Wednesday, January 9, 2019


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.

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 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... 

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... 

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Great covers. Most of the cover art was done by Norm Eastman, who did hundreds of cover paintings for men's adventure magazines and paperbacks -- as well as many romance PB covers... http://www.menspulpmags.com/search?q=%22Norm+Eastman%22


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