benteen—named after one of Custer’s cavalry officers—Haas wrote (or co-wrote with his son, Joel) twenty of the twenty three Fargo adventures. The other three books (Sierra Silver, Dynamite Fever, and Gringo Guns) are attributed to John W. Hardin—a pseudonym taken from a real life outlaw. According to fiction scholar LYNN MUNROE, John W. Hardin was most likely Norman Rubington, who also wrote an entry in Benteen’s Sundance series.
Common consensus is Haas based Fargo on the character portrayed by Lee Marvin in the 1966 movie The Professionals, which was written by Richard Brooks and based on the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by another popular western wordslinger, Frank O’Rourke.
Brooks’ screenplay describes Marvin’s character, Faradan: He was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, served in the Philippines, was a wildcatter and gold prospector, worked for Pancho Villa, and is now demonstrating automatic weapons to the Army. He is offered $10,000 for the dangerous assignment—all of which is a perfect description of Fargo. Marvin’s character also smokes black cigars and wears the campaign hat and cavalry boots, which are mainstays of Fargo’s wardrobe.
The image of Lee Marvin as Fargo has persisted ever since the books were first published. Piccadilly Publishing’s recent release of the Fargo novels in e-book format all carry a likeness of Lee Marvin as Fargo (as interpreted by artist Edward Martin) on the covers (CLICK HERE) along with this description:
Neal Fargo—adventurer, lover and fighter—Fargo lives with a gun in his fist. Guns and killing are all he knows. And Fargo likes what he knows. Want to start a revolution? Want to stop one? Send for Fargo. Want to blow a bridge, stage a prison break, rob a bank? Fargo's your man...Tall and weather beaten, his prematurely white hair kept close-cropped, he still wears much the same outfit he wore in the service: cavalry boots, campaign hat, jodhpurs, or khaki pants, comfortable shirt...
His weapons of war include a .38 with either a hip or shoulder holster, depending on his need at the time. Loading with hollow points for greater stopping power, he prefers it to the .45 automatic, which tends to jam, the army uses. His knife, a Batangas, made by Philippine artisans, has a razor sharp ten inch blade that folds back into the handle except for a few inches, popping out with a flick of the wrist. Fargo is quite expert with it and is ambidextrous, a little known fact hidden from his enemies, that has saved his life more than once in fights.
His favorite weapon, though, is the Fox Sterlingworth ten-gauge shotgun, sawed-off, and engraved along the inlay with the words, To Neal Fargo, gratefully, from T. Roosevelt. The former President and he are the only ones who know what he did to get the weapon. It's a deadly piece, loaded with shells of nine buckshot each. He's the only man Fargo will drop everything and come running when called...
Writer and fictioneers extraordinaire JAMES REASONER rightly maintains the Fargo books are not really traditional Westerns as they are set in the 1910s, after the Wild West had been settled, and taking place in diverse locations such as the Philippines, Argentina, Nicaragua, Alaska and Peru. This distinction is part of the fun and what makes Fargo stand out among all his contemporaries.
Prolific writer (CLICK HERE), blogger, and another true Fargo fan, JACK BADELAIRE, describes Fargo as a combination of giants from pop culture—To me, Neal Fargo is a combination of Robert E. Howard's Conan mixed with Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. Fargo, is a globe-trotting adventurer/mercenary in his late 30's, a highly-skilled and incredibly lethal fighting man who's already had a lifetime's worth of adventures. Like Conan, Fargo is a lone wolf, a man who trusts no one and nothing except, perhaps, his weapons. He fights for money and because it's what he's best at, and because he's one of the rare breed of men who, unashamedly, need to be in mortal conflict with man and the elements in order to feel alive. Fargo knows he'll meet a violent end one day, and you know his only hope is that he dies on his feet, surrounded by his enemies.
