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There are a handful of blogs out there that mine some real diamonds from the rough, and here are some you might want to check out.

The Two-Fisted Blog

Post-Modern Pulps

Reflexive Fire

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Megalith

Glorious Trash

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Mack Bolan Still Executing!

 

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There is a growing awareness of pulp fiction--thanks, in part, to the Tarentino film, plus the comic books and other movies inspired by them. You can probably find a boatload of books and articles written about the pulps. But not much is written about pulp's offspring, which itself enjoyed a Golden Age (or was it merely pulp's Silver Age?) that finally fizzled out in the late 1980s.

Before television, video games and the internet decimated literacy amongst the demographic which once made pulp fiction thrive, pulp magazines were succeeded by mass-market paperbacks, spanning many genres, all packaged as "men's fiction." They could be found at drug stores, truck stops, supermarkets and even some hardware stores. The publishing industry declared pulp fiction dead, but there was a lucrative, related market right under its nose. Don Pendelton's Executioner busted the door down and major publishers flooded through to saturate that market with action-adventure, western, war, paramilitary, post-apocalypse, science fiction and even fantasy series.

Action was plentiful and often graphic (same with sexual content, come to think of it). Moral ambiguity was rare. Protagonists didn't spend pages or chapters wrapped up in introspection--they were too busy having fist fights, knife fights or gun fights with heavies of varying importance. Antagonists were just plain evil, and rarely was the excuse for their villainy revealed in print.

Men's fiction from the Big Six (traditional publishers or tradpub) is extinct now.

Except for the Executioner, Mack Bolan. Not only are new Executioner tales still being published in paperback, but e-book, too. And in comic books (where he is known as the Punisher, Frank Castle).

Don Pendleton is highly respected here at Virtual Pulp Press, and we offer a lot of his titles (as well as indie men's fiction from new authors carrying the torch Don lit).

 

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THE LEGEND AND TRUTH OF JERRY “MAD DOG” SHRIVER


By Hank Brown, Jim Morris and John L. Plaster, with Paul Longgrear

 

If you read much fiction about Vietnam, or even watch movies about it, chances are you’ll frequently bump into a character who has become a stereotype of the subgenre. This stereotype was rarely, if ever, seen in film or fiction before Vietnam.
The character is eccentric on his good days; psychotic the rest of the time. He is almost oblivious to regulations, protocol, rank and military traditions. He wouldn’t last a day in a professional military force…if he wasn’t such an effective killing machine in the bush.


He is almost a super-soldier when in the field. He’s got the hearing and smell of a dog, the vision of an eagle and the lives of a cat. His instincts are far beyond Sgt. Rock’s “combat antenna.” He’s fearless in battle, probably because there’s nobody as scary as him on the battlefield. He’s rarely seen in garrison, but when he is, he’s a peacetime/rear echelon sergeant-major’s nightmare.


In short, he’s not so much a soldier as a warrior. And he’s probably as insane as the Vietnam War itself. At least he seems so to your average civilian.


Turns out this stereotype had an archetype…or prototype, if you will.


This recurring character is strikingly similar to (or perhaps a caricature of) the real-life special operators on the SOG teams and various reconnaissance projects in Vietnam. And the most legendary (and archetypal) of those operators was Jerry “Mad Dog” Shriver.


Paul Longgrear, who served with Shriver and wore his Montagnard bracelet for years after Vietnam, says, “To have met Shriver did not necessarily mean you KNEW Shriver.”

Paul Longgrear wounded


Often the cold mo-fos in combat are milquetoast or even couch potato-looking individuals. But Mad Dog’s eyes tended to give people an accurate impression of his personality. Longgrear went on to say, “I figured he had an Oriental mom. His dad was retired AF. His eyes were squinty and hollow, almost cold blooded. “


This was not the “Thousand-Yard Stare” you may have heard about. Mad Dog wasn’t spaced-out or oblivious to anything going on around him. By all accounts he remained sharp and focused right to the end. But more on that a little later.


Earlier in 2012 I read Above and Beyond, a novel of Vietnam written by Special Forces Vietnam veteran Jim Morris. I encountered another of these whacked-out warrior characters while reading it, this one named “Shoogie.” In a subsequent interview with the author, I asked who Shoogie was based on. That’s how I was introduced to the legend of Mad Dog.


It’s a legend worth passing on. I’ll start with a dialog, of sorts, between me and Jim Morris.

Jim Morris in his war correspondent days


JIM: …I was surprised to learn that you were unacquainted with the legend of Mad Dog Shriver.


First let me put this guy in context:


In the Spring of ’68 I was IO (PAO) of the 5th SFGA in Nha Trang, RVN. A couple of guys came into my offices to visit one of my NCOs. I had never met soldiers quite like them. Added to their basic uniform was the oddest collection of gear and barbaric ornamentation I had yet encountered. They were lean and rangy. Their berets clung to their heads at an angle that screamed “Fuck You!” Multiple Montagnard bracelets clinked up and down their arms as they moved about.
One had a beaded Sedang necklace tight around his neck. Their watches were mounted on black leather cuffs with a black cover snapped over the face of the watch to prevent its glow from giving away their position. One wore a locally purchased Bowie knife hammered out of a truck spring that was the size of a small machete.


