Search This Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2011

GI Joe: The Complete Story of America's Favorite Man of Action

My experience with GI Joe goes back to the age of five. Somebody bought me one for Christmas or a birthday--a 12 inch plastic dude with a scar and a beard in an orange jumpsuit. The box he came in told me he was a smoke jumper, but a picture on the box showed him in a different uniform carrying a medical bag next to a toy ambulance, so I knew he was a paramedic, too. Having no knowledge of word or phrase origins at the time, I simply accepted that "GI Joe" meant a scarred, bearded, smoke-jumping paramedic.

When my big brother explained what smoke-jumping was, I decided to make a parachute for Joe out of some of my mother's yarn and plastic from a bread wrapper. As a feat of engineering, my effort was a bust. That brilliantly designed parachute just wouldn't deploy, no matter how many times I chucked Joe into the air . And that's how I lost him. I found him again later, but the dogs had found him first. Joe was a hideously mutilated wad of peach-colored plastic. So ended my hands-on experience with GI Joe.

About 10 years later I still hadn't quite become fascinated with word and phrase origins, but I did have a keen interest in history and popular culture from bygone ages. I was also on my way to becoming a World War II buff. So I was starting to read the term "GI," always in military contexts, and accepted it as just linguistic coincidence. But then, when reading about war movies, I came across a review of one titled "The Story of GI Joe." The review (with some production stills) convinced me that this was a film set in WWII about the rigors of combat. I couldn't, for the life of me, imagine how that scarred, bearded, smoke-jumping paramedic in orange coveralls could be the star of such a film.

My epiphany came while reading a Silver Age DC comic from the days of Batmania. I encountered a full-page ad about GI Joe, who, in those black & white days of yesteryear, was a real, honest-to-gosh GI! My first reaction was, "Aha! No wonder he's called GI--that's what he was before he grew a beard, put on an orange jumpsuit and became a smoke-jumping paramedic." My next reaction was, "Cool! Why couldn't he have been a real GI back when I still played with toys?"

The ad photo showed Joe in uniforms from every branch of service, and I thought they were all nifty. The soldier and marine were decked out for combat (the marine had a camo cover for his helmet while the soldier did not--WWII was still THE conflict that came to mind when the subject of war came up back then, I guess) with rifles and web gear; the sailor had his snazzy crackerjack outfit on, and the Air Force Joe had a flight suit on, oxygen mask, etc, and was climbing into a scale model fighter plane. Man, all the imaginary heroics I missed out on!

Many years later Hasbro released some throwback Joes--not the little two-inch (or whatever) fantasy characters Hollywood recently made a movie about, but 12-inch, fully articulated fighting men from specific units...some were even specific servicemen (like Dorrie Miller, complete with anti-aircraft gun at Pearl Harbor, on his way to earning the Navy Cross). Try as I might, though, I couldn't justify to myself spending money on any of that. What I did spend my money on, though, was this book that tells Joe's story.

One of the guys at Hasbro got to reading an encyclopedia, and his son became fascinated at all the different medals listed therein. That's where the seed was planted. Toy soldiers have been around probably as long as real soldiers have, and now at Hasbro, plans went forward to develop a toy soldier for the 20th Century.

One of the toy Moguls involved in the Barbie line lent them some business advice that stuck: "First you sell them the razor, then they have to keep buying the blades." Or something like that. With Barbie, little girls got the doll one time, but turned Mattel into a toy empire buying accessories for it (different clothes, purses, doll houses, etc.). This was a perfect strategy for Hasbro, too, since Joe could be any flavor of GI a boy wanted him to be: deep-sea diver; scuba diver; pilot; astronaut; grunt with rifle; submachinegun; flamethrower... And speaking of Barbie, Hasbro was adamant that their new toy was for boys, and should never be called a doll. This is when, where and how the term "action figure" sprang into the American vocabulary.

