Thursday, December 29, 2022

QUICK SHOTS: Bats Out of Hell by Guy N. Smith

It was love at first sight when I first discovered the work of Guy N. Smith. Gruesome deaths, pulp characters, giant monsters and all other sorts of horror tropes flowing from the pen of one man who knew what I liked in a horror novel: a short bloody page count. He's a man who wrote the book versions of the B-Movies of my teenage (and all years after) years, horror without pretension. Obviously, I discovered him through his Crabs series but the more I read his other works the more I appreciate his own unique brand of pulp monster mayhem. Though I love them now, I surely would have been head-over-heels if I had read them at 14. Ah, missed opportunities. 

"Night of the Crabs" followed in the wake of James Herbet's "The Rats," but like any good paperback writer, once he had some success, he kept the pages flowing. So, more crabs and more other rampaging animals. Enter: Bats. Using the same template that made "Crabs" a success "Bats Out of Hell" is a different animal (pun intended) with different set up and execution. 

The set-up is simple Professor Brian Newman is working on some science stuff and accidently creates a big 'ol nasty virus that lives instead of the bats he works with. Cue a nasty accident involving cheating on his girlfriend and a bout of being a real asshole (trademark Guy N. Smith) he knocks the cage over and lets the bats out. Doh. What comes next is MASSIVE TERRIBLE DEATHS told in short vignettes as England is overrun by the plague that the bats carry. All the while Brian and his lady-friend try and fail to come up with an antidote. The vignettes show us the mayhem and bloodshed that the bats cause. It racks up the body count but leave our main characters intact for as long as possible. Smart horror writing, right there.

The book almost turn into a post-apocalyptic novel as things keep getting worse and then it wraps up...or does it? I mean, don't go in expecting anything but a fun monster book and you'll be in for a nice couple of hours. Guy N. Smith's work grows on you, I remember being slightly confused by the fractured, sometimes abrupt style at first. But a couple of his books later I find myself craving it. It's the British version of the cheap horror paperback that is perfect for my tastes. Besides Guy N. Smith won a pipe smoking contest. What more do you want from an author?

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

QUICK SHOTS: Track #4: The Hard Way by Jerry Ahern

Jerry Ahern was one of the big names in the 80's when it came to Men's Adventure. He was a REAL PERSON to boot, not a house name which considering his output is impressive. But to be fair it seems like he kept it in the family having help from his wife Sharon. On top of all of the M.A. fiction, he regularly wrote for gun magazines and non-fiction work. Busy fella. 

He's probably most known for the post-apocalyptic series "The Survivalist" but I've never sampled that one. My favorite series is his books as Axel Kilgore "They Call Me Mercenary" which are some of the most fun 80s tales of mercs on missions outside of "The A-Team." His other series "The Takers" interests me and I'm sure I would have read it before now, but they are simply really fat books. Every time I think about picking them up off the shelve, I see all the skinny books that I could breeze through. Gotta keeps this blog-content up, folks. 

But "The Takers" are why I choose Track #4 to be my first Track novel. See it's a Gold Eagle-crossover novel where the stars of "The Takers" Josh Culhane and Fanny Mulrooney end up meeting Dan Track for an adventure at a Men's Adventure Writing Conference that turns into a total "Die Hard" scenario. Couldn't resist that.

I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere (don't quote me) that the Track books were Ahern's least favorite of his own work which always stopped me from picking one up, even though over the years I pretty much ended up owning the whole series without trying. Dan Track is one of those vigilante crime-fighter for shadowy organization who goes around and troubleshoots. He's a perfectly fine character, with more liveliness than a lot of series heroes, but I can see where Ahern was coming from if he counted it as his least favorite series. 

Because though the book stars Dan Track it only really picks up when Culhane, Mulrooney and the motley crew of adventure writers are on the page and when Track's front and center your counting pages until you can get back to the rest. Though Track's banter with his buddy George is pretty fun. This really felt like a Cannon Films movie where Chuck Norris played Track and Michael Dudikoff played George. It's got a straightforward plot, terrorists in hotel with Track outside coming in with blazing guns and the authors playing John McClane inside. Ahern's a total pro when it comes to the banter and action so the pages just flip on by.

