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Saturday, January 12, 2019

THE BLACK EAGLES


THE BLACK EAGLES
There were numerous old school men’s adventure series which used the Vietnam War as a background. Two of the best were Saigon Commandos and M.I.A. Hunter. The Black Eagles isn’t quite in the same league, but with twenty-one titles it’s one of the longest running military action oriented men’s adventure series. The Black Eagles also sported cool thematic cover art, which was kept consistent for the entire run—a feature valued by collectors.

Published by Zebra between 1983 and 1990, The Black Eagles books were written by several different authors under the pseudonym John Lansing. As a result, the merit of the stories swings between mediocre and very good, with a couple of excellent entries. It was often Zebra's editorial policy that hurt the series by insisting on a high page count. This meant 180 pages of solid story had to be padded out to 250 pages of small print.

The highly revered men’s adventure writer William Fieldhouse, was the power behind The Black Eagles. He is perhaps best known for creating Gold Eagle’s Phoenix Force series under the pseudonym Gar Wilson. Phoenix Force, along with Able Team, were series spin-offs from Gold Eagle’s highly successful The Executioner series—the big daddy of all men’s adventure paperback originals. Phoenix Force ran for fifty-eight titles, thirty-two of which were written by Fieldhouse. He is considered ‘the’ Gar Wilson by serious Phoenix Force fans and collectors.

Prior to Phoenix Force, Fieldhouse wrote for The Executioner series. He also wrote numerous standalone and series Westerns (The Klaw, Six-Gun Samurai, Gun Lust, etc.) and other contemporary action novels under numerous pseudonyms (M.I.A. Hunter, Stony Man, and others). Along the way, he created and wrote the military action series The Hard Corps under the pseudonym Chuck Bainbridge.

Fieldhouse created The Black Eagles series when he was approached by Zebra to create a house name series about the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Fieldhouse recalls: I was not keen on this. I’m an Army veteran, but I wasn’t in Vietnam. However, when I was taking BCT at Ft. Jackson, they started pulling troops out of Nam. The veterans of that ‘conflict’ had usually been depicted in a very negative manner (demented kill-crazy psychopaths or maybe psychotic). I figured I might be able to portray U.S. troops in Nam in a more positive manner. I was already writing two series. Really didn’t want another house name project. So I came up with basic format, characters and so on, acceptable by the publisher, and farmed out the actual writing to three individuals. 

This was much the same process Stephen Mertz used when creating his M.I.A. Hunter series. Both Mertz and Fieldhouse were expected by their publishers to ensure the books were of publishable quality and to do any rewriting required. This often led to a considerable amount of unexpected work. Due to the long running success of The Black Eagles this rubbing point was exacerbated, demanding far more effort on Fieldhouse’s part than he originally envisioned. In referring to the writers he chose, Fieldhouse stated: One was a good writer with an extensive military background. Another had a track-record, but also had extremist views (political and otherwise) that steadily became more obvious in his work. The third was quite intelligent, but inexperienced as a fiction writer.

The first entry in the series, Hanoi Hellground, was written by Mark K. Roberts, an experience pulpster whose credits included the even numbered entries in The Penetrator series and four volumes in the jingoistic Soldier For Hire series. Under the house name Patrick Lee, Roberts had also contributed to the Six-Gun Samurai series, for which Fieldhouse also wrote. Along with an off-kilter (and often inappropriate) sense of humour, Roberts had a penchant for overdoing Tuckerizations—the naming of characters after many of his writer friends. Politically to the right of Joseph Rosenberger (of Death Merchant fame—or infamy), Roberts would also indulged in rants about his views to pad out his page count. Later, Roberts would create and write the Liberty Corps series, another military oriented men’s adventure genre entry.

It was Patrick E. Andrews, however, who wrote most of the remaining Black Eagles books. An Army brat growing up, Andrews enlisted in the Army at age nineteen. He served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in the active Army and the 12th Special Forces Group Green Berets in the Army Reserves. He left military service after being injured in a parachute jump.