I chuckled when I read how Hasbro settled on his name. There were only three TV stations to choose from in any given city back in the early 1960s, and it turns out that during the period when they were agonizing over a name for their serviceman, one night, with no planned coordination among them, the members of the Hasbro think-tank all wound up watching the same movie: The Story of GI Joe. The next morning, they unanimously decided to adopt Ernie Pyle's (the movie was based on his war correspondence) catchy euphemism for their entire "action figure" line. In a cockeyed way, this part of the tale gave me a sort of personal connection, having read about that film years before and pondered the title.

There are many interesting tidbits revealed in this book, like how Joe's backward thumbnail came to be and why they kept it; how they designed his face; and how they staged that picture of the fighter plane I mentioned above. The reason behind Joe's transformation from a GI into a smoke-jumping paramedic in the 1970s is explained in the book, though hardly a mystery to anyone who knows anything of those times. It can be summed up in one geographical name: Viet Nam. (And had Joe not burned his draft card, grown a beard and put on an orange jump suit, my mother probably never would have allowed me to own such a toy. So Hasbro's demilitarization was a wise move, I suppose. Sigh. Pragmatism...)

The book takes Joe up into the fantasy paramilitary organization of the 1980s, complete with cartoons and comic books, and it's all an interesting read if you have an interest in toys, business marketing, or pop-culture.

In many ways the evolution of GI Joe mirrors the mental journey of the boys who first played with him. Their fathers and uncles had saved the world from the Axis in "the war" (WWII), and as children they idolized fighting men, and thought it great fun to simulate war in their bedrooms or back yards. Then they saw their big brothers drafted and sent overseas to kill and die for a cause nobody could, or would, define. When big brother came home, it wasn't to tickertape parades and universal gratitude from the folks on the home front, but to Marxist protestors spitting on them, calling them war criminals, baby-killers, murderers. Often big brother came home in a wheelchair or a body bag.

I won't go into all the cultural conditioning undergone by the baby boomers. There was a lot of it. But between that and the natural process of maturation that transforms men in every culture, war ceased to be an opportunity for unlimited adventure, and became a gruesome, smelly nightmare. The military went from an being an honorable profession and a patriotic duty to a brutally half-witted dictatorship dedicated to crushing personal liberty. (I suppose there's some truth in all those perceptions.)

GI Joe probably came on the scene a decade too late for his own good. Yet his is a household name, connoting different images to different people and different generations. To Ernie Pyle, GI Joe was an everyman in uniform, a regular Joe (pun intended) thrown into the trenches to fight for his life. To the young boys of the 1960s, GI Joe was a cool, heroic warrior, fighting in noble conflicts of whatever scale their imaginations dictated (and whatever accessories their parents could bankroll). To my generation, he was a smoke-jumping paramedic with a beard, an orange jumpsuit, and Kung Fu Grip. To later generations he was a member of a secret paramilitary government organization thwarting COBRA's quest for world domination. In my opinion, the later incarnations merely hijacked the brand name, and bear little resemblance to what GI Joe was intended to be.

There's a whole lot of cultural commentary Joe could make after studying America through his plastic, painted eyeballs, too.

Some men remember  the true GI Joe fondly. Some despise him because of what they feel he represents. But wind the clock back far enough and he was a loyal comrade, indefatiguable personification of their own warrior spirit, or an imaginary friend, to almost all of them.

Thanks, Joe.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Interview with Reflexive Fire Author Jack Murphy