Turned out they were from SF recon Project Omega at Ban Me Thuot. They were hard dudes and projected a very clear don’t-give-a-shit attitude. All my subsequent contacts with recon were somewhat peripheral.


(HANK: For those not familiar with the acronyms, jargon and military breakdown, RVN was the Republic of Vietnam, or simply “South Vietnam.” The US Army was and is an enormous organization, all built around its chess pieces, or “combat arms”: infantry; artillery; armor/cavalry; engineers; aviation; etc. Then there were the elite Airborne units for special missions. Within the Airborne were units like the LRRPs, Rangers, and “Green Berets.” 5th SFG—Special Forces Group—was the unit in which both Jim Morris and SFC Bob Krahn [best damn platoon sergeant I ever knew, to whom I dedicated my first novel, Hell and Gone] fought in Vietnam. 5th SFG was special in both name and mission. They practiced unconventional warfare; and pretty much unconventional everything. They were not just elite warriors, but intelligent men in units that valued their intelligence rather than trying to crush it out of them. If the Special Forces mission wasn’t dangerous enough for you, you could step up yet another notch to a recon unit such as Project Omega, or the SOG teams which followed Charlie and the NVA across the borders of Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam.)

John Striker Meyer


JIM: I was assigned as trial counsel on a special court martial for negligent homicide. It was generally agreed that the defendant had got his break already with a special court. But, while I nailed him with a guilty verdict, factors extended in mitigation and extenuation resulted in a sentence of a two-grade bust and a two hundred dollar fine. That’s pretty light for murder.


The defendant was an SFC (Sergeant First Class), recon guy at CCC (Command and Control Central, a SOG project) in Kontum. He had been drinking in the club all afternoon with some chopper pilots and had gone to get his pistol to drive them back to town. Just as he was passing the screened window in the passage that connected the barracks area with the club, the victim, also drunk, had driven up, got out, pointed at the defendant and said, “HAW! HAW! HAW! You cudn hit shit w’that pist’l.”


To which the defendant replied, “I could hit you, motherfucker,” and promptly drew and blew his lights out.


He insisted that he was sure he didn’t have a round in the chamber and that he had been aiming to the side of the defendants head, and was vastly surprised to have killed him. It was also entered in extenuation and mitigation that the defendant was pending a direct commission at the time. And that it was the custom in CCC at that time to sit around in the club, get shitfaced, and shoot rats out of the eaves with automatic weapons. Welcome to recon.


HANK: That’s pretty Wild West—sounds like a Billy the Kid story. I did some pretty dumb stuff, but thankfully I never talked trash to shitfaced operators with loaded weapons.


JIM: At a later date I was in the A Shau Valley with Project Delta’s reaction force when we discovered some commo wire and sent for a recon team trained in wiretap which came from CCN (Command and Control North), another SOG project, in fact the most dangerous of all the recon projects, with, at one time, a 115% annual casualty rate. The two Americans with the wiretap team, were, of course, crazy people, but their indige were from another planet.

Yanks and Yards

Their leader, a warrant officer, was very together, but one of the others was playing the role to an amazing degree, having dyed his patrol hat black and starched it so it looked like Jack Palance’s hat in Shane. He also wore black leather gloves at all times. Another of the indige was badly pockmarked and giggled incessantly. They were all highly amused by the reaction company I was with because we wore helmets, and there were too many of us to make it worthwhile to paint our faces. We got in firefights while they were with us and lost people, but the recon guys treated the whole thing as a lark.


HANK: A lot of people might assume it was the war that turned those guys into lunatics, but I wonder if they weren’t that way already, and the war just gave them opportunity to turn their wolf loose. This is not an original thought, of course. Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now mused something similar about Chef, for instance. Guys like Shriver really make me wonder, though.


JIM: I never met Shriver, but I did meet a staff sergeant who looked to be about fourteen at a party at the Nha Trang Mike Force one evening. We were talking tactics and I guess something I said impressed him because he kissed me on the ear and said, “Y’know, motherfucker, I like you.”


As a captain I found this surprising. Later I figured out that he was Baby-San Davidson, Shriver’s assistant patrol leader.


HANK: This Davidson sounds a lot like your Shoogie character, actually.


JIM: Almost every recon team leader was a legend of sorts. Dick Meadows, who later infiltrated Tehran to recon the ill-fated Iran raid, was one. Another was MOH winner Bob Howard, who once jumped out of the jungle at night to run alongside an NVA truck convoy and lob a claymore into the back of a truck with about fifty NVA in it, crank it off, and dive back in the jungle. He got no award for that at all, just a bump in his reputation.


But Shriver was the recon man’s recon man, their living legend. Well, he was that for years, then he was just their legend.


HANK: With his permission, I’m including an excerpt from John L. Plaster’s book, SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam, which tells Jerry Shriver’s story.

 

THE UNTOLD TRUE STORY OF MAD DOG SHRIVER:
Mad Dog led dozens of covert missions into Laos & Cambodia until his luck ran out.
By Maj. John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.)

 

There undoubtedly was not a single recon man in SOG more accomplished or renowned than Mad Dog Shriver.