After the Army, Andrew’s worked as a typesetter in San Diego while sending manuscripts to numerous publishers without success. He then became a technical editor and writer in aerospace while still pursuing his fiction writing. Eventually, he began to get published (like Fieldhouse and Roberts, he also wrote for the Six-Gun Samurai series). He went on to write more than fifty novels in the men's adventure, military adventure, Western, and historical genres. Andrews writes in a breezy but his military background, however, kept his entries rooted in solid believability.

Paul Glen Neuman wrote only one Black Eagles novel, AK-47 Firefight. Neuman had previously written seven Phoenix Force books, as well as two entries in the notorious They Call Me Mercenary series (#16 China Blood Hunt and #17 Buckingham Blowout). Calling it grunt work, Neuman stated AK-47 Firefight was written under a tight deadline of six weeks for the book's approximate 240 pages. Personal interviews conducted with veterans of the War provided an insight, which proved invaluable for the novel's authenticity.

David Cheney, who wrote at least two and possibly as many as four Black Eagles entries, is a bit of an enigma. A pharmacist in the San Diego Area for over thirty-eight years, he left the men’s adventure genre behind after writing for The Black Eagles. His only other publication appears to be a 2014 sci-fi novella, Mars—The Deep Con.

Despite the varied quality of the series, The Black Eagles is worth both reading and collecting. It is a prime example of the military sub-genre under the men’s adventure masthead.
THE BLACK EAGLES

HANOI HELLGROUND
Captain Robert M. Falconi of the 5th Special Forces had his orders: the clandestine SOG needed an enforcement arm and Falconi was to put it together. Made up of the best jungle fighters if R.S. could muster, they were to take the war to Charlie - no matter where is Southeast Asia he tried to hide.

MEKONG MASSACRE
Falconi and his Black Eagles combat team are about to stake a claim on Colonel Nguyen Chi Ro—and give the Commie his due. But American intelligence wants the colonel alive, making this the Black Eagles toughest assignment ever...

NIGHTMARE IN LAOS
There’s a hot rumor that Russian in Laos are secretly building a nuclear reactor. And the American command isn’t overreacting when they order it knocked out—quietly—and fast...

PUNGI PATROL
A team of specially trained East German agents—disguised as U.S. soldiers—is slaughtering helpless Vietnamese villagers to discredit America. The Black Eagles, the elite jungle fighters, have been ordered to stop the butchers before our own allies turn against us...

SAIGON SLAUGHTER
After being decimated by the NVA, Major Robert Falconi's killer crew, the Black Eagles, fight a private war against the enemy agents and assassins who still stalk them...

AK-47 FIREFIGHT
Robert Falconi and his Black Eagle fighters have been chosen to stop the deadly flow of mortars, AK-47s, grenades, and thousands of tons of ammunition to the NVA along South Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh Trail. However, the Black Eagles find the North Vietnamese convoys so heavily guarded it seems a suicide mission. But the men believe their leader Falconi, and if he says they can do it, by God they’ll do it...

BEYOND THE DMZ
For the first time, the Black Eagles are ordered to strike deep into the heart of North Vietnam. It’s a suicide mission, but aided by a full complement of fearless Ping-Yan-Uen tribesmen the blood and the body count is sure to flow...

BOOCOO DEATH
When the only female member of the Black Eagles is captured by the North Vietnamese, Falconi and his squad of battle harden jungle fighters chase to rescue her. Finding themselves in an ingenious trap, they put their M-16s on rock-n-roll and come out blasting...

BAD SCENE AT BONG SON
Accompanied by an irritating embedded reporter, the Black Eagles don’t expect trouble in the Vietnamese’s low-lands. But when all hell breaks loose during a lashing wind and rainstorm, it’s come home as heroes, or not come home at all...

CAMBODIA KILL-ZONE
Major Robert Falconi's battle-hardened crew of jungle fighters are America's most effective killing machine in Southeast Asia. And when the big brass in Saigon uncover a secret Red plot to reinforce Cong units with combat teams
from Iron Curtain countries around the globe, the Black Eagles are ordered to the Cambodian border to neutralize the situation quietly - and fast! But Algerian Colonel Omar Ahmed is a dedicated Communist who's ready to take on anything the free world can throw at him. And deep in the Cambodian jungle, on a battlefield splattered with hot shrapnel and blood, it's the Black Eagles against a band of fanatical Arabs in a duel to the death fought behind a news blackout imposed by both sides - and that means no medals but plenty of body bags for the men of The Black Eagles.