Today I'm sharing a Q&A with fellow action-adventure author Jack Murphy. In my last blog post I reviewed his debut novel, which follows our hero Deckard as he commands a Private Military Company in Asia and, ultimately, takes on a sinister power structure that makes Ian Fleming's SPECTRE seem like...well, a fictional conspiracy.
2FB: So tell us about Deckard: What would his resume read like? More importantly, how would you describe his personality, motivations, etc.?  Assuming he has time off in between jobs, how does he like to spend it and where does he go?
JACK MURPHY: As far as his professional and personal background, I leave that fairly murky.  This was done intentionally in order to reveal a little more about him with each book.  I hope it doesn't tick readers off but I think it is interesting to develop a character over the course of several books, revealing more about him within the plot of each novel.  However, even in Reflexive Fire we learn a little bit more about him as we get deeper into the book.
Deckard comes from a military background and at some point was recruited into the world of covert operations, but somewhere along the way he had a falling out with certain governmental agencies and now plies his trade as a freelance operative, working mostly singleton operations in the far corners of the world.  In terms of personality he is a little odd, you'd have to be in order to do his job, and somewhat obsessive.  He is the type of soldier who went far too deep to ever return to "normal" life, I don't think there is any turning back for him.  Despite this, Deckard is a reasonable human being; he lives by a certain code and has lines that he won't cross.  What does he do in his down time?  I don't think he even knows what to do with himself during those moments and probably indulges himself until he can't take the boredom anymore.
In terms of motivation, well, if there is any doubt in the reader's mind by the end of the book, Deckard's final words in the novel will leave no doubt as to why he does what he does.
2FB: How long have you been carrying this guy around in your imagination? Where did he come from? By that I mean, is he based on a real person, completely fabricated or somewhere in between?
JACK MURPHY: I've been writing this character off and on since I was in High School, so well over a decade now.  Deckard has evolved and changed somewhat as I have, but the core of the character remains the same.  Deckard isn't completely fabricated, he encompasses the experiences of a number of real soldiers but he is also fictionalized as someone like him could never actually exist within any military command structure.  Maybe that's why he is a freelancer now...
2FB: I have a pretty good idea what your influences are/were; but you might as well share them here.
JACK MURPHY: I grew up reading Mack Bolan and similar novels, so from the standpoint of action-adventure writing I would say the Don Pendleton and Robert E. Howard are two authors I've always wanted to emulate.  I don't think I'm even close to touching those two men in terms of talent but I'm going to keep trying!
Many readers will scoff at this but I'm also influenced by certain video games.  I found that many of these games have plot lines that are far more innovative and edgy than what is to be found on book shelves, more sophisticated as well.  Games like Deus Ex, Assassin's Creed, and even the Call of Duty games ratchet up the intensity in the action genre and set the bar quite a bit higher for any aspiring writer.
Besides that, my own experiences are probably the biggest influence on my writing.  Deckard is a fictional character but of course much of my personality is in there as well.  Some of my experiences and observations are expressed through many of my characters.  Eight years in Army Special Operations units did have an impact on me, larger than I thought when looking at it in retrospect.
2FB: I think I remember you saying you had a sequel or 2 in mind. Would you like to see this become a long-running series like the Executioner, or something with a limited run?
JACK MURPHY: It really depends on what readers want.  I've already been working deeply on my other series, PROMIS, which is about Deckard's father.  He was a 'Nam vet turned mercenary who fought in Rhodesia and elsewhere so I get to cover all those nasty forgotten conflicts that happened in the final years of the cold war.  That said I do plan on writing more Deckard novels, at least a trilogy.
2FB: I communicate with an SADF veteran who pulls security gigs around Africa. He suggested I write a novel dealing with piracy. With recent developments around Somalia, I've certainly  been considering it. In fact, Mack Maloney's current series is about pirate hunters, as discussed in Hatchet Force. Will Deckard be  going in that direction soon? Do I need to keyboard-race you to see who does it first? ("First" being relative to us.)
JACK MURPHY: I've already written the first five chapters of the sequel to Reflexive Fire, it takes place in Mexico so you are safe for now.  However, I recently bought the Maritime Sniper Manual for research purposes so watch your back!  I definitely see Deckard tackling piracy sometime in the future.  There are so many overlooked aspects of that issue that I think it can make for a great story.
2FB: You were deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. If my math is correct, you served for about 8 years--some of it in a Ranger battalion, some of it in Special Forces. As you were doing your job over there, did you know you were going to try to get published when you were done? Did you consciously store ideas, scenes you'd like to put in a story, little tidbits that would be good for a novel in some compartment of your mind?