Mad Dog!

In the late 1960s, no Special Forces trooper at Ft. Bragg even breathed those top secret letters, "S-O-G," but everyone had heard of the legendary Studies and Observations Group Green Beret recon team leader, Sergeant First Class Jerry Shriver, dubbed a "mad dog" by Radio Hanoi. It was Jerry Shriver who'd spoken the most famous rejoinder in SOG history, radioing his superiors not to worry that NVA forces had encircled his tiny team. "No, no," he explained, "I've got 'em right where I want 'em -- surrounded from the inside."

Fully decked out, Mad Dog was a walking arsenal with an imposing array of sawed-off shotgun or suppressed submachine gun, pistols, knives and grenades. "He looked like Rambo," First Sergeant Billy Greenwood thought. Blond, tall and thin, Shriver’s face bore chiseled features around piercing blue eyes. "There was no soul in the eyes, no emotion," thought SOG Captain Bill O’Rourke. "They were just eyes."

Mad Dog with supressed grease gun

By early 1969, Shriver was well into his third continuous year in SOG, leading top secret intelligence gathering teams deep into the enemy’s clandestine Cambodian sanctuaries where he’d teased death scores of times. Unknown to him, however, forces beyond his control at the highest levels of government in Hanoi and Washington were steering his fate.

The Strategic Picture

Every few weeks of early 1969, the docks at Cambodia's seaport of Sihanoukville bustled with East European ships offloading to long lines of Hak Ly Trucking Company lorries. Though ostensibly owned by a Chinese businessman, the Hak Ly Company's true operator was North Vietnam's Trinh Sat intelligence service.

The trucks’ clandestine cargo of rockets, small arms ammunition and mortar rounds
rolled overnight to the heavily jungled frontier of Kampong Cham Province just three miles from the border with South Vietnam, a place the Americans had nicknamed the Fishhook, where vast stockpiles sustained three full enemy divisions, plus communist units across the border inside South Vietnam -- some 200,000 foes.

Cambodian Prince Sihanouk was well aware of these neutrality violations; indeed, his fifth wife, Monique, her mother and half-brother were secretly peddling land rights and political protection to the NVA; other middlemen were selling rice to the NVA by the thousands of tons. Hoping to woo Sihanouk away from the communists, the Johnson Administration had watched passively while thousands of GIs were killed by communist forces operating from Cambodia, and not only did nothing about it, but said nothing--even denied it was happening.

And now, each week of February and March 1969, more Americans were dying than
lost in the Persian Gulf War, killed by NVA forces that struck quickly then fled back to"neutral” Cambodia.

Combined with other data, SOG's Cambodian intelligence appeared on a top secret
map which National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger studied aboard Air Force One at Brussels airport the morning of 24 February 1969. Sitting with Kissinger was Colonel Alexander Haig, his military assistant, while representing the president was White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman. During the new administration's transition, President Nixon had asked Kissinger to determine how to deal with the Cambodian buildup and counter Hanoi's "fight and talk" strategy.

While President Nixon addressed NATO's North Atlantic Council, those aboard Air
Force One worked out details for a clandestine U.S. response: The secret bombing of Cambodia's most remote sanctuaries, which would go unacknowledged unless Prince Sihanouk protested. When Air Force One departed Brussels, Kissinger briefed President Nixon, who approved the plan but postponed implementing it. Over the coming three weeks, Nixon twice warned Hanoi, "we will not tolerate attacks which result in heavier casualties to our men at a time that we are honestly trying to seek peace at the conference table in Paris." The day after Nixon's second warning, the NVA bombarded Saigon with 122mm rockets obviously smuggled through Cambodia. Three days later, Nixon turned loose the B-52s on the Fishhook, the first secret Cambodian raid, which set off 73 secondary explosions.

A Special SOG Mission

Not one peep eminated from Phnom Penh or Hanoi and here was a fitting irony: For four years the North Vietnamese had denied their presence in Cambodia, and now, with U.S. bombs falling upon them, they could say nothing. Nixon suspended further B-52 strikes in hopes Hanoi's negotiators might begin productive discussions in Paris, but the talks droned on pointlessly.

To demonstrate that America, too, could "talk and fight," President Nixon approved a second secret B-52 strike, this time against a target proposed by General Creighton Abrams with Ambassador Bunker's endorsement: COSVN, the Central Office for South Vietnam, the almost mythical Viet Cong headquarters which claimed to run the whole war. An NVA deserter had pinpointed the COSVN complex 14 miles southeast of Memot, Cambodia, in the Fishhook, just a mile beyond the South Vietnamese border.


The COSVN raid was laid on for 24 April.

Apprised of the upcoming B-52 strike, Brigadier General Philip Davidson, the MACV J- 2, thought that instead of just bombing COSVN, a top secret SOG raiding force should hit the enemy headquarters as soon as the bombs stopped falling. He phoned Colonel Steve Cavanaugh, Chief SOG, who agreed and ordered the Ban Me Thuot-based Command and Control South, CCS, to prepare a Green Beret-led company of Montagnard mercenaries for the special mission.

