Stuff I’ve been reading: an update.

I figure it’s about time to crawl out of my hole and do a little posting. As I mentioned last time, I am behind in my reviewing responsibilities (heh, “responsibilities”), so here is an update on what I’ve read recently. There’s actually more, but the other things I’ve been reading are non-fiction how-to kinds of things. Stuff like cookbooks, exercise books, etc, and I guess that stuff can keep for awhile. So, without further adieu, here we go:

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Nazi Hunter #2: Slaughter Summit by Mark Mandell
(Pinnacle, 1982)

He was born a German during a time he couldn’t be proud of, and his belief in human justice drove him to become the…NAZI HUNTER.

Nazi Hunter was a series of action novels in the ’80s and I don’t know too much about it. I don’t even know if Mark Mandell is a pseudonym, a house name or what. The only mention I can find of this series is from Zwolf at The Mighty Blowhole. But I understand there are several volumes of this series. I might not go searching for them, but if I find ’em I’m gonna read ’em because Slaughter Summit, second in the series, was pretty good.

Curt Jaeger (by the way, jaeger or jäger means “hunter” auf Deutsche. Clever, huh?) was a war orphan, born in Germany but raised by an American couple. After becoming a captain in the US Army, Jaeger discovered the truth about this origin: his father is still alive, is a Nazi war criminal and murdered Curt’s mother! Thus begins Jaeger’s quest to avenge his mother’s death and end his father’s Nazi evil once and for all.

In Slaughter Summit, Curt, now out of the army and on his own, gets the heads-up from Israeli intelligence that Curt’s father is running a Nazi operation in the guise of an innocent ski resort. The Israelis plan to raid this resort, but Curt knows that the lives of many tourists and innocent ski-bunnies will be endangered, so he convinces them to let him go to the resort undercover, but you can guess how this turns out. For some reason, fictional good guys are never very good at being undercover.

Slaughter Summit had some pretty good thrills and plenty of action, but not much in the sex department. While at the ski resort Curt meets a hot-to-trot Texan cutie who interested in getting to know Curt a little better, but Curt is all business. Anyway, I’d be interested to know who Mark Mandell really is/was because Slaughter Summit was pretty well-written.

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Tracker #3: Blood Money by Ron Stillman
(Diamond, 1991)
Joe Kenney at his blog Glorious Trash calls this late-era action series “the dumbest damn bunch of books”he’s ever read, and I have to say that I agree. But where he feels that reading this series borders on the masochistic, I kind of got a kick out of it. No doubt about it, Tracker is a frickin’ stupid-ass series. It’s a Saturday morning cartoon, but with more sex and violence. It is so ridiculous that I have to imagine that it’s spoof or a joke or something. But even clever satires give subtle winks and nods to indicate that they’re not serious Tracker does not. I have to conclude that the writer of the Tracker series either a) really thought this shit was cool, or b) just didn’t give a damn. Either way, the result is hilarious.

The Tracker series follows the adventures Nathaniel Hawthorne “Natty” Tracker. Tracker was raised by native Americans so he’s an expert tracker and outdoorsman. He’s also a fighter pilot–former fighter pilot, that is. He was blinded in a car wreck, but that’s okay because he made some goggle-things that restored his sight and added other enhanced features. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that he’s an inventor and a millionaire and has some real boss rides like classic Corvettes. The chicks dig him. The bad guys fear him. He now works sort of freelance for the U.S. government and the POTUS is his BFF, apparently, always keeping tabs on him via a comm-link implanted in his eyes. The book never said explicitly, but I think it reasonable to conclude that his shit does not stink.

Anyhow, the whole thing is just so outrageous that I’ll just leave you with some excerpts that I thought were pretty funny.

[after saving his girlfriend Dee–and slaughtering a bunch of bad guys]:

“Natty, you saved my life,” she said, “but I’m an officer of the court, and you shot three of them dead. I feel strange, I mean, I know that they wanted to kill me…”

Natty held up his finger and shushed her, “I understand. Honey, I’m allowed to kill people. It’s exactly like a war situation.”

“You are allowed?” she asked. “I won’t ask anymore questions. I know that you are very, very powerful in Washington. I’m just glad that you’re on our side.

[Tracker, now blinded again, floats on aircraft crash debris toward a deserted island. A shark has bitten off a large chunk of his leg and he tries to stir his resolve]:

The sun was beating down on Natty, and he awakened in horrible pain. He had a dull throbbing headache and nausea. His leg felt as if it were in a mangled twist of wreckage. Tracker reached down and felt the calf, and it made him shudder. Natty started sobbing. He threw his head back and hit it on the plexiglass and cried.

“You fucking asshole!” he screamed out loud. “You can’t afford to have a pity party!”

He ate the two candy bars.