DUEL ON THE SONG CAI
When North Vietnamese patrol boats take control of the Song Cai River, it’s up to the Black Eagles to wade in over their heads and follow their unit motto: Calcitra Cllunis—Kick Ass...

LORD OF LAOS
‘Nam down and dirty—the way our men had to fight it...

ENCORE AT DIEN BIEN PHU
‘Nam down and dirty—the way our men had to fight it...

FIRESTORM AT DONG NAM
Lt. Colonel Gregori Kraschenko, a monster of a man and leader of the newly-organized Red Berets, the cream of the Iron Curtain’s elite forces. With a burning drive to destroy the Black Eagles and their leader, Major Robert Falconi, Kraschenko issues a deadly challenge—a neutral zone battle to the death between the Red Berets and the hardened jungle fighters of the Black Eagles—no backup, no heavy weaponry, just whatever they can carry in on their backs. If the Black Eagles refuse, the consequences to America’s intelligence apparatus will be devastating. There is only one choice destroy the Red Berets or die trying...

HO'S HELLHOUNDS
‘Nam down and dirty—the way our men had to fight it...

MONSOON HELLHOLE
‘Nam down and dirty—the way our men had to fight it...

MAU LEN DEATH ZONE
A top NVA general wants to defect, and the Black Eagles will face the steaming jungle’s merciless dangers to get him out...

DURONG WARRIORS
Green hell in the highlands. Outnumbered and out gunned, the Black Eagles are determined to smash their way through the jungle to destroy the enemy’s Death Squad command...

HOA TIEN KILLERS
‘Nam down and dirty—the way our men had to fight it...

BO-BINK COMMANDOS
‘Nam down and dirty—the way our men had to fight it...

NGUY-HIEM WAR ZONE
‘Nam down and dirty—the way our men had to fight it...

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

THE BLACK BERETS

THE BLACK BERETS 
Men’s adventure paperback series writers come from all across life’s spectrum. In their private lives there has been a bigoted, drunken reactionary (Joseph Rosenberger—Death Merchant); a man who would become a woman later in life (Andrew/Andrea Sugar—The Enforcer); those who have considered their men’s adventure outings as slumming (Martin Cruz Smith—The Inquisitor), some have even been (gasp!) women (Gayle Lynds—Nick Carter: Killmaster/Molly Cochran—The Destroyer), and some who the mainstream would consider alternate lifestyle.

None of these personal traits, however, have anything to do with the quality of the individual’s writing, or of the series they created or wrote entries. In considering their work in the men’s adventure genre, the lifestyles of writers should only be depicted in the objective context of who they are and never in judgment of the individuals or their work.  
In the case of The Black Berets series, Mike McCray was a pseudonym shared by John Preston and Michael McDowell. Both authors were open about their homosexuality and became well known and revered for writing both fiction and non-fiction about the gay community. Unfortunatly, they would both die at an early age due to complications related to AIDS.


John Preston was a pioneer in the early gay rights movement and the author or editor of more than twenty-five acclaimed gay-centric books. Along with The Black Berets series, he wrote for a number of other men’s adventure series, including numerous entries in Gold Eagle’s Soldiers of Barrabas series under the pseudonym Jack Hild. As Preston McAdam, he also wrote the three books in the Michael Sheriff: The Shield series (African Assignment, Arabian Assault, Island Intrigue).  

In the early ‘80s, under the pseudonym Nathan Aldyne, Michael McDowell co-wrote four novels (with Dennis Schuetz) starring gay bartender Daniel Valentine and Boston detective Clarisse Lovelace. Vermillion, Cobalt, Slate, and Canary joined Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandsetter novels as groundbreaking alternate lifestyle mysteries. At that time, McDowell was described by Stephen King as "the finest writer of paperback originals in America today."