At CCS, the historic COSVN raid fell upon its most accomplished man, that living recon legend, Mad Dog Shriver, and Captain Bill O'Rourke. Though O'Rourke would command the company-size raiding force, Shriver equally would influence the
operation, continuing an eight-month collaboration they’d begun when they ran recon together.

Mad Dog -- the Man and the Myth

There was no one at CCS quite like Mad Dog Shriver. Medal of Honor recipient Jim Fleming, who flew USAF Hueys for SOG, found Shriver, "the quintessential warrior-loner, anti-social, possessed by what he was doing, the best team, always training, constantly training."

Shriver rarely spoke and walked around camp for days wearing the same clothes. In his sleep he cradled a loaded rifle, and in the club he'd buy a case of beer, open every can, then go alone to a corner and drink them all. Though he'd been awarded a Silver Star, five Bronze Stars and the Soldiers Medal, the 28-year old Green Beret didn’t care about decorations.

But he did care about the Montagnard hill tribesmen, and spent all his money on them, even collected food, clothes, whatever people would give, to distribute in Yard villages. He was the only American at CCS who lived in the Montagnard barracks. "He was almost revered by the Montagnards," O'Rourke says.

Shriver's closest companion was a German shepherd he'd brought back from Taiwan which he named Klaus. One night Klaus got sick on beer some recon men fed him and crapped on the NCO club floor; they rubbed his nose in it and threw him out. Shriver arrived, drank a beer, removed his blue velvet smoking jacket and derby hat, put a .38 revolver on a table, then dropped his pants and defecated on the floor. "If you want to rub my nose in this," he dared, "come on over." Everyone pretended not to hear him; one man who'd fed Klaus beer urged the Recon Company commander to intervene. The captain laughed in his face.

Mad Dog and Klaus

"He had this way of looking at you with his eyes half-open," recon man Frank Burkhart remembers. "If he looked at me like that, I'd just about freeze."

Shriver always had been different. In the early 1960s, when Rich Ryan served with him in the 7th Army's Long Range Patrol Company in Germany, Shriver’s buddies called him "Digger" since they thought he looked like an undertaker. As a joke his LRRP comrades concocted their own religion, "The Mahoganites," which worshipped a mahogany statue. "So we would carry Shriver around on an empty bunk with a sheet over him and candles on the corners," recalled Ryan, "and chant, 'Maaa-haa-ga-ney, Maaa-haa-ga-ney.' Scared the hell out of new guys."

Baby-Face Shriver in Germany

Medal of Honor recipient Jim Fleming says Shriver "convinced me that for the rest of my life I would not go into a bar and cross someone I didn't know."

But no recon man was better in the woods. "He was like having a dog you could talk to," O'Rourke explained. "He could hear and sense things; he was more alive in the woods than any other human being I've ever met." During a company operation on the Cambodian border Shriver and an old Yard compatriot were sitting against a tree, O'Rourke recalled. "Suddenly he sat bolt upright, they looked at each other, shook their heads and leaned back against the tree. I'm watching this and wondering, what the hell's going on? And all of a sudden these birds flew by, then a nano-second later, way off in the distance, 'Boom-boom!' -- shotguns. They'd heard that, ascertained what it was and relaxed before I even knew the birds were flying."

Shriver once went up to SOG’s Command and Control North for a mission into the DMZ where Captain Jim Storter encountered him just before insert. "He had pistols stuck everywhere on him, I mean, he had five or six .38 caliber revolvers." Storter asked him,"Sergeant Shriver, would you like a CAR-15 or M-16 or something? You know the DMZ is not a real mellow area to go into." But Mad Dog replied, "No, them long guns'll get you in trouble and besides, if I need more than these I got troubles anyhow."

Rather than stand down after an operation, Shriver would go out with another team. "He lived for the game; that's all he lived for," Dale Libby, a fellow CCS man said. Shriver once promised everyone he was going on R&R but instead snuck up to Plei Djerang Special Forces camp to go to the field with Rich Ryan's A Team.

During a short leave stateside in 1968, fellow Green Beret Larry White hung out with Shriver, whose only real interest was finding a lever action .444 Marlin rifle. Purchasing one of the powerful Marlins, Shriver shipped it back to SOG so he could carry it into Cambodia, "to bust bunkers," probably the only levergun used in the war.

And the Real Jerry Shriver

Unless you were one of Mad Dog's close friends, the image was perfect prowess -- but the truth was, Shriver confided to fellow SOG Green Beret Sammy Hernandez, he feared death and didn't think he'd live much longer. He'd beat bad odds too many times, and could feel a terrible payback looming.

"He wanted to quit," Medal of Honor winner Fred Zabitosky could see. "He really wanted to quit, Jerry did. I said, 'Why don't you just tell them I want off, I don't want to run any more?' He said he would but he never did; just kept running."

The 5th Special Forces Group executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Norton, had been watching SOG recon casualties skyrocket and grew concerned about men like Mad Dog whose lives had become a continuous flirtation with death. Norton went to the 5th Group commander and urged, "Don't approve the goddamn extensions these guys are asking for. You approve it again, your chances of killing that guy are very, very good." But the group commander explained SOG needed experienced men for its high priority missions. "Bullshit," Norton snapped, "you're signing that guy's death warrant."