THE FARGO SERIES
Panama Gold (1969)
Alaska Steel (1969)
Massacre River (1970)
The Wildcatters (1970)
Apache Raiders (1970)
Valley of Skulls (1970)
Wolf’s Head (1970)
The Sharpshooters (1970)
The Black Bulls (1971)
Phantom Gunman (1971)
Killing Spree (1971)
Shotgun Man (1973)
Sierra Silver (John W. Hardin—1973)
Dynamite Fever (John W. Hardin—1974)
Gringo Guns (John W. Hardin—1975)
Hell On Wheels (1976)
The Border Jumpers (1976)
Death Valley Gold (1976)
Killer’s Moon (1976)
Fargo and The Texas Rangers (1977)
Dakota Badlands (1977)
*Fargo #15 was originally assigned mistakenly to a reprint of #8 Wolf’s Head, which caused Belmont Tower to put #16 on what was actually the 15th book and triggering the misnumbering of the remaining books in the series. This accounts for the confusion regarding the total number of books—23 or 24—in the series…There are 23…
FOR MORE ON THE INDIVIDUAL
FARGO BOOKS FROM
LYNN MUNROE CLICK HERE
FOR BENTEEN/HAAS’ ADVICE
ON HOW TO WRITE A WESTERN CLICK HERE
FOR MORE ON THE
FARGO SERIES CLICK HERE
In Part Two, we’ll take on two other iconic western series from John Benteen—the popular Sundance—as mentioned above—and the unique, but less well received, Cutler…
THE GOOD, THE BAD,
AND THE VERY BAD
They called him Sundance. A big man with the bronzed face of a Cheyenne and a mane of yellow hair. He had ranged from Canada to Mexico, from the Mississippi to the Shining Mountains and west to the Pacific. He could take any man apart with rifle, pistol, knife—or Indian-style with bow, arrows, lance and tomahawk. He was a professional fighting man and no job was too tough if the price was right. So when a rich banker met his price of $10,000 to rescue his daughter from the Cheyenne—Sundance bought it. He didn’t know that before it was over he would have to take on a gang of vicious renegades, part of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry and a hot-blooded eastern woman...
FROM SUNDANCE: OVERKILL
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s under the pseudonym John Benteen, respected western author Ben Haas gunned out a series of paperback originals featuring the adventures of Fargo—a globetrotting soldier-of-fortune who is a dead ringer for Lee Marvin’s Faradan character in the 1966 movie The Professionals. The 23 Fargo novels remain below the radar of the wider readership, despite accolades from the gurus of the men’s action/adventure series genre.
However, the Fargo series sold well enough for publisher HARRY SHORTEN (king of the low end mass market paperback houses in the ‘60s and ‘70s) to commission another western series from Haas under the John Benteen byline. Haas responded with the action filled adventures of the half-white, half-Cheyenne gun-for-hire known as Sundance.
Writer and men’s action adventure series buff JACK BADELAIRE summarized the Sundance series for the current e-book releases from PICCADILLY PUBLISHING:
Jim Sundance, is a half-white, half-Cheyenne adventurer. In his 30's, he’s a man who has roamed and fought across the length and breadth of the U.S. moving between the worlds of the white man and the Indian. Sundance is a typical Benteen hero—Tall, broad-shouldered, with a slim waist and a lean, powerful build. He has the complexion and features of a Cheyenne Indian, but his hair is a bright golden blond, a gift from his English father. Sundance received his Indian name after participating in the Cheyenne Sun Dance ritual…
On top of his unusual heritage, Sundance carries an unusual arsenal. In typical Benteen fashion, his main character is very deliberately armed with an assortment of weapons from both cultures. Sundance carries a Navy Colt and a Henry repeating rifle, as well as a Bowie knife with a fourteen-inch blade and a hand guard for knife-fighting. In addition, he carries a steel-bladed tomahawk, as well as a Cheyenne dog soldier's war shield and a bow, along with a quiver of thirty flint-headed arrows. Benteen goes to great length to note Sundance prefers flint tips to steel, claiming they deliver a more grievous wound—Sundance can kill a man at four hundred yards with the bow, or put an arrow through a buffalo.
Over the course of the almost every novel, Sundance puts every weapon in his arsenal to use—another Benteen trait—and it is interesting to see how Sundance typically uses the white man's weapons for every day carry, but when he really means business, he tends to favor his more traditional arsenal.
Sundance is a fascinating character, and the series is a mix of standard Western themes with Benteen's own unique style laid over. The action is fast and violent, the level of detail extraordinary...
The Fargo and Sundance series were both extremely popular. To keep up with demand, several Sundance novels were published under the house name Jack Slade—For #11 Norman Rubington, #12 and #13 Thomas Curry, and #24 and #25 Dudley Dean McGaughy were the writers behind the Jack Slade pseudonym.