[after having a chunk of his leg bit off by a shark, being stranded on a deserted island and waking from a coma, Tracker takes some R&R and recovers in the wild with his Native American grandfather]:

They built a reflector fire against some rocks above the timberline overlooking Hayden Pass and spent the night there, sleeping very little but talking a great deal. Both witnessed what they agreed was the sighting of a UFO in the distance.

(which has nothing to do with anything)

[Tracker gets friendly with the beautiful wife of the main bad guy and she falls in love with him and– in case you can’t tell– she’s from Spain]:

“Thees ees crazy,” she said, frustrated. “Why am I theenking of thees? How do I know I can trus’ you?”

(oh, yeah. She talks like that the whole time!)

By the way, Ron Stillman is actually Don Bendell, who has written a bunch of other stuff, but I would not necessarily judge his writing based on this series. Anyway, I hope to find more of this Tracker series because they are hilarious, albeit unintentionally.


American Assassin by Vince Flynn
(Atria Books, 2010)
Vince Flynn is often mentioned in the same sentence as author Brad Thor, which is a shame because Brad Thor kinda sucks and, from what I can tell by reading American Assassin, Vince Flynn doesn’t. They both write thrillers featuring secret agent types, terrorists, etc. and are both of a politically conservative bent but Flynn doesn’t seem to wear his politics on his sleeve like Thor does. After reading Thor’s Hidden Order I wondered if I was a reading a thriller or a Tea Party rant.

Anyhow, I’m not one to let an author’s political views get in the way of my enjoyment of their writing, not unless it’s in your face soapboxing. Flynn is probably a good deal more conservative than I am (since I don’t consider myself at all conservative), but he can write a pretty exciting novel and that’s really what counts (as a side note, Flynn has mentioned that Bill Clinton is a big fan!).

American Assassin is the first of Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series I’ve read, which, I guess, is a good starting point since it’s a prequel, detailing CIA super agent Mitch Rapp’s recruitment into “The Company” and his first few missions. Overall it’s paced well and is an engrossing spy thriller. Interestingly, although the novel seems to endorse government-sanctioned assassination for the “greater good” (in this case, fighting terrorism) with Rapp being trained from the get-go as an assassin, the good guys are almost as screwed up psychologically as the terrorists they fight. For example, Rapp’s trainer, Stan Harley, a veteran CIA cold warrior (and one of the most interesting characters in the book) is an alcoholic, right-wing nutjob that would give G. Gordon Liddy nightmares, but has a soft spot for dogs, which became a slight issue when Rapp threatened to cut out the eye of a bad guy’s prize poodle to get him to talk. These guys are brutal men in brutal work and I guess they’re bound to get twisted in some manner or another. So while Flynn seems to approve of many of the tactics favored by the extreme right, it is, at the same time, somewhat of a critique.

But whatever. American Assassin is a beach read and pretty good for what it is. My only real complaint is that I don’t buy that Rapp turned into such a hot-shot, cold-blooded assassin so fast, like right out of college, where he was a star lacrosse player. They seemed to say he was something of a physical and mental freak of nature. Seems like a convenient and not too plausible way to introduce the character, but hey, it’s just a BDAM (Big Dumb Action Movie). Oh, and I think the copy editor must have been drunk because there were an abundance of errors.

Give American Assassin a try, see what you think. I’ve pretty much written off Thor, but Flynn’s staying on my radar, at least for the time being.

(As a side note, Flynn died June 19, 2013 at the young age of 47 from cancer, something I found out not long after I read this book).


Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
(Vertigo, 2012)
While a teenage nerd in the ’80s, I was mostly into the Marvel Universe, especially the X-Men, so I missed out on a lot of the great stuff going on over at DC to push the envelope of comics, bringing the medium out of the realm of juvenile entertainment and into the public eye as an art form suited to handle “mature” topics (and by “mature” I don’t mean simply sex, violence and cussing).

Black Orchid, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean, was one of these titles I missed and just now picked up in this 2012 edition collecting the three issues first published in 1988. From what I gather, Black Orchid, remarkably, has never been out of print since its first publication. Perhaps not so remarkable, though, because Black Orchid is a beautiful work, worthy of its longevity.

In Black Orchid, Gaiman takes a relatively minor superhero crime fighter, the Black Orchid, and turns the tables on typical superhero tropes, bringing the costumed crime fighter from the previous era in which they were simply symbols of truth and justice into the modern era in which superheroes struggle to balance their symbolic roles with their own inherent human frailties. While Black Orchid is the story of a woman’s quest to discover her identity, it is also a wide-reaching setup for a grittier mood of the DC Universe in general. Batman, Swamp Thing and other familiar faces make their appearances, but in Gaiman’s and McKean’s vision, this world of superheroes, supervillains and superhuman powers has no four-color palette. It runs the spectrum from twisted grittiness to haunting beauty, perfectly reflected in Dave McKean’s masterful artwork.

Black Orchid is weird and beautiful and a landmark work; a must-read for any fan of sequential art. By the way, here’s a pretty good (and long) write up of this title at sequart.org.

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