Eventually 5th Group turned down a few extensions but only a very few; the most
experienced recon men never had extensions denied. Never.

"Mad Dog was wanting to get out of recon and didn't know how," said recon team leader Sonny Franks, though the half-measure came when Shriver left recon to join his teammate O’Rourke’s raider company. And now the COSVN raid would make a fitting final operation; Shriver could face his fear head-on, charge right into COSVN’s mysterious mouth and afterward at last call it quits.

Into COSVN’s Mouth

The morning of 24 April 1969, while high-flying B-52s winged their way from distant Guam, the SOG raider company lined up beside the airfield at Quan Loi, South Vietnam, only 20 miles southeast of COSVN's secret lair. But just five Hueys were flyable that morning, enough to lift only two platoons; the big bombers could not be delayed, which meant Lieutenant Bob Killebrew's 3rd Platoon would have to stand by at Quan Loi while the 1st Platoon under First Lieutenant Walter Marcantel, and 2nd Platoon under First Lieutenant Greg Harrigan, raided COSVN. Capt. O'Rourke and Mad Dog didn't like it, but they could do nothing.*

Nor could they do anything about their minimal fire support. Although whole waves of B-52s were about to dump thousands of bombs into COSVN, the highly classified
Cambodian Rules of Engagement forbade tactical air strikes; it was better to lose an American-led SOG team, the State Department rules suggested, than leave
documentable evidence that U.S. F4 Phantoms had bombed this "neutral" territory. It was a curious logic so concerned about telltale napalm streaks or cluster bomb fins, but unconcerned about B-52 bomb craters from horizon to horizon. Chief SOG Cavanaugh found the contradiction "ridiculous," but he could not change the rules.

The B-52 contrails were not yet visible when the raiding force Hueys began cranking and the raiders boarded; Capt. O'Rourke would be aboard the first bird and Shriver on the last so they'd be at each end of the landing Hueys. As they lifted off for the ten minute flight, the B-52s were making final alignments for the run-in. Minutes later the lead chopper had to turn back because of mechanical problems; O'Rourke could only wish the others Godspeed. Command passed to an operations officer in the second bird who'd come along for the raid, Captain Paul Cahill.

Momentarily the raiders could see dirt geysers bounding skyward amid collapsing trees. Then as the dust settled a violin-shaped clearing took form and the Hueys descended in-trail, hovered for men to leap off, then climbed away.

Then fire exploded from all directions, horrible fire that skimmed the ground and mowed down anyone who didn’t dive into a bomb crater or roll behind a fallen tree trunk. From the back of the LZ, Mad Dog radioed that a machinegun bunker to his left-front had his *(Greg Harrigan and I had been boyhood friends in northeast Minneapolis.) men pinned and asked if anyone could fire at it to relieve the pressure. Holed up in a bomb crater beneath murderous fire, Capt. Cahill, 1st Lt. Marcantel and a medic, Sergeant Ernest Jamison, radioed that they were pinned, too. Then Jamison dashed out to retrieve a wounded man; heavy fire cut him down, killing him on the spot.

No one else could engage the machinegun that trapped Shriver's men -- it was up to
Mad Dog. Skittish Yards looked to Shriver and his half-grin restored a sense of
confidence. Then they were on their feet, charging -- Shriver was his old self, running to the sound of guns, a True Believer Yard on either side, all of them dashing through the flying bullets, into the treeline, into the very guts of Mad Dog's great nemesis, COSVN.


And Mad Dog Shriver was never seen again.

The Fight Continues

At the other end of the LZ, Jamison's body lay just a few yards from the crater where Capt. Cahill heard bullets cracking and RPGs rocking the ground. When Cahill lifted his head, an AK round hit him in the mouth, deflected up and destroyed an eye. Badly wounded, he collapsed.

In a nearby crater, young Lt. Greg Harrigan directed helicopter gunships whose rockets and mini-guns were the only thing holding off the aggressive NVA. Already, Harrigan reported, more than half his platoon were killed or wounded. For 45 minutes the Green Beret lieutenant kept the enemy at bay, then Harrigan, too, was hit. He died minutes later.

Bill O'Rourke tried to land on another helicopter but his bird couldn't penetrate the NVA veil of lead. Lieutenant Colonel Earl Trabue, their CCS Commander, arrived and flew overhead with O’Rourke but they could do little.

Hours dragged by. Wounded men laid untreated, exposed in the sun. Several times the Hueys attempted to retrieve them and each time heavy fire drove them off. One door gunner was badly wounded. Finally a passing Australian twin-jet Canberra bomber from No. 2 Squadron at Phan Rang heard their predicament on the emergency radio frequency, ignored the fact it was Cambodia, and dropped a bombload which, O’Rourke reports, "broke the stranglehold those guys were in, and it allowed us to go in." Only 1st Lt. Marcantel was still directing air, and finally he had to bring ordnance so close it wounded himself and his surviving nine Montagnards.

One medic ran to Harrigan's hole and attempted to lift his body out but couldn't. "They were pretty well drained physically and emotionally," O'Rourke said. Finally, three Hueys raced in and picked up 15 wounded men. Lieutenant Dan Hall carried out a radio operator, then managed to drag Lt. Harrigan's body to an aircraft. Thus ended the COSVN raid.