JACK MURPHY: I wrote very little when I was in the military, just a couple short stories.  I kept some stuff in the back of my head for sure but didn't have any elaborate plan for getting published.  It wasn't until I got out of the Army last year and started to discover the world of e-readers and self publishing that I really resolved to sit down and write a full blown Deckard novel.  Now that I’m writing, albeit in a fictional manner, I do strive to include the details that make the story more authentic, especially the randomness that happens in the chaos of combat.  It is somewhat hard to incorporate that into a novel because fiction has to make sense while reality doesn’t.
2FB: Did you read when you had downtime--between missions; in base camp; on pass; etc.? If so, what kinds of books did you try to get your hands on? Also, did your comrades give you hell for doing that instead of getting plastered and chasing whatever tail was rumored to be accessible?
JACK MURPHY: I probably read a small library while I was in the military.  You know the saying, "Hurry up and wait."  Even when working overseas with a high op-tempo there is a decent amount of time to screw off.  Wander around the PX, hit the gym, and then you have to find something to do.  I read both fiction and non-fiction.  I think reading non-fiction, about geo-politics and how America fights (or doesn't fight) modern wars, was partially what led to me leaving the military, actually.
I recall my Squad Leader being pretty blown away with how many books I'd tear through but no one ever gave me a hard time about it.  Sometimes you can even pass books on to other soldiers.  In Special Forces selection you are given lots of downtime, it is part of the selection process to see who cracks up by internalizing their doubts while sitting in the barracks.  I read a great book called In Secret Mongolia, a travel memoir written by a Dane in the 1920s and passed it off to another candidate who ended up really enjoying it.
As far as the latter activities, don't worry, I imbued more than enough times to make up for my reading.
2FB: What are some of your pet peeves as a reader? IOW, what do authors do that turn you off?
JACK MURPHY: In no particular order:
-Authors who have their female protagonist raped repeatedly throughout their novel in a pornographic manner.  Strangely, it seems that it is always female writers who do this
-False advertising.  Novels that are made out to be about adventure but turn out to be about shopping and nail care.
-Overly cynical or nihilistic protagonists.  This seems prevalent in our genre, the mentality that the ends justifies any means.  Among men in our culture that sort of attitude is seen as being "tough".  I disagree.
2FB: Shopping and nail care? You don't find that adventurous? Thankfully I have not read any purported A/A with that specific flaw. Haven't read the pornographic rape scenes, either (that sounds pretty disturbing). But then I all but gave up on mainstream fiction years ago.
The sister question is, what do you like or love to find in a work of fiction? What wins you over, and what do you look for in a book?
JACK MURPHY: More than anything, for me, I look for the atmosphere of a novel.  A sense of something that is hard to put your finger on, you just know that you are reading some really edgy material due to a number of factors that work together to create or evoke a feeling in the reader.
As a jaded action junkie, I want to see something new and exciting.  Show me edgy characters, a sophisticated plotline, and avoid the cliches and you've probably got me hooked.
2FB: Any books in the To Be Written list you'd like to mention?
JACK MURPHY: I'm currently working on the second issue of PROMIS which has blown up into a novella rather than a short story that takes the protagonist through the final years of the Rhodesian bush war.  Somewhere in between issues I'd like to continue working on the sequel to Reflexive Fire.  As I said, it really depends on which project I get stronger feedback on.
2FB: Finally, here's your chance to plug your published work and tell us how to find it.
JACK MURPHY: Reflexive Fire is hot off the electronic printing press, you can get it on Amazon’s Kindle store with the paperback coming available in July.  I really tried hard to smash some of the norms or stereotypes of the genre and write something that hard core action-adventure fans have never seen before. 
My short story, PROMIS: Vietnam is a short story that is the first in a series of shorts and novellas that I am writing.  Each will take place in a different country as the trajectory of Sean Deckard (the father of the protagonist in Reflexive Fire) is followed from one war zone to the next.  The conflicts he partakes in are not yet consigned to history, so in a way I’m writing contemporary historical fiction with this series.  The research is in depth to the point I feel like I should be writing non-fiction but it is worth the effort.  I really hope that PROMIS takes off once it finds its audience.  Issue One is available now for the Kindle.
I also have a short, non-fiction article available for the kindle.  It is a Special Forces Weapons Report Card.  I wrote it in response to a rather dubious weapons report card circulating the internet that is allegedly written by a soldier serving in Afghanistan.  Unfortunately it is full of inaccurate and misleading information so I decided to rectify this issue by writing my own. 
2FB: Thanks, Jack, for taking the time to share these details. As stated elsewhere, I am happy to have the competition. There are good things happening in the genre, and you are one of them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reflexive Fire by Jack Murphy

