Monday, January 24, 2022

Once More a Hero by William Overgard

"Pieces of a Hero" is one of my favorite books I've read in the last couple of years. I imagine it'll be an often thought of book for the rest of my life. One of the ones you compare other books too and debate if the new shiny one was a good. And I also imagine that they won't be. You might want to head back in the archives to read my review of the first one to get some background. William Overgard is more famous as a cartoonist working on newspaper comics like "Kerry Drake," "Steve Canyon" but most notably "Steve Roper" when it became "Steve Roper and Mike Nomad," Nomad was a creation of Overgard himself and became popular enough to usurp the strip from the stalwart Roper. Overgard also had a run of TV movies that he wrote and played a big hand in the "ThunderCats" cartoon in the 80's that was a childhood favorite of mine. He was a helluva writer and cartoonist. So, much so he's in that elite group of artists Roy Lichtenstein "borrowed" from for "I Can See the Whole Room." And besides doing all that he found time to write a few (not enough) books. 

During my on-going research of Overgard and adventure comic strips in general, I found myself pursuing the collection of papers for Allen Saunders ("Kerry Drake" and "Mary Worth") stored at Bolling Green State University. It's something I do often, just so you know how cool, exciting and action packed my life is. Anyway, I stumbled onto a record of "Hero Haggity comic strip typed story ideas; small black and white glossies of characters [by William Overgard]" that is from the "1960s?" Allen Saunders worked closely with Overgard on the Steve Roper strip. It's not surprising that Hero Haggity was devised as an adventure strip before he was a novel character. Overgard was devoted fan of Milton Canniff and "Terry and the Pirates," and vibe/tone is similar. "Terry and the Pirates" is one of those fairly forgotten pieces of media that permeated pop-culture hard for a while and soaked itself into a lot of books, comics, TV and movies with its influence but it's all but forgotten these days. I find it gets mentioned in Men's Adventure and thrillers (especially in the 70's) a lot. I'm sure a lot of writers grew up reading it. Robert Culp always maintained that "Terry and the Pirates" is what he had in mind he wrote his (the best) episodes of the series. 

So, what do you get when you mix "Terry and the Pirates" style high-flyin' adventure, the "Sweat" mags, loads of humor, a giant soldier of fortune named Hero who's missing a leg, an eye, and a hand, incredibly well-endowed strippers, the mafia, the CIA and an African revolution? A dynamite book. One of my only problems with "Pieces of a Hero" was that Hero wasn't front and center a lot of the time. "Once More a Hero" fixes this and you spend a lot of time with the rude and crude dude who smokes cigars and shoots his Broom-handle Mauser. On the run after wasting some mob-types who said some untoward things about his lady Happy. Happy was a major character in the previous book but takes to the wings for this one which is a shame cause she's a lot of fun. So, after killing some hoods Hero gets hooked up with Zafra, a librarian who represents a group who wants to go to Africa and perform coup d'etat and have Hero lead a squad of all African American soldiers (who pose as Harlem Globetrotters knockoff) to fight the war. Complications ensue including "the black Truman Capote" being Commander in Chief, a CIA killer named The Toyman who is drafted/taken hostage for the action, a little love, tons of tough-guy shenanigans, prostitutes, knife fights, a little war, the secret police, etc. etc. Plus, 'ol Hero being his gruff self and making trouble which is what he was built for. There're little nods throughout that tell you Overgard was a comic-man. Hero never misses "Dick Tracy" and "Gasoline Alley," and calls Zafra "The Dragon Lady," at one point. Overgard wears his inspirations on his sleeve. It's not surprising that he's a very visual writer, laying it all out like a comic panel of words. It's a fatter book then a lot of Men's Adventure novels and the action is spread out with fun banter, but when the action comes its fast, hard and cinematic.

"Once More a Hero" might not be quite up the high standards of the first one. It's certainly less complicated. "Pieces of a Hero" had a complicated double or triple-or more-cross aspects with slippery characters cutting throats. This one's more straight forward, which I think has more to do with Hero being all the way up front. He's too much of a straight shooter to pull any cloak-and-dagger bullshit. It's a small dig, I still enjoyed the book immensely. Some of the racial politics a laughably outdated but I got over it, it's no worse than most 70's novels that dip into the quasi-Black Panther stories of African American revolutionaries. It's just a fair warning. This is a bawdy book out to shock and awe full of gruff mercs, spies and revolutionaries it's going to be a little rough around the edges. One thing this one has got over the first one is a fantastic cover done by Overgard himself. Much better than the first. Sadly, all of Overgard's novels (and most of his comic work) are out of print. The books can get picked up cheap enough, I have them all and now I'll have to dive into his non-Hero books which sound just as good.