A Time for Reflection

Afterward Chief SOG Cavanaugh talked to survivors and learned, "The fire was so heavy and so intense that even the guys trying to [evade] and move out of the area were being cut down." It seemed almost an ambush. "That really shook them up at MACV, to realize anybody survived that [B-52] strike," Col. Cavanaugh said.

The heavy losses especially affected Brig. Gen. Davidson, the MACV J-2, who blamed himself for the catastrophe. "General," Chief SOG Cavanaugh assured him, "if I'd have felt we were going to lose people like that, I wouldn't have put them in there."

It’s that ambush-like reception despite a B-52 strike that opens the disturbing possibility of treachery and, it turns out, it was more than a mere possibility. One year after the COSVN raid, the NSA twice intercepted enemy messages warning of imminent SOG operations which could only have come from a mole or moles in SOG headquarters. It would only be long after the war that it became clear Hanoi’s Trinh Sat had penetrated SOG, inserting at least one high ranking South Vietnamese officer in SOG whose treachery killed untold Americans, including, most likely, the COSVN raiders.

Of those raiders, Lt. Walter Marcantel survived his wounds only to die six months later in a parachuting accident at Ft. Devens, Mass., while Capt. Paul Cahill was medically retired. Eventually, Green Beret medic Ernest Jamison's body was recovered. But those lost in the COSVN raid have not been forgotten. Under a beautiful spring sky on Memorial Day, 1993, with American flags waving and an Army Reserve Huey strewing flower petals as it passed low-level, members of Special Forces Association Chapter XX assembled at Lt. Greg Harrigan’s grave in Minneapolis, Minn. Before the young lieutenant’s family, a Special Forces honor guard placed a green beret at his grave, at last conferring some recognition to the fallen SOG man, a gesture the COSVN raid’s high classification had made impossible a quarter-century earlier. Until now, neither Harrigan’s family nor the families of the other lost men knew the full story of the top secret COSVN raid.

But the story remains incomplete. As in the case of SOG’s other MIAs, Hanoi
continues to deny any knowledge of Jerry Shriver. Capt. O'Rourke concluded
Mad Dog died that day. "I felt very privileged to have been his friend," O’Rourke says, "and when he died I grieved as much as for my younger brother when he was killed. Twenty some-odd years later, it still sticks in my craw that I wasn't there. I wish I had been there."

There remains a popular myth among SOG veterans, that any day now Mad Dog
Shriver will emerge from the Cambodian jungle as if only ten minutes have gone by,
look right and left and holler, "Hey! Where’d everybody go?" Indeed, to those who knew him and fought beside him, Mad Dog will live forever.

Mad Dog with Tommygun

Vietnam vet Richard Hambley writes this about Mad Dog:

"I had the honor/pleasure of meeting Jerry Shriver only one time at the Special Forces club Water Hole #3 in Pleiku late in 1968. One afternoon while I was having a bite to eat and a few drinks he happened to stop by while in transit to only God knows where. His Montagnard soldiers struck up a conversation with my two Mike Force scouts and he noticed me observing the meeting. He pulled up a chair next to me and we began discussing the problems of VC infiltration of the Mike Force units. It was common knowledge that 5 to 10% of our outfits were VC sypmathizers or enemy spies and we both knew it. His concern was my safety and he offered me some good sound advice on dealing with this issue.

"I have read many stories by other veterans of how cold and distant Jerry Shriver could be at times but to me he was just another soldier trying to help a fellow G.I. survive this war. I will be forever grateful to him for his counsel and helpful tips on dealing with and fighting next to the Montagnard Tribesmen. His legacy will always be that of the consummate soldier as that is exactly what he was."

HANK: I'm dumbfounded at the ignorance to the moles inside SOG. Hadn't we learned by then that the ARVN couldn't be trusted with anything?


JIM: The official story was that the ARVN were our noble allies. When I was at Kham Duc we had a requirement to hand in all our proposed patrols a month ahead of time. I sent in the report, but I never went where I said I was going to go.


HANK: How did Mad Dog get from a recon unit in Germany to a SOG operator--was it as easy as just a transfer? Did he have to go through the Q-Course first or was he never even tabbed SF?


JIM: I've wondered the same thing, how he got from Germany to SOG, but I don't know.


HANK: Maybe somebody who knows that part of the story will read this and leave a comment on the forum or something to fill that part in.


PAUL LONGGREAR: Jerry was a Killer, not a fighter. There is an incident where he went up to CCN on R&R and was challenged and dared to fight, off and on, for a couple of hours. He totally ignored the guy like there was nothing to it. People who witnessed it were flabbergasted. Most people associate killer with bad all over, but it wasn't so with Jerry.

HANK: A fascinating individual, to be certain. I should add that, in addition to the characters I’ve read about or seen in films ultimately inspired by Jerry Shriver, I knew a “Mad Dog” myself once at Bragg. Also, Charles W. Sasser had a friend called “Mad Dog” during his time, according to his autobiography. Perhaps his legacy is, in some small way, a continuing inspiration in reality as well as fiction.

