Saturday, January 26, 2019


Published by Zebra (Star in the UK) between 1983 and 1986, the four book Gunships series was one of the earliest men’s adventure series set during the Vietnam War. The series was the work of UK editor and comic writer Christopher Lowder using the pseudonym Jack Hamilton Teed. In the world of British comics, Lowder was known  for his Judge Dredd stories in the comic broadsheet 2000 AD, as well as many other titles. Using the pseudonym Jack Adrian, Lowder wrote a number of fantasy novels and a well-received Dracula tale.

In 1985, under his Jack Adrian persona, Lowder created Gold Eagle’s Deathlands series, including the bible for all the characters and concepts. However, before Lowder could complete the first book, he became too ‘ill’ to continue. British pulp stalwart Laurence James was asked to complete the book, which was published in 1986 as Deathlands #1: Pilgrimage to Hell using Lowder’s Jack Adrian pseudonym on the cover.

Starting with the second Deathlands book, Gold Eagle published the books under the house name James Axler. This unusual change was made because Lowder owned the Jack Adrian pseudonym. Reportedly, there were enough hard feeing over the situation that Lowder never wrote another Deathlands novel. Laurence James continued writing the Deathlands series until 1995 when he was unable to continue for health reasons. Mark Ellis took over the series from there, while also creating and writing the Outlanders series beginning the following year.

Gunships is basically a Vietnam War version of The Dirty Dozen—a group of military misfits with military criminal records varying from rape to drugs to shooting a superior officer. When the anti-heroes are gathered together in the first book there is a purposeful designed to fail twist, which puts a different perspective on the concept, which helps suspend disbelief.

Strangely, the rescue mission of the first books has little to do with helicopter gunships. Possibly when Lowder was commissioned to create the series, Zebra stuck him with the Gunships title and told him to make it work. Either not wanting to write about helicopters, or reluctant to do the needed research, Lowder lamely solves the problem by having a minor character make an off-hand comment about how every soldier in Vietnam is a human gunship.

There are also some odd quirks of language in the books, which I attribute to Lowder being British. It had to be tough for him writing about the American Special Forces. Lowder’s Britishness also extends to his villains. While they are slaughtered with impunity, the North Vietnamese are only there to add local color. Army corruption, traitorous generals, CIA supported rogue redneck special forces, CIA supported Corsican/Sicilian mafia henchmen (in Vietnam?), and the Chinese wanting a testing ground for their new nerve gas, all take center stage—the Vietnam War as perceived by a an uninvolved writer. Overall, however, Gunships is a solid men’s adventure series, which in different hands, with the focus more on gunships and the actual Hell of Vietnam, might have run longer.

*On a side note, Nicholas Cain—who has written an extensive list of Vietnam related men’s adventure novels—credits Gunships for helping get his first novel published. When his wife came across the series, she urged a disheartened Cain to send his many times rejected book about MPs in Saigon to Gunships publisher, Zebra. There it caught the eye of editor Michael Sideman, who offered Cain a four book deal if he would fictionalize his stories and throw in some additional sex and violence. All of this led to the excellent, long running, Saigon Commandos series.


The blistering stories of soldiers caught in a war where glory was a dirty word and every man was a loser... The Hell that was Vietnam. It is a land where every tree and bush can kill, where the most lethal technology of war is allied with man’s basest instincts. Where a soldier’s bloodlust can throttle his better self like a jungle creeper. And sometimes a man has less to fear from the enemy than from his own side.

Col. John Hardin, is a brass hating, cynical, Special Forces vet who knows a lot about the dirty side of war. Determined to expose a corrupt American general’s cover-up of a massacre, Hardin makes some dangerous enemies. When Hardin is betrayed and captured by the Viet Cong, a rag-tag band of misfits, each more dastardly than the next, are pulled from the military stockade and sent on a suicide mission into enemy territory to get him back. Complications, double-crosses, and violence ensues.

A journey into the war-torn hell of ‘Nam. They were America's finest, well-trained troops, armed and deadly, and sent to fight in jungles as lethal as any enemy they were to face. Special forces teams are being ambushed at an alarming rate in Laos. A gunship incursion into Cambodia results in the helicopter being ambushed and shot down. The sole survivor to escape, Captain Marco, insists the trap was sprung by renegade Americans. Assigned to find the traitors, Colonel John Hardin and his criminal killers take to the bush in for the fight of their lives.

Vietnam was a four letter word. Colonel John Hardin, U.S. Special Forces, was about to investigate the wreckage of a downed Cobra gunship when a Cong force appears out of nowhere. Hardin set his M-16 on full automatic and began blasting away, dead sure they would overrun his position before he could even expend the clip...But the Cong didn’t kill him. They went straight for the Cobra, took something they wanted, and melted back into the jungle. Their big mistake was they let Hardin live. The last thing the Cong ever expected was for Hardin to follow them. But Hardin had to know what they took from the gunship even if it killed him.

A vivid journey into the hell hole of Vietnam. When Colonel John Hardin and his criminal killers come upon a squad of marines under attack at a temple, they intervene only to find themselves stuck guarding a beautiful photojournalist. Word has leaked that remote villages in Laos have been attacked with Sky Fire, a highly deadly never gas of Chinese origin. It’s up to Hardin and his motley crew to keep the photojournalist safe until she leads them to her source. She wants a story. Hardin wants to destroy the gas before it’s used in Vietnam against U.S. troops.

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