McDowell was also active in writing scripts for movies and television. His screen credits include Beetlejuice, and collaborations on The Nightmare Before Christmas and Thinner. He wrote episodes for a number of television horror anthologies, including Tales from the Darkside. He also wrote the novelization of the movie Clue. The movie, based on the board game, featured three different endings, however the novelization was based on the shooting script and includes an additional fourth ending that was cut from the film.

When interviewed about his writing in 1985, McDowell stated, "I am a commercial writer and I'm proud of that. I am writing things to be put in the bookstore next month. I think it is a mistake to try to write for the ages."

It is unclear if the thirteen books in The Black Berets series were co-written by Preston and McDowell or if the each wrote alternating entries. The series only gets brief mentions in bibliographies of their works, and is obviously considered of far less importance than their later writings.

THE BLACK BERETS
DEADLY REUNION
In the dirty war of covert operations, they were the government's most deadly secret weapon—the CIA trained them for one thing and one thing only—to kill swiftly, silently and mercilessly. Then it turned them loose on the battlefields of Asia, sending them out on missions so ugly that not even the army could be told. But now the war was over. Beak, Rosie, Cowboy, Harry and Runt were in limbo until their old CIA control sent them back into the hell of Vietnam in search of a man who should be dead. Could five shell-shocked vets become a combat-honed killing machine again? And, if they could, how long would it be before the CIA acted to stop them, to shut them down—for keeps...

COLD VENGEANCE
They'd survived everything the Vietcong could throw at them. Now they'd throw it back...at the American renegade who'd betrayed them. The Black Berets had to hand it to Parkes, their former CIA case officer. First he'd sent them on a suicide mission to Vietnam. Then he'd sent some CIA hitmen to finish them off when the enemy couldn't. And the moment they set foot stateside, the world's meanest mercenaries found that Parkes had arranged another lethal welcome...Well, they'd never liked Parkes much. But how were they going to tell him? First they had to find him, and that would take Beeker, Rosie, Cowboy, Harry and Marty, from the bayous of Louisiana to an academy of terror in the Libyan desert, where they'd get a chance to say just what they had in mind-with bullets and a body bag...

THE BLACK PALM
A Season of Slaughter
The Black Palm called themselves a nation, though their own people had cast them out. They called themselves an army, but made war on unarmed men, women and children. And in their fanatical crusade, they might strike anywhere. Even in the tiny Caribbean republic of New Neuzen...The only thing that stood between New Neuzen and a terrorist bloodbath were five American tourists. Those tourists happened to be the Black Berets, the dirtiest-and deadliest-warriors on earth. And they had not come to New Neuzen for a vacation. Unless your idea of a holiday is total war...

CONTRACT: WHITE LADY
Everyone was the enemy in a lethal game where the stakes were a country and a fortune in cocaine; the only rule was treachery. Even before they knew what the job was, some very heavy people were urging the Black Berets not to take it and driving their point home with lead. By the time they learned the particulars, they'd left too many dead to back out. Which was too bad...Because not even five berserkers relished taking a journalist through a South American war-zone where guerrillas might shoot before they showed their press pass-and federales were guaranteed to. Especially not when the opposition was armed and trained by the CIA and bankrolled by a billion-dollar coke syndicate. And definitely not when their charge turned out to be a seductive vixen who might set the Black Beret's at each other's throats before the enemy got them all in his cross hairs...

LOUISIANA FIRESTORM
The Black Berets have met the enemy-and he lives next door!
Letting a struggling Chicano gas company run its pipeline across their Louisiana land struck the Black Berets as a good idea--especially once Cowboy got an eyeball on Isabella Cifuentes, its stunning, sultry president. But the contract, it seemed, contained some very fine and lethal print...A Texas oil magnate allied with a fanatical right-wing cult had made an unholy alliance to keep the territory free of Mexicans and competition-even if it meant taking his grievance to the people next door. But when your neighbors happen to be a quintet of renegade warriors, your backyard may become a burying ground...and the bone you came to pick may just turn out to be your own...