Friday, January 14, 2022

QUICK SHOTS: "Silent Murder: A Team Three Case" by Chet Cunningham

My recent discovery of Irwin Zacharia's books got me to buy a big stack of other novels put out by the low-rent and possible money-laundering scheme that was Carousel. Most of the authors that wrote for Carousel didn't have much of a career after their short stint (at least as far as I know, which isn't much) save writers like Mike Newton and Chet Cunningham. If you've been knocking around the world of Men's Adventure books for any length of time you've probably ran into a book by Chet Cunningham, whether or not it was under his name. He wrote about everything, from western series like Jim Steel and Brad Spear to YA post-apocalyptic series like Turbo Cowboys to more traditional M.A. stuff like writing Mack Bolan and The Avenger series. Plus, with Mark Roberts her wrote half of The Penetrator books which are really some of my favorite Men's Adventure books, having the right balance of craziness and action. So, when I came across Cunningham's name in the Carousel back pages, I eagerly bought up the two books that comprise the "Team Three Case" series. 

I accidently read the 2nd book before the 1st one by grabbing it for waiting to get a Covid test with nothing else to read I just dove in. The basic Mod Squad-esque setup is that there's a white private eye named Ted, a Latinx ex-cop named Carmen and a black ex-cop named Barry. All together they are Team Three, get it? Together they solve mysteries. That's about it, it's a nice, uncluttered set-up. In "Silent Murder" Barry is visiting an old buddy in a small California town to see him perform at an art show where he is bizarrely murdered in front of everyone i.e., the titular silent murder. So, Barry starts poking his nose and even gets deputized to track down the killer. Carmen and Ted come up to help otherwise it'd be a Team One Case. There are attempted murders, speargun attacks, orgies, blackmail, nude modeling, a KKK douchebag, .38s, pocket .22's, firebombs, CB radios, and weirdo artists. Barry gets the most screen-time here, but that's not to say they any of them are fleshed out characters. This is a seriously short book, big print at around 150 pages and it moves lightning fast. It's really more of a mystery (though the solution is kinda easy to spot if you're old-hat at these type of things) so don't expect Cunningham in action mode. 

I enjoyed the book; it had a sleazy Cinemax does an 80's detective show vibe and I like the set-up. I'm sure they didn't pay enough for Cunningham to flesh anything out past a nice first draft so that's what he seemed to lay down. The defects are easy enough to overlook and Cunningham's no-frills style makes for fast enjoyment. He's a total pro. I'm glad I have another Team Three Case to tackle, I wonder if one of the other of the Three take front stage. A rotating lead would make sense with the set up. The Carousel books are hard and kind of pricey, I got good deal on mine, but I don't know if I'd recommend dropping too much on them. After all the cover price is $1.75, its certainly more than that in terms of thrills but not upwards of $20.

Monday, January 10, 2022

SHORTS ROUNDUP - Hugh B. Cave, E. Hoffmann Price, Manly Wade Wellman, Robert E. Howard and John Jakes

"The Evil Flame" by Justin (Hugh B. Cave) Case -- Cave is mostly known these days from his stand-alone horror work and his "Weird Tales," uh, tales. From Robert Weinberg and Stefan R. Dziemianowicz's "Hard-Boiled: 23 Great Stories from Dime Detective Magazine" I discovered his wonderful Peter Kane mysteries which have been collected a couple of times. They're a lot of hard-boiled, booze-soaked fun. Cave tells us that the "Spicy" pulp racket offered him more money to write for them, so under the tongue in cheek name "Justin Case" he did just that. A number of them are about "The Eel" who is out "gentleman correspondent" who has loose morals and an eye for the scantily clad ladies that do seem to pop up in the spicy pulps. In "The Evil Flame" he's at least pretending to be a private eye in Florida when an odd, beautiful dame asks him to help find her sister. What follows is a weird, voodoo, snake lust tale with plenty of tough guy and horror shenanigans with tons of fist fights, creepy crawlies, and night trips into the Florida swamps. The Eel is fun guy to hang around with, you know nothing about him but that just adds to the charm. The horror element was a nice surprise and I'm looking forward to the rest of The Eel tales.

