Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No One Stops Hangman

Avon Books' Killsquad series is basically a more violent version of THE DIRTY DOZEN (which actually was a novel before the 1967 movie). In the first book, COUNTER ATTACK, former CIA operative John Smith (aka The Hangman) put together a squad of six Death Row inmates to go on a suicide mission. Among them were bloodthirsty German Schnell, one-eyed murderer Williams, Florida fisherman Jackson (who was actually innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted), racist White, ex-boxer Walker and Harlem hitman Barnes.

Somehow, the Killsquad survived its first three missions, and book #4, 1987's THE JUDAS SOLDIERS, finds them going up against one of the Hangman's old rivals: a fellow ex-CIA paramilitary operative named Ty Barber, who was jettisoned from the Company after plowing down dozens of innocent civilians, including children, in El Salvador. To get revenge, Barber has kidnapped a pair of scientists and forced them to concoct Strain X, an incredible virus he plans to dump into the United States' water supply. To test its power, he uses it to wipe out an entire Iowa town.

Smith and Killsquad have less than 48 hours to find Barber and stop his insidious plot, which leads them all the way to South America, where they are ambushed by vicious Incas whose taste for blood leads them to gut their victims and pin their intestines to the walls of their huts to warn intruders away.

Much shooting and killing (and graphic descriptions of various firearms) fill THE JUDAS SOLDIERS, which is credited to author Frank Garrett, but who is actually Dan Schmidt, a writer with more than sixty books on his resume. It's very right-wing with all its racially charged dialogue and emphasis on brutal action, but the characters are quite dull. In fact, they're all so similar that they seem to be speaking with the same voice. Except the black-hating ex-Klansman, of course, though all the prisoners get along together much more smoothly than you would think.

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