Thanks to used book sales, flea markets and generous pals, my cup runneth over with men's action paperbacks. Those same books I drooled over in the bookstores and K-Marts of my youth are now so plentiful in my office that I have a hard time deciding what to read next!
To kick off July's ACTION MONTH here's a look at two surprisingly fun faves from my stack of recent reads...
PROTECTOR #6: The Dragon Slayings (Pinnacle/1985) by Rich
On the book’s acknowledgements page author Rich Rainey
thanks Alexandre Dumas and it’s no wonder. Not only is the lead character named
Alex Dartanian, but he and fellow ICE agents Sin Samara and Mick Porter create
a loose version of Dumas’ Three Musketeers that make this, the final PROTECTOR book, easy to digest.
Soviet-trained brain-bender launches an attack on America’s top psychics,
Dartanian and his team are sent into the psychic battlefield to find the
ringleader and stop him. Along the way, Dartanian finds himself at the mercy of
the enemy, brainwashed into a killing machine aimed straight at his allies.
Definitely one of the better men’s adventure books I’ve read
in recent months, The Dragon Slayings builds real tension and benefits from
replacing mind-numbing gunfights and explosions with mind-control
battles that frankly get a bit creepy at times. Dartanian’s ordeal places
the character in real peril and – without a working knowledge of the series or
character – made me feel like I wasn’t 100% certain things would work out in
It’s too bad this was the last in the series as I would have
liked to see where it went from here. Reviews of the previous books suggest
that they were more in line with the typical Pinnacle “blast first, ask
questions never” scenario, so maybe this was just dumb luck. Author Rainey also
turned out several EXECUTIONER and MACK BOLAN titles. (More on Mr. Live Large later this month.)
THEY CALL ME THE MERCENARY #15: The Afghanistan Penetration
(Zebra/1983) by Axel Kilgore
Admittedly, I plunked down 25 cents for this book purely on
the author’s name alone. Seriously? Axel Kilgore? Like you wouldn’t have done
the same thing.
Turns out it was 25-cents well worth investing as The
Afghanistan Penetration is a riveting and fun read with an excellent lead
character I’m definitely interested in catching up with. One-eyed merc Hank
Frost is called on to slip behind Soviet lines (it’s 1983 and the era
of Soviet occupation) and rescue Matt Jenks, a former Army buddy who has
uncovered a secret Soviet super weapon capable of bringing the West to its
Kilgore (real name Jerry Ahern) strikes just the right
balance, blending characterization and tense situations with bloodthirsty
violence. Frost is a great character – both icy and sympathetic – capable of
blowing off a Soviet soldier's head on one page while wistfully missing his
girlfriend Bess on another. I also dug how Kilgore peppers the text with
allusions to past THEY CALL ME… adventures with notes like “See THEY CALL ME
THE MERCENARY #13, Naked Blade, Naked Gun” tucked at the bottom of the page.
Begun in 1980 with The Killer Genesis, THEY CALL ME… appears
to be Ahern/Kilgore’s first foray into men’s adventure publishing but it
certainly wouldn’t be his last. The series would run for three more
installments before the author would go on to essay the TRACK, DEFENDER and
SURVIVALIST series’, a handful of standalone novels (including something called
WerewolveSS) and the non-fiction title CCW: Carrying Concealed Weapons: How to
Carry Concealed Weapons and Know When Others Are.