When Haas passed away in 1977, Ballard wrote two more Sundance adventures in 1979, after which the series was taken over by long time editor Peter McCurtin for another eighteen novels. Haas/Benteen’s voice in the original Fargo and Sundance tales is golden. Entries from other wordslingers are hit and miss, so be aware your mileage may vary…
When Haas passed away in 1977, Ballard wrote two more Sundance adventures in 1979, after which the series was taken over by long time editor Peter McCurtin for another eighteen novels. Haas/Benteen’s voice in the original Fargo and Sundance tales is golden. Entries from other wordslingers are hit and miss, so be aware your mileage may vary…
THE SUNDANCE SERIES
Sundance #01: Overkill (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #02: Dead Man's Canyon (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #03: Dakota Territory (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #04: Death in the Lava (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #05: The Pistoleros (John Benteen—1972)
Sundance #06: Wild Stallions (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #07: Taps at Little Big Horn (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #08: The Ghost Dancers (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #09: Bring Me His Scalp (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #10: The Bronco Trail (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #11: The Comancheros (Norman Rubington/Jack Slade—1973)
Sundance #12: Renegade (Thomas Curry/Jack Slade—1974)
Sundance #13: Honcho (Thomas Curry/Jack Slade—1974)
Sundance #14: War Party (John Benteen—1975)
Sundance #15: Bounty Killer (George H. Smith—1975)
Sundance #16: Run for Cover (John Benteen—1976)
Sundance #17: Manhunt (Peter McCurtin—1976)
Sundance #18: Blood On the Prairie (John Benteen—1976)
Sundance #19: War Trail (John 'Jay' Flynn—1976)
Sundance #20: Riding Shotgun (John Benteen—1977)
Sundance #21: Silent Enemy (John Benteen—1977)
Sundance #22: Ride the Man Down (John Benteen—1973)
Sundance #23: Gunbelt (John Benteen—1977)
Sundance #24: Canyon Kill (Dudley Dean McGaughy/Jack Slade—1979)
Sundance #25: Blood Knife (Dudley Dean McGaughy/Jack Slade—1979)
Sundance #26: Nightriders (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #27: Death Dance (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #28: The Savage (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #29: Day of the Halfbreeds (Peter McCurtin—1979)
Sundance #30: Los Olvidados (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #31: The Marauders (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #32: Scorpion (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #33: Hangman's Knot (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #34: Apache War (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #35: Gold Strike (Peter McCurtin—1980)
Sundance #36: Trail Drive (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #37: Iron Men (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #38: Drumfire (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #39: Buffalo War (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #40: The Hunters (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #41: The Cage (Peter McCurtin—1981)
Sundance #42: The Choctaw County War (Peter McCurtin—1982)
Sundance #43: Texas Empire (Peter McCurtin—1982)
*It should be noted book seller and fiction scholar Lynn Munroe is the excellent source for the list of Sundance titles and authors behind the Jack Slade pseudonym. For Munroe's extensive rundown of Sundance titles CLICK HERE
FOR MORE ON THE SUNDANCE
THE GOOD, THE BAD,
AND THE VERY BAD
Two of my recent columns have focused on the western men’s action adventure series Fargo and Sundance. Both were created and written by revered western writer Ben Haas under his John Benteen pseudonym. With the success of both series, publisher Harry Shorten asked Haas to create a third Benteen series—Cutler.
For various reasons, however, the lightning strikes of the Fargo and Sundance series never zapped Cutler in the same way—possibly because Cutler was not a very nice character to be around. Both Fargo and Sundance are hard, violent men, but there is something honorable about them, which didn’t rub off on Cutler despite his righteous quest. Despite this lack of traction, the concept of a hardened hunter taking on rogue animals with a bounty on them is unusual enough to warrant reading.
Physically, Cutler is a traditional Benteen hero—A taciturn, leathery, hunter of men and animals in his early thirties, John Cutler stands better than six feet tall, with broad, sloping shoulders, and a barrel-chest tapering to lean waist and slim hips. Shaggy raven’s wing black hair—faintly threaded with gray—spills from beneath a dusty, flat-crowned sombrero. His brows are great black marks above deep-set eyes the color of gunmetal, the planes of his big-nosed face rough and angular, his skin burnt to the color of rawhide by a life in the sun. His wardrobe consists of a filthy blue work shirt, a calfskin vest, jeans, fringed shotgun chaps, and flat-heeled boots made for walking as much as for riding. A holstered .44 Colt with a strap to hold it in its scabbard for rough riding swings from a cartridge belt around his waist, and on his other hip is a Case sheath knife.