Hank Brown is an Airborne infantry veteran and author of the paramilitary adventure novel Hell and Gone, as well as the outspoken pontificator extrordinaire on the Two-Fisted Blogger.

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THE FIGHT CARD SERIES THROWS PUNCHES WITH BAD INTENTIONS!

Knockout

 

Before television brought sporting events to middle-class living rooms, most guys had to either buy tickets and attend in the flesh (not easy if the event was at Madison Square Garden but you were a septic tank repairman in Buttwater, Arkansas), listen to broadcasts on the radio, or read about it in the newspaper. If you wanted more than that, there was no ESPN or Internet to slake your sports jones. But there were pulp magazines with plenty of sports fiction to gorge on.

That's right, folks: once upon a time, sports fans actually read of their own free will! We're talking entire paragraphs at a time with no photo illustrations or Viagra ads to break it up!

For a couple decades, boxing yarns were a popular subgenre of the sports pulps. Now, thanks to Paul Bishop, Mel Odom and a stable of other retro-pulp authors all writing as "Jack Tunney" (you guessed it, fight historians: an amalgam of both participants in the infamous "long count"--Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney), fight fiction is on the comeback trail.

Set in the 1950s--the gory days of boxing when championship bouts went 15 rounds and most referees figured if a man could stagger to a standing position, he was fair game--the two-fisted-tales are connected not just by the common nom de plume but also by backstory: every protagonist grew up in the same Chicago orphanage and learned the manly art of fisticuffs from the same Catholic priest. The good guys don't always win, but they sure get you hoping they will. And there's always "the big fight" to look forward to.

Read an interview with Fight Card co-creator Paul Bishop.

 

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Q & A With Above and Beyond Author Jim Morris

By Hank Brown

For the review of Above and Beyond, visit Two-Fisted Blogger.

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Thanks to the internet, I've had the priveledge of becoming cyber-pen pals with Jim Morris, who has forgotten more about the publishing biz than I'll ever know. He's a Vietnam vet and an author of some widely-read and respected books like War Story. Below is my interview with him shortly after I finished reading his war novel, Above and Beyond. He stayed up late on a week night answering my questions and that is very much appreciated!

HANK: What made you decide to write Above and Beyond? Was it mostly for catharsis? A way to pass the time at the hospital?

JIM: I was fascinated by recon guys, but I was too senior to be one. My last operation was with Project Delta, and Chuck Allen, the commander, had asked me to extend and form a company of Montagnard Mike Force to augment his reaction force. I intended to do it, but got wounded pretty badly before I could do it. On the same day Martin Luther King was killed.

I started writing it in the hospital in Japan in '68. I was lying there, bored as hell. My right arm was in traction, and I didn't know how to write lefthanded, but I learned so I could start this book. I got a notebook and started trying to form the words. I figured if I could do a page a day in a year I'd have a book, and, what the hell, I wasn't doing anything else. What I discovered, writing it in longhand, was that it was cleaner and tighter than anything I'd written before. I didn't really notice that until I tried to continue with a typewriter, and the stuff wasn't as good. So I started writing in longhand again, but by this time my right arm had healed enough that I could write right handed. It was better than the typewritten stuff, but still not as good as left-handed, so I went back to that. Maybe it's a right-brain, left-hand type of thing.

HANK: Yeah, my technique is to have my phone ringing off the hook in between my wife and/or kids interrupting me every 30 seconds while I'm fighting the gravitational pull on my eyelids, sweating buckets from the heat and cursing a slow internet connection. The prose just flows right out of me. I might try your method just for fun, though.

Tell me about Neil Thompson: Was he autobiographical? Based on somebody you knew? An amalgam?

JIM: The genisis of Neil Thompson was a lieutenant I knew on Okinawa. He was a third generation West Pointer whose father had been killed in WWII and his grandfather in WWI. I started with him, but at that time I couldn't put him in recon as an officer. Also I had heard of a clerk at SOCOM HQ who had put himself on a levy for Vietnam, and I thought that was cool.

HANK: You don't hear about guys like that very often...at least when the context is Vietnam.

Neil was booted from West Point for refusing to snitch, yet received a commission after seeing combat as an enlisted man. Is that in any way similar to how you became an officer?

JIM: I went to a military high school and got an ROTC commission. I'd been a PFC in a reserve MP unit before that. That's it. But, much later, I was told that the story of the guy who founded the 101st Tiger Force was very similar to my story about Neil: West Pointer, kicked out, got a battlefield commission and a posthumous Medal of Honor. It's very close to my story, but I never heard it until years after I'd started A&B.

HANK: Ahh, life imitating art again. I once labeled a video I uploaded to Youtube "Osama Bin-Laden Gets Machinegunned Into Swiss Cheese!" About a week later the news broke about Seal Team Six and the Bin-Laden raid. Can I sue somebody for that? Preferably somebody with a lot of money?

Ahem. Neil had a nigh-paradoxical aspect I found intriguing. He seemed to sympathize somewhat with the left-wing counterculture, as represented by Juliana, and yet he never could imagine himself being anything but a soldier. Perhaps I find it paradoxical because my patriotism was an even bigger motivation for me than the desire to be a soldier. The guys I met who loved soldiering, however, probably would have served any nation's army, for any cause. So I might be too idiosyncratic to judge. Did patriotism play a part in Neil's choice to serve, or was it solely a genetic disposition/desire to carry on the family tradition?