"The Peacock's Shadow" by E. Hoffmann Price -- Pierre d'Artois is a bit of a forgotten occult detective from the pulps. The characters debut was right about the same time Seabury Quinn's Jules de Gardin appeared and became popular. Not wanting to seem the copycat Price discontinued his swashbuckling French paranormal investigator. It's a shame, the more I read about d'Artois the more I like him better than Gardin. d'Artois is a master swordsman and spooky adventurer who with the help of his manservant and E. Hoffmann Price-stand-in Glenn Farrell get into all manner of supernatural escapades. Having read the first story in this collection and "The Peacock's Shadow" I realize that I am in the middle of a loose novel about d'Artois battle with the Peacock King or ya know Satan. There's a Sherlock Holmes/Watson dynamic going on between Farrell and d'Artois to give him the right amount of mystery, there's mysterious stolen mummies, there's women who look exactly like ancient paintings plus blackjacks, Lugers and battle axes. It's great fun, at some point the series works its way into the Spicy Pulps which are really becoming a guilty pleasure of mine, so I can't wait for that. Wildside Press 99 cent eBook is a treasure trove (like most of their collections) and for a buck you really can't go wrong. 

"Rouse Him Not" by Manly Wade Wellman - Wellman's a helluva writer. A lot of folks prefer his "Silver John" stories, the magical man who wanders with his silver string guitar and quells supernatural evils. For me it's a toss-up, cause the tales about John Thunstone, wealthy man-about-town and monster hunter are equally as entertaining. They all exist in Wellman's own universe along with evil sorcerers like Rowley Thorne, ancient creatures like the Shonokins, and kindly Judge Pursuivant who happens to be an occult scholar. Wellman is often a rural writer, spinning yarns about what lurks in the deep woods or innocent small towns of America. It really sets him apart. "Rouse Him Not" is the last Thunstone short story he wrote (he wrote two novels after the story) appearing like 30 years after the previous one. But 'ol Thunstone is up to his old tricks poking his nose into the death of a sorcerer in the 1700's, probing an evil sinkhole and dueling with what lies beneath with his trusty silver-sword cane. It's all wrapped up quickly and efficiently, it might could have used some more meat on its bones but it's a really fine example of an old pro tingling your spine.  

SIDE NOTE: In 1988 the TV series "Monsters" adapted "Rouse Him Not" starring Laraine Newman and Alex Cord as John Thunstone. It shrank the character list, upped the sitting around talking and upped the amount of guys in rubber suits. It's a "meh" adaption of Wellman's work. It compressed the wrong things and drew out the exposition over like 20 of the 22 minutes of run time. That being said Alex Cord makes a fine John Thunstone, he's who I picture in my head when I read him and Laraine Newman really tries to make her character something, but the writing and direction let her down which probably has a lot to do with the lack of time and money I'm sure working on "Monsters" had to deal with. It's available on Amazon Prime and on YouTube. 

"Rattle of Bones" and "The Castle of the Devil" by Robert E. Howard - Howard's obviously the man. You don't create Conan the Barbarian and not be THE man, but his other creations are often lost in the Barbarian blitz. I, like a lot of high school boys, went through a Conan-phase. Blood, guts, boobs, Franzetta covers, and unrelenting adventure is a spicy combination. As I got older, I grew to prefer his other characters like Kirby O'Donnell, Sailor Steve Costigan, John Kirowan, Steve Harrison and SOLOMON KANE! I set off to read just "Rattle of Bones", but it was so short that I just found myself halfway through "The Cast of the Devil" before I knew it. Reading Howard is like potato chips, I suppose. Anywho, I'm sure I've read these stories before, but I remembered nothing of "Castle" but remembered most of "Bones. Both the tales have old grumpy-gus Solomon Kane in The Black Forrest meeting a new friends, fiends, and enemies. Plus, skeletons, spooky happenings in castles, having copious sword fights and thwarting evil at every turn. "Rattle of Bones" is a very effective, very short horror tale while "The Castle of the Devil" is a bit sluggish even in a few short pages. But sluggish Howard is still going 50 miles an hour faster than most.  