Cutler had been an experienced Federal Marshal in Indian Territory before retiring with his new bride to a ranch in Arizona. All was as he had imagined it until a rogue grizzly changes Cutler’s life forever. The bear—a huge monster with a silver blaze—had been killing cattle. Cutler sets traps to capture or kill the beast. When he returns to check them, however, he finds the rouge bear has escaped by chewing off the paw caught in the hunting traps vicious jaws.
Cutler races home, but he is too late. Driven insane with pain, the giant animal has gone on a berserk rampage through Cutler’s ranch—where it savages Cutler’s pregnant wife. Cutler rides in just in time to catch her dying breath about the bear. Cutler immediately starts to hunt down the beast until a blizzard causes him to lose the trail.
Five years pass. Cutler I now a nasty drunk who makes his living hunting and killing rogue animals with bounties on them—but the biggest rogue still eludes him. Unlike most bears, this monster stays on the move, killing anything in his path, with Cutler always a step behind…But Cutler will not give up.
Haas/Benteen wrote the first two Cutler novels before dropping the series to concentrate on his far more popular Fargo and Sundance novels. The Cutler series was turned over to Vernon Hinkle—using the pseudonym H. V. Elkin—for four more titles before the series was shot down (possibly by rogue animal lovers or PETA)…
In a more positive vein, Haas had much more success with another western series, Rancho Bravo, written for Fawcett’s Gold Medal line under the name Thorne Douglas. Alternating points of view in each book, The Rancho Bravo series would have made a terrific ‘70s western TV series. The first four books in the series span a one year time frame after the end of the Civil War. Ex-Confederate rebel Lucius Calhoon, Texan trail boss Henry Gannon, Yankee officer Philip Killraine, and ex-slave Elias Whitton each tell their own story of coming together to build a Texas cattle empire.
Calhoon is a bitter, one-handed, ex-plantation owner who has lost everything in the war. Gannon is a Texan trying to start a new ranch with wild cattle. Black cowboy, ex-slave, Elias Whitton is Gannon’s partner in the enterprise. When Killraine, quits his commission as a captain in the Northern Army to join them, Rancho Bravo is born.
The Mustang Men, the fifth book in the series switches point of view again to tell the story of Shan Tyree, who comes to work at Rancho Bravo. Clearly, Haas had a vision of having visitors or employees of Rancho Bravo tell their own stories in each successive book. Unfortunately, Ben Haas died in 1977 (prior to book five being published) before he could expand Rancho Bravo stories further. While I’m still partial to the short, sharp, brutal Fargo tales, Ranch Bravo—in my opinion—is Haas’ crowning achievement. This series is not to be missed...
THE RANCH BRAVO SERIES
The Big Drive (1973)
Night Riders (1975)
The Mustang Men (1977)
FOR MORE ON RANCHO BRAVO
RANCHO BRAVO E-BOOKS
FROM PICCADILLY PUBLISHING
THE CUTLER SERIES
The Wolf-Pack (Benteen—1972)
The Gunhawks (Benteen—1972)
Eagle Man (H. V. Elkin—1978)
Tiger’s Chance (H. V. Elkin—1980)
Mustang (H. V. Elkin—1980)
Yellowstone (H. V. Elkin—1980)
FOR MORE ON CUTLER
CUTLER E-BOOKS FROM
WHAT’S IN A NAME
MCCURTIN, SLADE, GATLING
In 1968, Peter McCurtin sold two books to iconic sleaze paperback imprint Midwood, which was run by publisher Harry Shorten. Shorten later hired McCurtin to edit books for his other low end paperback houses, Tower, Belmont, and Leisure Books. While there, McCurtin not only edited manuscripts, but wrote books under his own name and a number of publishing house owned pseudonyms. He also turned his own byline into a house pseudonym, hiring other wordslingers to produce books as Peter McCurtin—all of which has created much confusion for collectors and completists.
Paperback scholar Lynn Munroe has done an excellent job of researching McCurtin’s history and output, all of which can be found on his website: CLICK HERE
McCurtin first used the house name Jake Slade for the Lassiter series he created in 1969. He later used the Slade pseudonym for several entries in the Fargo and Sundance series—both created and originally written by revered western writer Ben Haas (under the pseudonym John Benteen) and edited by McCurtin. After Haas passed away, McCurtin took over the writing chores on the Sundance novels, publishing them under his own name. McCurtin wrote many of these books, but in some instances he provided plot ideas or half written novels to his crew of regular writers—the most prominent being George Harmon Smith—to complete.