Since the early 1990s, men's fiction has dwindled to almost nothing. Critics of the genre will point to the abysmal writing in some of the titles during its heyday. I have reason to hope for a resurgence in men's fiction that the critics of the genre won't be able to dismiss easily. I say that because of well-written, hard-hitting novels like Reflexive Fire.

The hero is everything you could hope for in an action-adventure--intelligent, charismatic, honorable, a combat veteran from an elite unit, and just slopping over with badassity. We meet Deckard during a guns-blazing rescue of some POWs from a covert operation gone SNAFU. From there, a mysterious rogue on the ragged fringes of the intelligence community hands him a deep cover assignment as a mercenary commander for Soros and Kissinger-esque insiders from the shadow government. Pretty impressive that these Princes of Darkness can be duped, with the resources at their disposal. Still, Deckard's cover could be blown at any moment.

Deckard organizes and trains a private army on the steppes of Kazakhistan, and leads them on direct-action missions at the behest of his sinister bosses, while tapping into his own substantial resources to find out what these puppetmasters are really up to.

There is no shortage of action in Reflexive Fire. The main characters are warriors, and fighting is what they do. Having winced, groaned, rolled my eyes and gritted my teeth at many authors' attempts to depict military (or paramilitary) operations, it was really satisfying to read a military thriller written with this level of technical accuracy. Afterwards it made me want to have a cigarette and raid the fridge. And I don’t even smoke.

I've learned to avoid political thrillers, and ordinarily wince, groan, roll my eyes and grit my teeth when the author of any novel starts to portray their naive concept of how back room politics play out. This was another pleasant surprise for me. The author bypasses the two-party good-cop-bad-cop charade to tickle the truth hidden behind it. A few years ago, to even mention the workings of the shadow government was to invite ridicule and worse. Maybe this has changed as certain evidence becomes more difficult to hide. Still, I admire the author's courage to reject the blue pill publicly.

I don't know if this should be considered authoral courage too, but Jack Murphy isn't afraid to let important characters get snuffed in all the spray of shrapnel and deluge of full-auto fire. The body count is high, but not gratuitous. The progression of the plot is both plausible and logical. It is hard to imagine, though, how the stakes could be raised much higher in a sequel.

It's not very common to discover an action-adventure author who is also a SpecOps veteran. When you do, unfortunately, the quality of the fiction usually leaves something to be desired. Richard Marcinko was a competent SEAL team commander, but his Rogue Warrior series is “un-sat” IMHO. Barry Saddler was respected in SF, had a decent singing voice, and I'll even admit his Casca series was a neat idea, but after struggling to plod all the way through a couple of those books, I found myself asking what the point was.

Jack Murphy has not only done some of the same types of things he writes about, but he has consolidated them into an intelligent, entertaining novel. And Deckard is a character with plenty of juice for more shootouts to come. I highly recommend this book.

It is out now for the Kindle, and soon to be in paperback. Please consider buying it through Jack's blog, Reflexive Fire, from Amazon, so the author gets to keep a little more of the fruit of his work. I hope to interview Jack about this novel in the near future, so stay tuned.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hatchet Force In Da House!

I'm excited to announce that the first issue of Hatchet Force Journal is now available in the Amazon Kindle store. Jack Badelaire, the blogging mastermind behind Post Modern Pulps, put this periodical together with the help of other fans and writers of men's fiction, action adventure, new pulp, post-modern pulp, dude-lit...whatever you prefer to call it.

I can't think of another publication like it, though some of the comic fan-zines had a similar focus on their chosen medium. But it doesn't just cover fiction--Jack is keeping flexible. There are films and TV series discussed in this issue, and I believe there will be articles about firearms and military subjects in the future.