"Ghoul's Garden" by John Jakes - Speaking of Robert E. Howard...John Jakes own barbarian hero Brak may be easy to dismiss as one of the dem Conan clones that popped up in the 60's and 70's but Brak is pretty powerful stuff. You might not want to discount him too soon. John Jakes is an interesting writer, before he was simply known as a "historical epic" kind of guy he wrote everything from sci-fi to mystery and crime. His short story collection "Crime Time" is chocked full of detectives, spies and the like. Plus, the books about his diminutive private eye Johnny Havoc are a hoot. "Ghoul's Garden" is a Brak full of asshole Frairs, squat and freakish wizards, a hot actress, monsters,
 portions, spells, gore, big robot terror-birds and a maze-like garden inside a silk handkerchief. It is so jam-packed that in a lot of ways it reminded me of an 80's cartoon episode, something like "Thundarr the Barbarian" or "He-Man" only R-Rated. I hadn't read a Brak tale in a while and now I'm going to have to keep up the pace. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: The Devil's Auction by Robert E. Weinberg

I've read a few books with Robert E. Weinberg's name on the cover, but "The Devil's Auction" is the first book I've read BY him. "Tough Guys and Dangerous Dames" and "Hard-Boiled Detectives: 23 Great Stories from Dime Detective Magazine" are the cornerstones of my love of pulp fiction in general. He edited tons of anthologies, fanzines, non-fiction, books and even comics plus he owned a bookstore. My kinda guy. I've collected a lot of his fiction work over the years but hadn't ever got around to checking it out. 

"The Devil's Auction" is pure-pulp. Personally, I can think of no better compliment. What we have here is a mysterious auction held every generation in a magical house deep in the woods of Illinois (!) by a seemingly unageing man. What's up for auction? Maybe immortally, maybe something else. No one knows, after all no one ever comes back from the auction. After the murder of her sorcerer father for his invitation to the auction...by a werewolf...Valerie Lancaster enlists 'nam vet and karate-college professor Alex Warner to help avenge the death of her father/his friend. There's more werewolf attacks, a golem, magic spells, straight-out-of-B-movie characters, books of spells, talismans, sexy sex, hidden history, Countesses, bodyguards, and true love. It's jam-packed. Weinberg has a nice clean, if a bit unremarkable writing style; nothing flowery or too showy just solid workman-like prose. I often struggle with horror novels. I just really prefer my main characters to be proactive instead of reactionary. So, pulp horror is the way for me to go, capable people going up against supernatural forces and this is a good example of it. 

Though written in the 80's it really has a '40s vibe going on, in fact it might have worked better as a period piece. Outside of some modern references, the centuries old mysteries and monsters makes it feel like a lost Universal Horror picture. Or a book that could have been serialized in "Weird Tales."  Weinberg's love of pulp is clear. The action moves quickly, mysteries unfold at a reasonable rate and the characters are more archetypes than "characters" but have enough personality to root for. I'm glad I already have a Wienberg library including the sequel to this "The Armageddon Box." Plus "The Black Lodge" and "The Dead Man's Kiss." None of his books seem to be available as eBooks, but there's audio by Radio Archives and the paperbacks/hardbacks are pretty easy (and cheap) to track down. 

Monday, December 27, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: Vendetta #2: Vendetta by Irwin Zacharia

Well, my previous adventure into the small-time publisher Carousel got me to buy a fistful of slightly overpriced paperbacks. Not that I'm complaining. Money's just money but books can be priceless. So, I got some books with titles like "Mafia Rock and Roll," "The Silent Murder," "Twins in Trouble," "After the Kill," and "Mozambique Agent" headed toward my house. Surely a stack of trashy good reading. Irwin Zacharia's "Reddy or Not" was a total blast, a genre-bending tale of a sumo-wrestling Jewish private eye fighting energy vampires. I have another one "Princess of Darkness" on deck, but I wanted to check out one of his other Carousel series first before I dipped back into the Reddy series.

Okay, so this one's got the laziest title I've ever seen. The SERIES name is Vendetta, the first book in the series is named "The Murder Club," and the second entry is just named Vendetta. I've never seen the 2nd book have the series title before. Just a nice example of the slap-dash nature of low-rent publishers. Zacharia must have had an affinity for puns and puny named. I.M. Reddy or in Vendetta Will Powers. I wonder what Landsharks real name is. Will Powers is pretty standard paperback hero in the wake of Mack Bolan. He's a 'nam vet with anger issues and a slightly unsustainable lust for killin' who worked as a private eye after he got home. But now he's a "street mercenary" working for the "little guy" against the mob or other baddies. He works for money not just ideals though. He's a bit like a one man "A-Team" as played by Mike Hammer.