While the pseudonym Jack Slade originally hid the identity many different writers, McCurtin resurrected the name for his Gatling series. These are books he wrote late in his career with the help of his second wife, Mary Carr—who had previously worked with him on several entries in the Buckskin series as Kit Dalton.
After extensive research, paperback historian Lynn Munroe has established that when Leisure Books killed the Gatling series after six books, McCurtin had already written the manuscripts for books seven and eight. Per Munroe, after a suitable waiting period, McCurtin changed Gatlin’s name to Garrity, repurposed the stories by shifting the emphasis away from the weaponry to feature the protagonist as a traditional hired gun, and sold the manuscripts as a new series—the prose style and plotting, however, clearly marking the books as Gatling adventures.
Personally, I was drawn to the Gatling series by the amazing covers featuring Gatling with different cutting edge weaponry from the western period. These covers are exceptionally rendered and several cuts above the slapdash efforts produced for the men’s adventure and western series of the time. Unfortunately, there is no attribution given to the cover artist on the copyright page of the books or elsewhere. The illustrator has signed the cover paintings with the stylized initials CP, but this does little to help establish identity at this late date.
The covers used for the Garrity books (the repurposed Gatling manuscripts), however, are a completely different story. Research, again by Lynn Munroe, shows the cover art was for the two Garrity tales was copied, borrowed, or stolen from two Outlaw Josey Wales novels.
While the Gatling books are straight adventure novels in the tradition of the Fargo series, McCurtin indulges in some tongue-in-cheekness to explain how a man named Gatling works for the Maxim Gun Company—Maxim’s Col. Pritchett tells Gatling the only reason the Gatling Gun Company originally employed Gatlin was because they were afraid he might be the illegitimate offspring of their founder.
In his first adventure, Zuni Gold, Gatlin is sent to New Mexico—along with a Maxim light machinegun—to help the Zuni people, who are being slaughtered by Jicarilla Apaches working for the evil Copper Trust. An orphan, Gatling was raised by the Zuni and has an obvious motivation for accepting the challenge.
In Outlaw Empire, Gatlin takes on Wilson Murrill who, after 30 years in a Louisiana prison, is out to organize crime in the Western U.S. by enlisting the the Sydney Ducks (an Australian gang based in San Francisco), the Italian Black Hand in New Orleans, and every Irish thug and Mexican bandit in California.
Next up, Gatling heads into a Border War delivering weapons to the metis people in their revolt against the Canadian government. Along te way Gatling meets the real-life figures Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. McCurtin was fascinated by the hisoriy of the revolt. He does give Border War a new story, but basis it on the same historic events he covered in Sundance: Day Of The Halfbreeds and Lassiter: Gunfight At Ringo Junction.
In book five, rebels have hijacked a shipment of rifles and ammunition in Mexico. Taking along The War Wagon—a deadly motorized monstrosity created by Maxim—Gatling is sent to get them back.
In the final official Gatling book, Butte Bloodbath, Gatling ends up in the middle of a fight between Montana mine owners and Michael Patrick Kane, the fanatical Irish-born leader of the Western Labor League.
In 1993, Rapid Fire, the first of McCurtin’s repurposed Gatling manuscripts, has the rechristened Garrity reporting to Col. Pritchett of the Maxim Gun Company. In short order, Garrity is sent off to Brazil to retrieve weapons stolen by a hotheaded ex-Confederate General itching to go back to war.
The final Gatling manuscript is repurposed as Texas Renegade, with Garrity in Texas to aid a Scottish cattle rancher being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan and a group of labor thugs.
As mentioned, I was first drawn to the Gatling series by the intriguing covers, but happily read my way through them enjoying McCurtin’s hard-bitten, straight forward, writing style at its best. These are well worth tracking down—but be forewarned, Gatling #6 Butte Bloodbath is fairly rare and pricey, but with patience a reasonable copy at a reasonable price can be found.
Gatling #1: Zuni Gold (1989)
Gatling #2: Outlaw Empire (1989)
Gatling #3: Border War (1989)
Gatling #4: South Of The Border (1989)
Gatling #5: The War Wagon (1989)
Gatling #6: Butte Bloodbath (1990)
GARRITY (AKA: GATLIN) SERIES
Rapid Fire (1993)
Texas Renegade (1993)