Here's some info about the contributors to this first issue, lifted right from Hatchet Force:

Jack Badelaire received his degree in Film with a minor in Classical Studies. He currently
works in Higher Education Technology. His hobbies include collecting single malt whiskys and
knives, military history, and of course, reading paperback action-adventure fiction. You can
find his blog at

Tom Johnson is a former US Army military policeman and a long time champion and author
of pulp fiction. He has also contributed to a number of non-fiction works as well as several
anthologies. You can find Tom’s blog at

Joe Kenney hails from Dallas, Texas. His ability to consume vast quantities of lurid, violent
paperback fiction remains unmatched in the history of mankind. You can find all of Joe’s many
reviews over at his blog:

Mack Maloney is the author of several dozen novels, most notably the Wingman series of postapocalyptic adventures. His latest series of books is The Pirate Hunters, and Mack recently
released an album, Sky Club. You can find Mack at his website,

John Mayhem and Jack Badelaire survived the bloody trenches of film school together and
have been fast friends ever since. An avid hunter and outdoorsman, Mr. Mayhem works as a
Digital Archives Manager specializing in film and television collections.
Brad Mengel is a long-time scholar of action-adventure movies, television, and fiction.
Brad wrote the excellent reference book Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction, a must-have
for anyone doing significant research on the subject. You can find Brad’s blog over at

There's even some two-fisted material provided by yours truly.

There's an interesting examination of that maniacal maven of movie violence from the Vietnam era, Sam Peckinpah, and his most definitive film; a discussion of the evolution of the pulp fiction from the golden age into the adventure paperbacks of the 1980s; and a review of Able Team #1 to name just a few.

I found the interview with author Mack Maloney an unexpected treat. Friends of mine back in the day read his Wingman series but I never did. After reading his comments, I'm stunned by how similar his creative seed was (for that series) to my Barbarian Nation series. Aside from the type of aircraft, I'm sure our execution is markedly different, but with the knowledge that his characters are also pilots who build their own hot rod planes, in a post-apocalyptic future, the series just went up a couple notches in my estimation.

I've been longing for a resurgence in dude-lit (or whatever you prefer to call it), and am beginning to find reason to hope one is underway. The Hatchet Force Journal is one tangible exhibit of that hope.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Marvel Romps Onward On the Big Screen

I've recently watched Thor and the latest X-Men movie, and will probably blog something about them in the future--especially the X-Men. For now, I wanted to share the Captain America trailer with you, in case you haven't yet seen it.

Having groaned through every previous screen adaptation of this character, it looks like Hollywood may have finally gotten it right. Judging by these trailers, anyway. It won't surprise me if the film makers subject me to the obligatory amazon superninjas, and make some snide political statement equating the Nazis to the Tea Party or the Red Skull to Ron Paul. But so far as I can tell from the previews, it looks like they took the time to study Captain America's history, and maybe even respect the character. Not only that, it looks chock-full of pulpy superhero action. The Green Hornet trailer convinced me not to bother paying a small fortune to watch that one on the big screen. With The First Avenger, I'm chomping at the bit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Breeder by Jim Morris

One of the coolest things about blogging is when I'm able to play a part in helping other fans of men's fiction discover, or rediscover, some entertaining novels that have all but been forgotten.

Jim Morris spent 3 tours in Vietnam in the Special Forces. He has authored non-fiction titles on military topics, and for many years was a contributor at Soldier of Fortune Magazine. Until recently, I thought this title was the only proof that he had ever dabbled in fiction, but it looks like his other fiction is showing up on Amazon, finally.

Breeder is on the Guilty Pleasures shelf of my home library in between the Renegade Series, the Last Ranger, the Sergeant and the Ratbastards. It is in no danger of ever being recognized as important literature, but it sure gave me something to enjoy for a few hours.

Published in 1988, the novel takes place in the then-near future of 1991, and Morris makes some interesting predictions, to say the least. Not many of them have come true, yet, but I can see the same societal undercurrents Morris saw then. Either his prophecies were premature, or he was just having fun pulling my leg. For instance: there has long been an attitude among certain political circles that all our Armed Forces in the United States should be merged into one polyglot "Defense Force." The Marines would be combined with the Army to form the "Land Defense." All aircraft, whether stationed on carriers or air bases, would be consolidated for the "Air Defense" branch. And so on. This has happened as of 1991 in Morris' book.