Anyway, "Vendetta" is about Powers taking down some mobsters on behave of a widow whose husband was unjustly murdered. After bloodily armed robbing a mob-money drop and starting a war between a few rival gangs Powers gets wrapped up in one sectaries quest to avenge her sister after a brutal attack by her mob-lawyer boss. What follows is a lot of bits of action, scenes of worried Mafioso's, gun fights, murders, Power's endless supply of silenced (nice trick) .44 Magnums blasting people away, and an explosion or two. It's clearly the second novel, as the first is referenced and there's plenty of set-up for the next (didn't happen) instalment. The biggest problem is that you don't get to spend enough time with Will Powers himself, we bounce between sets of characters and Powers swoops in every now and then to bust a cap. It's not the best way to sell a series character.

It's a "fine" book. Nothing really too exciting or interesting, it feels like Zacharia playing it straight. Keeping his wildness (as shown in the Reddy) to a minimum. Probably for marketing reasons. It's much easier to sell a book that's right down the middle as opposed to left field. There's still sparks of goofiness and tongue in cheek sprinkled throughout enough to make it entertaining. I'd still like to read the No. 1: "The Murder Club" and the rest of Zacharia's catalog, but it'll be a long hunt since I already bought a copy of all of the ones I could find. So, if you have any you want to part with I'm sure I'll buy 'em. On a side note, this particular copy has handwritten notes indicting what time a previous reader read to before they went to bed and marking exactly where the stopped. They usually went to bed around 10:45 and sometimes stopped in the middle of a sentence to get some ZZZZZ's. It might be the oddest thing I've ever seen written in a book and it's surely the work of some psycho.  

Monday, December 20, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: The Man from C.A.M.P. by Don (Victor J. Banis) Holiday

"The Man from C.A.M.P." is a 10-book series put out by Greenleaf between 1965 and 1971 all but the final book was written by Victor J. Banis under the name Don Holliday. They are pretty revolutionary books but first a little history. So, it's the late 60's and James Bond was the hot ticket. Scores of imitators arose both in cinema, T.V. and on the paperback rack. Some were stone-serious books, but as the bloom was falling off the rose the spoofs started popping up. I think a lot of people forget how big of a thing "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." was because a lot of these spy-comedy novels more closely resembled U.N.C.L.E. than Bond. I guess it's easier to poke a little fun when you have a weekly program to tune into as opposed to a two-year wait between movies. Then there's the added sucker-punch to pop culture that was the '66 Batman show suddenly it was ever-so-hip to be in on the joke. Here's a short list that is far from complete: "The Miss from S.I.S." by Robert Trailins, "The Man from O.R.G.Y." by Ted Mark, "The Lady from L.U.S.T." by Rod Gray, "The Girl from PUSSYCAT" by Ted Mark, "The Man from S.T.U.D." by F.W. Paul, "The Man from T.O.M.C.A.T." by Mallory T. Knight...and that's just a few and honestly from the samples I've they are usually pretty lifeless affairs. Bouncing from sometimes real weird sex-scenes to limp second-thought action. If you get a "Coxeman" by Michael Avallone you're in for a good time and Clyde Allison's "The Man from SADISTO" books are pure lunacy in a great way, but pas that I haven't found any to justify their usual high prices. 

I discovered "The Man from C.A.M.P." via the SADISTO books' cover artist, the wonderful Robert Bonfils who did covers for both series. The man from C.A.M.P. himself is Jackie Holmes, a millionaire with a fleet of bitchin' vintage cars, is a master of disguise, a crime-fighting organization behind him, a killer poodle, a jeweled derringer and vast knowledge on anything that might come up. He's also gay and on the prowl. Jackie was the first gay man action hero and still really only one of a few to this day. He's a fun-loving character, he really struck me as a combination of Doc Savage and Napolean Solo as played by Peter (Jason King) Wyngarde. C.A.M.P. is a one of those general crime-fighting agencies that populate paperback books. C.A.M.P. works with other government agencies when there's a threat to gays worldwide ready for any threat. Jackie's apart of their "Police Bureau" and with a little help from his friends in the first book he teams up with T-Man to track down a synthetic diamond ring that's involved with the gay community. Along the way there's car chases in vintage Bugatti's, gun fights, torture, drugging's, tons of gadgets, fist fights, helicopters seedy bars and hair stylists. Banis keeps things moving a brisk pace, dropping action, clues and red herrings with aplomb. And yes, considering these are sleaze "porn" books there is a few scenes of gay sex and much like a Bond novel Jackie always gets his "reward" at the end of the book which is usually his straight partner. It's all very tame by today's standards but it's there, I suppose that's enough to turn some people away which is a prudish shame cause it's really a small part of the novel. 