THE DEATH MACHINE CONTRACT
The main event is manslaughter. Someone wanted to overthrow the government of San Sebastian, a country whose tiny army, nonaligned status, and location on the deadly curve of Central America made it ripe for subversion. The first try was an attempted hit on its president on a crowded street in Washington. The second was an invasion from the sea...Both times the Black Berets were there to keep the worst from happening. But how long could five men and one boy hold out against an army of the world's most skilled assassins? An army with limitless resources-and the patience to keep on killing... 

THE RED MAN CONTRACT
In Mesa County, Nevada, the tide of history was about to change. A tiny tribe of Indians had just beaten the white man in his own court-and won title to some of the richest land in America. But some people were poor losers. And if they couldn't hold onto the land...they'd simply eliminate its rightful owners. With a handful of poorly armed red men facing a lynch mob led by the county sheriff and backed by corporate millions, Mesa County might be the setting for another Wounded Knee. Until the Black Berets got in on the action-and showed how professionals handle a massacre... 

D.C. DEATH MARCH
Ten years later the war has come home-to the golden shores of California...In Washington, D.C., America is at long last erecting its monument to the Vietnam dead. While in L.A. the war is about to begin all over again-with a new twist. This time a wealthy cadre of South Vietnamese refugees are running a billion-dollar drug operation and using a private army of U.S. vets for protection...Marked for death, a lone Green Beret has come to the capital to warn his old comrades. But how can he convince anyone that the ringleader of the plot is a dead general without sounding totally insane? As a nation tries to bury the past, only the Black Berets can secure the future, drive the enemy from our shores and make them pay-in spades...

NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR
National hero, military genius-too bad the Black Berets had him marked for death...The Lion of Salvador was the darling of the American press. But his heroic image disguised a vicious tyrant who ruled a vast drug empire that stretched from the coco fields of the Andes to the streets of New York. His savagery was unspeakable, his troops unstoppable, his firepower devastating. Solution: send in five good men...

CONTRACT: TERROR SUMMIT
The worst nightmare has finally come true. Someone of immense wealth and power has illegally gained possession of five atomic bombs. The theft seems the work of some Third World lunatic until a deadly raid on a Libyan terrorist training camp proves to be only a warm-up for the main event-in Portugal. Not even the Black Berets want to consider the consequences of failure. Can they find the bombs in time and crush a ruthless international cabal? Can five renegade commandos stop a summit of terror called by a madman bent on auctioning off doomsday to the highest bidder...

SAMURAI CONTRACT
Against a deadly alliance of Japanese smarts and KGB savagery, they were striking back-with everything they had...Kyushu Electronics-it seemed a most unlikely target for the world's most feared team of fighting men. But the Soviets have turned it into a fortress where the country's top scientists are forced to complete a top secret project: a super-computer with enough byte to turn the Star Wars defense system into space debris. No one had to tell the Black Berets they'd be fighting the battle of their lives. For the five modern-day warriors had come to the land of the samurai and the ninja assassin ready to practice their own code of lethal arts-to die with honor or kill with a vengeance...

THE AKBAR CONTRACT
Only their cunning and lethal craft could stop a mad guru of death...So far all they had to go on was one brutally murdered woman, two stolen atomic bombs, and the phrase "Akbar Lives" written in pure gold. But that was enough to tell the Black Berets that something very ugly was going down in India-and whoever the opposition was, they had the ruthlessness, the firepower, and the bankroll to succeed. For once, even the world's most feared team of fighting men had to admit they'd met their match. Unless they could hold the team together long enough to stop a mad guru and his army of rabid disciples from igniting a holy war that would reduce them all to ashes...

BLUE WATER CONTRACT
They brought their lethal skills to a land of fun and sun-to stop a cold-blooded minister of death...Key Isabella-a tiny Caribbean hideaway for the rich and infamous only a hundred miles off the Florida coast. The island paradise had become the private fiefdom of a decadent prime minister whose illegal enterprises were protected by diplomatic immunity and a well-armed hit squad of sadistic "Vampires." Could the world's top covert commandos overthrow a corrupt regime and crush a billion dollar drug ring in Uncle Sam's backyard-without drawing undue attention? Though they didn't know it, the Black Berets were marching straight into a killing crossfire that could send them all on a permanent vacation-to kingdom come...