But that's not all. The USA is fighting a second civil war. Not between the states, but against the "Geebees," an interesting anticipation of the citizen militias that would rise up between 1993-95.

Our hero, Jeff Clendenning, is, at first glance, a parody of every men's fiction super-stud you've ever read about. He's the model of physical perfection. He's stronger, faster, and a better fighter than anyone else. No woman can resist him and even the frigid ones are left satisfied. Unlike most authors in the genre, though, Morris has a reason why his protagonist is such a superman: genetic engineering. In fact, it's central to this deliberately cartoonish Cold-War adventure. Morris took the Sleeper Agent plot, combined it with the Master Race plot, gave them a twist, dressed it all up in pulpy action conventions, and out came Breeder.

Jeff Clendenning has one special ability beyond the usual action super-stud's: he can tell when a woman is ovulating. He is the "breeder" of the title, of course, so you can imagine how this super power would be essential to his mission.

Trouble is, the breeder doesn't know what he is--what he was designed to be. In fact, there's a lot about life and the world he doesn't know, due to the disinformation he's been fed and the elaborate "Truman Show" existence he's been raised in. But between deployments with the Rangers, kidnapping by the Geebees and a Patti Hearst-like bank-robbing spree, the breeder discovers the whole incredible story. If Morris' cheek wasn't dented out so far by his tongue, I might be tempted to suspect he was trying to get the reader to sympathize with the emotional side of his super-stud, because the breeder's story might be sad if it wasn't so doggone funny and gratuitously violent.

From the very first time I read this novel, I dismissed the Master Race aspect of the plot as silly, simple, and off-the-wall. After all, no tinkering with the American gene pool has been necessary to bring us to the brink of financial ruin (to name just one calamity that we now face). All it has required has been Pavlovian conditioning, softening, and dumbing-down of the electorate over a couple generations.

But then, Europe is rapidly transforming into a Muslim continent as I write this, and this paradigm shift is taking place in the womb.There is a political power base here in America that hopes to forge an ironclad monopoly over the three branches of our government, and one method they've been using to great effect (besides the aforementioned Pavlovian conditioning, softening and dumbing-down) includes tactics like refusal to enforce immigration laws, granting of amnesty to illegals, allowing illegals to vote, collect welfare, and the encouragement of "anchor babies" through redistribution of taxpayers' money. Again, the key to victory, for some, is considered to lie within the womb. And post-2012 election it appears to be working exactly as planned.

So maybe the whole Master Race plot is not as silly as I assumed. Certainly it's no sillier than some of the plot devices being used today.
In any event, I don't purport that this was Jim Morris' attempt at an Atlas Shrugged of his own. It's an action adventure/paramilitary thriller, or perhaps a deconstructive parody of the genre. It's a fast read with some crazy action and an appealing set of bookends to the story (has to do with his roomie's poster). I can't really call it subtle, but it's possible you could miss it. (Is anything subtle in this genre?)

If a professor of literature asked me to defend my recommendation of this book, I doubt if I could. Yet I recommend it nonetheless.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Omaha Wasn't the Only Beach

It's D-Day Anniversary minus 1. Aside from the related airborne operations, I've been neglecting everything besides the landing at Omaha. Why? Because that was the point of heaviest German resistance; hence the bloodiest battle; hence a significant hinge point in the invasion, the war, and history. But I haven't emphasized it because I don't appreciate what happened on Gold, Sword, Juno and Utah.

Though less dramatic, here's a scene based on the Utah landing, with Henry Fonda playing Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Now this is more like what military strategists would like to see during amphibious landings. Most of MacArthur's landings in the Pacific met light resistance like this, if they weren't altogether unopposed.
And here's a scene from Sword Beach, so you Anglophiles don't get upset with me. Notice Sean Connery in a fairly early role, before the James Bond persona so rubbed off on him that he carried it with him into every flick he acted in.
Finally, here is a documentary which provides a little perspective on the invasion.

At this time 63 years ago, General of the Army and Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower was visiting the paratroopers who would be dropping behind the Atlantic Wall in a few hours.