It's clear this book was written quickly. It has a stream-of-consciousness vibe going on, but it's done in such a fun, camp (get it?) and pop art way that it's a total blast. It's an important series too, I'm sure plenty of gay men back in the day absolutely loved having an unabashedly gay hero for themselves. Past that it's one of the better written of the spy-spoofs of the era, easily ranking with Clyda Allison's top-shelf SADISTO books. I read the first one in an omnibus that came out a few years ago as the originals have a hefty price tag. But the omnibus is a great package with extras like interviews and forwards explaining all of this a lot better than I can. The whole series (the Banis ones anyway) has been either reprinted in collections or as separate editions for eBook and print-on-demand, so they are at least easily readable. Obviously, it's probably not a book for everyone, if you like your spy's serious and/or straight and can't budge on either, you're missing out. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

QUICK SHOTS: Gannon #1: Blood for Breakfast by Dean Ballenger

 

The Gannon books are fairly legendary in Men's Adventure/Trash fiction circles. Hard to come by, absolutely insane and balls-to-the-wall entertaining. There's nothing quite like a Gannon book. Dean Ballenger only wrote a handful of novels, three of which are about this little "tiger" of a man with his revolver and spiked-knucks taking a bite of the rich folks for the common man. A blue-collar avenger. They are the sleaziest, most violent, batshit B-Movie that never made it to the grindhouses on 42nd street. They are Gannon. 

Either Ballenger was putting us on, or he was a dude you probably didn't actually want to meet. Little to nothing is known about him (that I can find, as always let me know what you know) other than he wrote some westerns and some stuff in the sweat mags of the day. In #1 Gannon is on a quest to skrag everyone involved in a brutal attack on his sister. He's got a quick and vague background as a Marine, cop and present security chef for a shipping yard. Other then he likes steaks and need to boink women at regular intervals you learn pretty much nothing about him. He does come from the Mike Hammer school of maim or kill and call the cops as opposed to the Johnny Rock school of kill everyone and split. He doesn't consider himself a psychopath, but that there is open to debate. The novel moves real fast, hoping from beatings, shootings, explosions, hit-and-runs, blood, sexing, and shaving and showers. It's almost episodic in a way, Gannon gets in a scrape and then extricates himself in the most violent way possible. The guts-and-gore is cranked up to ELEVEN in the books. That and the odd, 30's-40's (or just plain made up) slang adds to the fantasy quality to the novel. It just seems like a whiskey and uppers fever dream pounded out into a book for a couple of bucks. That being said it's a masterpiece in that sub-genre. Now, it's not for the faint of heart of the easily offended. I read the trashiest stuff and some of the sentences in "Blood for Breakfast" were hard to take in. Sometimes nastiness oozes out from the binding. Plus, personally I have toast for breakfast.

A lot of these type of vigilante books are made of two-camps. You got the straight knockoffs of "The Executioner" like "The Marksman" or "Soldato" or "The Liquidator" or you got the ones that are really aping Brian Garfield's "Death Wish," like "The Vigilante," or "The Revenger" doing a more 'serious' approach. They both usually tackle the mob. Gannon isn't really in either camp. Ballenger's opinion is that white-collar crooks are the ones who really need to be taught a lesson. The Mafia? Eh. It's all out class warfare. It's a kinda half-ass communist manifesto. And in terms of brutal action only Russell Smith's entries in "The Sharpshooter" and "The Marksman" are close. Barry Malzberg's "Lone Wolf" books may get fairly crazy, but I'm only one in so far. They are for a small handful of wild-book-people whose taste has long since gotten washed away by mountains of questionable fiction. That or the violent, criminally insane maybe. 

It's easy to see why some many people talk about the Gannon books, from James Reasoner on his blog, to the Glorious Trash or even the awesome filmmaker S. Craig Zahler on his Goodreads page. It's a notable book that's so off-the-wall that it would not be written today and will probably never be republished making it an enticing package. Like having the Ferrari trash fiction. They are ridiculously hard to come by. I lucked into the 2nd entry and felt compelled to finish off the series. It took me so penitence and doing but I got them all for a fairly reasonable price but well-more then I usually pay for an old paperback. Like a drug, I don't know if I'd recommend the Gannon books to someone without a cheap taste, cause they are not for everyone. I love that I have them and I'm sad there's only one more to read but mileage varies.