Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thongor and the Dragon City by Lin Carter

Thongor 2
Thongor and the Dragon City 
by Lin Carter
1966 Ace

Thongor, the princess Sumia, and the other guy fly back from their adventures of the first novel. They crash land in the jungle, get captured, fight cannibals and man-eating plants, escape, get captured, escape, find the airship again, get captured by a vampire scientist, escape, defeat an army and evil druids, and became king of everything.

This one started out feeling more juvenile than the first, and the ending kind of lost the thread with Thongor and company barely participating.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Series Showdown: Vietnam Ground Zero vs Super Bolan

I'm still not sure how Vietnam: Ground Zero operates as a series, but they're more literate than most Men's Adventure, and I can't even remember what happened in the Super Bolan. Super Bolan is terminated with extreme prejudice, and Vietnam: Ground Zero moves up to the finals.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Super Bolan 100: Devil's Bargain by Dan Scmidt

Super Bolan 100
Devil's Bargain
by Dan Schmidt
2005 Gold Eagle

Jihadist attack America's transportation system as a cover to rob black budget funds from a bank. Dull with poor action scenes. There's a mercenary called Thor, I guess that's interesting. Have not had much luck with 21st Century Bolans.

Kindle ebook and Audible audiobook from Amazon

Currently available on Hoopla, check your library

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Vietnam Ground Zero by Eric Helm

Vietnam Ground Zero 
by Eric Helm ( and )
1986 Gold Eagle

Captain Gerber, stationed in the Mekong Delta, sends an assassination team into Cambodia to assassinate a Chinese officer who's been supporting the NVA. Word of the hit travels to a general who has it out for Gerber, and two of his men are court martialed.

The initial hit was superbly written - suspenseful, action packed, and if it wasn't historically accurate it faked it well enough. The bit with the trial, and the efforts of Gerber to free his men, made less sense. To prove that his men were innocent of the war crime they definitely committed, they proceed to commit another war crime, travelling back to Cambodia.

The idea, I guess, was either to prove they had a good reason for the assassination or to blackmail the general into an acquittal by threatening to publicize it. This depends on a reporter withholding the story of her career because she's banging the Captain, but also begs the question of why the General held the court martial in the first place when he could have just ignored the hit and kept it quiet.

I don't mind sketchy plot devices as rubber bands to hold action scenes together, but narratively the action scenes just set up the court martial, which held up the bulk of the story. The female reporter shoehorned in to squeeze in a sex scene didn't help either.

The military scenes were well written, and we could have done with more of that. The second incursion felt like Randle and Cornett got bored halfway through and ended it early, and the next potential action scene, an escape from the brig, was entirely off page. 

This felt like a standalone novel, but it's actually the fifth in the series - it was preceded by four titles under the title Scorpion Squad. It doesn't act like a typical men's adventure war novel. As a solo title, Captain Gerber hardly sees any action, and it's not a typical Howling Commandos style squad. I'm not sure any of these characters are even in the final installment, Zebra Cube.

The whole series is available on Kindle, and as of this writing free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Series Showdown: Gladiator vs Flashman

Flashman was the better novel, and Gladiator underperformed, but based solely on which series I'd rather continue reading, Gladiator holds Flashman's head under a trough of vomit until his legs stop kicking.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser

by George MacDonald Fraser
1969 Barrie & Jenkins

Flashman is the satirical memoir of a the exploits of Harry Flashman, a fictional 19th Century military figure. Flashman is not a nice man. He's a snob, a drunk, and a coward. And he's supposed to be, as this is a conscious satire of the English "gentleman", with Flashman snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, and vice versa, sometimes through skill but mostly just sheer luck.

The story itself covers Flashman being kicked out of school, joining the military, and ending up in the First Anglo-Afghan War, the highlight being the disastrous retreat from Kabul, in which thousands died in an attempt to flee to India.

There's a long tradition of unsympathetic protagonists in comedy, from Basil Fawlty to Dennis Reynolds, and a good comparison can be drawn to Blackadder. There's fun in watching them fail, but you also find yourself rooting for them. This is a little harder with Flashman, as he's a bigoted serial rapist. This isn't my bleeding heart 21st Century assessment, he's presented this way.

Flashman is such a horrible creature it creates some tonal problems. If this was a straight, warts-and-all historical adventure the character would be historically accurate, and not much worse than the average of the time. This is a theme, with Flashman being honest with himself about being horrible while most of British society is arranged around trying to hide it.

The adventure and the comedy largely alternate, with most of the satire coming in the breaks around the action. It's a bit too miserable, what with the dead children, rapes, and constant n-bombs, for light comedy, especially for the modern reader, and it's a bit on the silly side as a straight historical adventure with social commentary.

I've read that the character softens throughout the series, becoming closer to a Blackadder, to be more of a loveable scoundrel. I always seem to have a limit with these kind of characters. It's an essential part of comedy for characters to satirize the less honorable side of human nature, but at a certain point it seems to indulge it a bit too much. Veep did the same thing to me through the seasons, as it felt like it went from "let's laugh at these horrible people" to "wouldn't be great to be able to get away with things like this, but not really" to "let's do a bunch of racist stuff but it's the character doing it, not us".

Well written and well regarded, but like a Ricky Gervais character (or Ricky Gervais himself, for that matter), the schtick gets wearisome.

Kindle version is currently overpriced, paperback available from Abebooks

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Heavies: OJ Simpson

Here's OJ Simpson playing against type as a football player threatening to murder his wife on Medical Center.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Zebra Scorpio

In 1977, Zebra created the imprint Scorpio specifically for the subgenre of Iceberg Slim cash-in prison memoirs. Unlike the Holloway House titles they're emulating, not all the titles involve African Americans - Max Rabinowitz I'm assuming is Jewish, and Johnny North is a white biker. These titles are rough to find, and there's very little information online. The Black Prince seems to have been picked up by some incel and MRA losers as a pimping how-to - good luck with that, fellas!


Dig the N----- Up - Let's Kill Him Again by Robert E. Chinn


The Black Prince by Anonymous

The Day They Scrambled My Brains at the Funny Factory by Max Rabinowitz (available free from the author here)

God's Renegade by Johnny North

Prison Diary by Edward Conway

A Right to Anger by Karamoko Baye

Underground by James S. Dutton

The Virginia Ratt by Ratton Hall and Sandy Sidar