Hope everybody had a good weekend. Stay tuned for more 2-fisted blogging.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hell Harbor: The Sergeant # 2 by Gordon Davis

In keeping with my lead-up to the D-Day anniversary, I decided to post a review of a relevant installment of my favorite pulpy WWII series. I'm thankful I've had so much free time lately, but I'm not sure how frequently I'll be able to blog between Sundays after this.

Previously, I've reviewed Death Train and The Liberation of Paris from this series. In addition, Jack Badelaire has reviewed Slaughter City and Hammerhead at Post Modern Pulps. You might consider reading those reviews, if you haven't already, as a sort of introduction to Master Sergeant Clarence J. Mahoney.

It's D-Day plus 3 (in the book) and, though conventional Wermacht wisdom had the allies invading across the narrowest point in the English Channel (into Pas de Calais) and in good weather, those crafty Yanks and Limeys have instead landed at Normandy during a brief lull in horrible weather. The German commander in Cherbourg has rigged a gawd-awful amount of explosives in the sewers. Enough to destroy the entire harbor and deny its use to the allies. Without that key harbor, reinforcing and resupplying the invasion force will become very difficult. And, if Hitler decides to release his panzer divisions, the invasion force will probably be crushed against the Channel. Between perdition and the deep blue sea, if you will.

Lucky for the allies, a young German officer who thinks with the wrong head has gotten friendly with a local French girl who knows how to play with both heads quite effectively. The French girl also happens to have a patriotic streak, and is a valuable intelligence asset for the good guys. Through her, the Allies learn of the German plan to destroy the harbor.

Enter chain-smoking, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing, butt-kicking Sergeant Mahoney, fresh back to the 23rd Rangers from his cloak & dagger mission with the Maquis. Along with Corporal Cranepool, Captain Boynton, and a handfull of other rangers, he is voluntold to fight his way inside Cherbourg and figure out some way to prevent the demolition.

It's hard to believe Boynton and his superiors are so dim-witted that storming the German fortress would be the best plan they could come up with. But eventually they wise up and, unfortunately for the rangers behind German lines, the mission devolves literally into the crappiest operation Mahoney can imagine. So crappy that he vows to quit the Rangers and transfer to a line unit if he survives.

There is all the bloody mayhem you should expect from a title in this series, plus the subplot of the German officer and French spy (which provides some good laughs), a groanable episode in which Cranepool mistakes a VD inspection tent for a USO donut tent, and a somewhat longer episode in which Mahoney first impersonates a doctor, then plays doctor with a lonely nurse.

By the end of the book Gordon Davis (Len Levinson) has nicely set up Mahoney's transformation back to a line doggie--which means reams of ludicrous bayonet combat in subsequent books. Speaking of that, I have finally acquired The Sergeant # 3: Bloody Bush, making me the first one on my block to own the entire series. Very soon, hopefully, I'll have a chance to read it and complete my Mahoney/Cranepool education.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

...Not a German Was Shamming, Except For Erwin Rommel

We're at D-Day minus four (Memorial Day plus two), and I'm nowhere near out of cool clips to post on the topic.

By the way, my first unit's barracks was on the street at Fort Bragg named after Carentan (almost all the streets in Division's area were named after WWII battles fought by the All Americans).

Here's another fantastic piece of film making--the Omaha Beach sequence from Saving Private Ryan:

Field Marshal Von Rundstedt actually had a logical plan for countering the invasion of Fortress Europe. Thankfully, Rommel agreed with Hitler's typical "don't surrender one single inch to the enemy" philosophy, and thought success meant he had to stop the allies right on the beach. Hitler's assumption that the entire coastline of Europe could be simultaneously defended was, of course, ludicrous, even for a Wermacht not spread out on multiple fronts. This accounts for the fairly light resistance encountered at Gold, Sword, Juneau and Utah Beaches. But Omaha was a meatgrinder--the bloodiest amphibious landing in recorded history.

Spielberg's film pushes my suspension of disbelief a little too far later on, but this opening sequence is a masterpiece IMO. I've never participated in an amphibious landing, and watching this clip is as close as I ever want to get to a hellground like Omaha Beach.