Like I said before, Ahern wrote for gun magazines and was an expert on guns, knives and holsters. SO...there's a lot of "gun-porn." I don't mind the constant refences to model numbers and holster brands. I'll take it any day over some of the ballistic mathematics in other series. And at least Ahern knew his stuff so it's not all made-up crap. If you don't have a tolerance for "gun-porn" Ahern's stuff probably isn't for you.

Track #4 made me want to read his Taker novels more than the continuing adventures of Dan Track. Not saying I never will but I'm sure I'll pull out a Hank Frost adventure or "WerewolveSS" over it. This one is a lot of fun, the bickering authors tackling terrorists with machine guns and gumption is a special kind of treat for the Men's Adventure Fan. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Quick Shots: Bronson #2: Streets of Blood by Philip (Len Levinson) Rawls


The Bronson books are sorta infamous in the world of M.A. fiction for their blatant Charles Bronson/"Death Wish" swiping. There was a fair share of "Death Wish"-riffing back in the 70s, but none were so bold to steal Charlie's name for it. The series was started by an unknown author, but the next two (and final) were written by Len Levinson and Joseph Chadwick, respectively. I've never tracked down the first book, but from what it sounds like a total weirdo wrote it and it's pretty much all rebooted here with #2. Manor Books ran a tight ship, people.

Len Levinson is a helluva writer. I've never been disappointed with a book with his name on the cover or hidden behind one of those "house names." He can seemingly write anything (often does) and while staying within the framework of series or style he's writing in; he can inject enough of his own personality to bring something special to the book. "Shark Fighter" is not only one of my top two favorite Men's Adventure novels, but also its grown to be just one of my favorite anything's. Before you ask, my other favorite Men's Adventure books is "The Death of the Fuhrer" by Ronald Puccetti. 

So, Len (can I call you that?) yeah, so Len just kind of did his own thing with "Streets of Blood" and besides sharing the same character name with #1: "Blind Rage" this is a new start for the series. Chadwick apparently followed Len's book for #3. There you go folks who HAVE to start with the first book in a series, if you happen to have "Streets of Blood" but not "Blind Rage," do yourself a favor and immediately read this AWESOME BOOK!

Richard Bronson is BRONSON. He's an engineer whose wife and kids were murdered in the first book who's taken to being a street level-vigilante. He's got a Browning Hi-Power (noice) with a silencer, a sawed-off shotgun and years of training as a Green Beret in 'Nam to get by with. And boy does he. The action in "Streets of Blood" is sporadic, but it's interspersed with fun character work. And when the action does show up it is told cleanly and violently. The main crux of the novel is that Bronson eventually kills the wrong mugger and ends up with a Mafia contract on his head. Meanwhile a badass cop is on his tail, also on his tail is the foxy model that lives next door. Problems, huh?

I read this one in nearly one sitting, the pages just flew by. Bronson is a fairly nice guy who a vigilante and you can see why the other characters stick their necks out for him. The mafia bad-guys are solid mafia-bad guys, and the muggers are appropriately slimy. There's solid doses of 70s throughout and the patent crazy side-characters in a Levinson book. It's interesting because Len's work on The Sharpshooter series treads similar ground, but Bronson is a lot different. Whereas Johnny Rock a/k/a The Sharpshooter is mostly a crazed killer, Bronson is pretty level-headed...except for the killing bad dude's thing. 

Unfortunately, this is one of those EXPENSIVE paperbacks that I review here. I came up lucky a while back and found my copy for fairly cheap online. Somewhere in the $10-$15 range. I also remember I received it during a move, and it got delivered to my old house and I had to go do a little "porch pirating" to retrieve it. A clandestine mission for sure. A lot of Len's stuff has been reprinted and is easily picked up, so at least go read "Shark Fighter" or his new memoir "In the Pulp Fiction Trenches." Or anything really.