Been a bit behind on these posts; it’s been a busy couple months. While I don’t have the complete series, I have a good chunk of the Soldiers of Barrabas, and I’ve been working through them. While Stony Man was kind of my gateway drug to the Gold Eagle paperback scene, the SOBs series is generally, in my opinion, slightly better (in no small part because it becomes evident early on that none of the team members–except maybe Nile Barrabas himself–have plot armor). There are a number of influences in the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series, but the SOBs are a big one, in large part because I’ve adopted some of the storytelling tricks of a short, team-based, fast-paced action adventure story from them. (Introducing each of the team members in the first couple chapters as the team gets rounded up is one of the main points I’ve adopted, as opposed to the in media res, on-the-fly intros we got in the Praetorian series.) So, let’s get started.
This was my first SOBs novel. And at the time, I was simply interested in the premise. Iran goes nuclear. It was a pretty high-profile concern a few years ago, and has been simmering in the background ever since. There was even a documentary made about it, Iranium. With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an avowed “Twelver” as President of Iran, the likelihood of Iranian nukes soon being used against the US and Israel seemed to be pretty high. So imagine my curiosity when I found out that an obscure, 1984 Gold Eagle pulp mercenary story had been written about just that: stopping Iran from launching a nuclear attack.
I originally wrote this for Breach-Bang-Clear a while back, but it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, so here it is. Line in the Valley is hard to categorize. It’s a crime novel, a war novel, and a psychological study of men under the highest possible stress in combat, all at the same time. It’s set against a backdrop of an invasion of South Texas, but that really only sets the background against which the events take place. The story starts off with a bang, as advance elements made up of local gang-bangers eliminate all the cops in the target border towns. It then follows the initial response, which goes very badly, before we get into the nitty gritty of the counterattack, which is where the meat of the story happens.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I often do some reading in the target genre prior to and during working on a book. Now, I don’t really read a lot in the horror genre, with the exception of some Lovecraft, and Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, while involving monsters, aren’t really horror per se (though they are similar enough to what I write; there probably wouldn’t be a Jed Horn series without MHI). But in the workup for Older and Fouler Things, I finally picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Residue, by Steve Diamond. Short version: it is phenomenal.
Part of my “creative process” (damn, I hate that term) often involves reading in the genre I’m going to be working in. Call it “setting the tone.” I’ve had a few standbys for the shooter genre, ranging from Larry Correia’s and Mike Kupari’s Dead Six series, to Jack Murphy’s Deckard series, to Jack Silkstone’s PRIMAL series, among others. Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan series has been pretty good (though I’m way behind on that one), along with Dalton Fury’s Kolt Raynor series. I’ve also gone with some of the older books, such as Forsyth’s The Dogs of War, which I reviewed last week. Part of the inspiration for the upcoming Brannigan’s Bastards has been the old Pinnacle/Gold Eagle Action-Adventure series, such as The Executioner, Phoenix Force, Able Team, and Stony Man. But a larger part, among those old pulp shoot-em-ups, has been the Soldiers of Barrabas, or SOBs.
Somehow, I went 36 years without reading this book. That has now been rectified. I did see the 1980 movie, with Christopher Walken (very young and not quite as wooden and weird as he is now) some years ago. It follows the book for the most part, though it adds a few things. One of the elements that the movie adds is that it makes The Dogs of War an action-adventure. Which, while there is both, the book really isn’t. The actual coup, “The Big Killing,” as Part Three is appropriately titled, doesn’t start until Page 335. There are scattered bits of violence elsewhere, but that’s not really what the book is about. You see, the book is a manual for the preparation and execution a mercenary-led coup in a Third World country, in the 1960s.
My latest is up on Breach-Bang-Clear, concerning weapons being, in the words of Sam in Ronin, “A toolbox.” Knowing your tools means that firearms aren’t like the latest iPhone. (Of course, the Facebook comments on B-B-C’s page have already gone off the rails…never read the FB comments!) The NRA recently decided to disallow revolvers and 1911s from their “Carry Guard” classes. They have since reversed that decision, probably after millions of gun owners took to the internet to tell them it was stupid). This decision seems to have once again highlighted the differing opinions in the firearms community about what is and is not an “obsolete” firearm. I almost said, “reignited the debate,” but who are we kidding? It’s never stopped. Read the rest on Breach-Bang-Clear. Also, a fellow denizen of the “Men’s Adventure Paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s” Group on Facebook, Greg Hatcher, has read and reviewed Lex Talionis. It is an excellent review. “I’m not much of a joiner, usually, but I do belong to an online community that is devoted to reading and collecting the men’s adventure paperbacks that dominated drugstore spinner racks in the sixties and seventies. It happens that many of us write the
Reader Samuel, on Goodreads, has posted his review of Lex Talionis. What he wrote can only be described as, “high praise, indeed.” TAPS “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.” – USMC General (Ret) James Mattis. “Let’s roll”. – Todd Beamer. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”- Nathan Hale. “You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out…you might as well appeal against the thunder-storm.”- US Army General William T Sherman. I’ve always held that Orwell, creator of the most iconic dystopia was wrong about many things. Contrary to his writings, what we hate, will not destroy humanity. Kill some of us perhaps, but that hatred, will keep the embers of life, of defiance burning to let us endure such suffering. No, what will destroy us, as argued by Huxley, will be what we love, cherish, and take for granted. The delusion that the
This post is a bit of an apology, truth be told. I reviewed this book a few years ago, on the now-defunct “Hot Extract.” Overall, I found the book to be a decent shooter thriller, and something of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a lot of shooters who have been in the sandbox and the rock-pile, chasing ghosts and being yanked back by the choke-chain by higher whenever it seemed like they might get somewhere to the shooters and go too far to higher.
As you may have determined from my review of Somewhither, I have been impressed by the work of John C. Wright. Somewhither was an awesome roller coaster ride with as much depth as it had spectacle. Iron Chamber of Memory is different. It is a much slower burn. Don’t get me wrong, there is action, adventure, and derring-do. There is also romance, though in more than one sense. I’ll get to that in a bit. Slower burn or no, unlike Somewhither, I read Iron Chamber of Memory in a day. Thanksgiving Day, to be precise. It’s taken me this long to write the review because how to review such a book was a bit of a conundrum. The story starts out with Hal Landfall, a poor graduate student working on a paper on Arthurian legend, looking for his missing friend Manfred on the island of Sark. (Sark is a real place, a small island in the English Channel, just east of Guernsey.) Manfred has recently become the hereditary lord of Sark, and Hal is seeking him in the middle of the night, at a bizarrely labyrinthine mansion where the Lords of Sark reside, presently unoccupied. (Unlike the island, the mansion,