JIM: I was eight when WWII ended, and patriotism was not optional. Being an American was the biggest deal in my life. My stepdad was killed in WWII. He was lead navigator of a bomb group in the 8th Air Force, flying B24s out of England. He had been a major for three days. He was 23 years old. He was bombing Hamburg at the time. I've met people from there (Hamburg) who seemed to think he got pretty much what he deserved. But war is a subjective affair.

(Hank's interjection: Allied bombing caused tremendous firestorms in Hamburg and Dresden during WWII. In some ways it was worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

Yeah, patriotism was a big deal for me. I grew up assuming there would be another war and I'd be in it. My whole childhood was preparation for it, and the hope that I'd do well.

That was just me. College bored me to fucking tears, so I ran with a wild crowd, though I never agreed with them about the war. I graduated college in January of '60 and went back to grad school in '69. When I heard that one of my favorite authors had written a book about another of my favorite authors I pounced right on it. The book was The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. One thing I noticed about the people in that book was the huge number who had been not just GIs but combat arms officers. Ken Babbs, who was as much a leader of the Pranksters as Kesey, had been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Hassler was actually on active duty at Ft. Ord when he started dropping acid at Kesey's place in LaHonda, and Stewart Brand, who was driving the truck in the first scene in the book, had served as an LT with me at Ft Dix. I never realized that my LT Brand was the same guy until I found a story he had told me at Dix in the Whole Earth Catalog.

HANK: Small world. Was Juliana based on somebody specific?

JIM: I knew an IVS volunteer in BanMeThuot who lived in that house in that village. She dated an SF captain friend of mine and later, I am told, married a Vietnamese man. She was pretty cool, but I borrowed the look from a dancer I knew in Fayetteville, AR who had some of the same sexual problems (which Diane, the IVS volunteer, did not).

HANK: What can you tell us about the Yanks in the story who were working for the enemy--were they based on fact?

JIM: Those two guys were famous in recon, known as Salt and Pepper. But they weren't all that famous when I first wrote about them. Dale Dye used them in a novel as well, after I wrote the first draft of A&B, but before it was published. I've had about six guys tell me they killed them, not wanting truth to interfere with a good story. One of them used that line, "He said, 'Help me!' So I helped him. I put a full mag in the son of a bitch." But, as far as I know, no one ever knew who they actually were.

HANK: Who was Shoogie based on and can you tell us a little about the real-life man?

JIM: Shoogie was based on the legend of Jerry Shriver. He was a real guy, whom I did not know, though I did meet his One-One (assistant team leader) at a party in Nha Trang one evening. He kissed me on the ear and said, "Y'know, motherfucker, I like you," after we had talked tactics for awhile. I was an overweight staff captain and he was the assistant patrol leader to the most famous soldier in Vietnam. I was kind of flattered. It was sort of like a studio suit talking to a star. No place to pull rank.

Jerry Shriver

I knew a bunch of guys who just didn't give a shit, and I made Shoogie one of those. Shriver had been in a jeep recon unit in Germany and joined recon in Vietnam. As far as I knew he never did anything else. His sister was married to another recon guy, Harve Saal. That was years ago. What their current situation is I do not know. The juvenile delinquent part I took from a friend in Oklahoma City in high school. He later became a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. The way Shoogie died was a recon story that was told to me for true, though I never knew the name of the guy who had been shot out of the McGuire Rig and killed the guy who shot him on the way down. It may be apocryphal, but it's a great story.

HANK: It sure is. Kinda' reminds me of Jeff's demise in Breeder--last act of defiance and all that.

At what point (and why) did you bookend the story with Neil's daughter looking back at the legacy of her father?

JIM: The first version ended with Shoogie's death, only he was called Mad Dog then, being based on the legend of Jerry "Mad Dog" Shriver. By the eighties I had decided to add the rest of the story, ending with Neil's death, which had been foreshadowed in the first version. Once that happened, since it was a generational thing, it just seemed natural to carry it on to another generation.

HANK: You worked on this book for 36 years. How much did it change between your first draft and when it was published?

JIM: I finished the first version in '69. It was much stripped-down. No book-ends, nothing after Shoogie's death. I had offers to sell it as a paperback original, but had a more grandiose vision than that. I had offers to sell it to small publishers. Same deal. I had near hits and near misses over the years, so I just kept playing with it. Finally I decided to move on, and sold it to Dennis Cummings at realwarstories.com, just to see it in print. They sold something like two hundred copies and folded. So now its POD and Kindle, but I'm proud of it. It's the book I wanted to write, and people who actually read it usually seem to be blown away.

HANK: I buzzed right through it, and I haven't buzzed right through any book for a while. It's a story that stays with you, and I know I'm going to be remembering certain scenes and dialog from it for a long, long time. You don't have to be a Vietnam veteran for it to grab you and take you back--there's a timeless appeal to it.

I'm curious why you made Neil/Juliana's child a female, who then went on to attend West Point. Was it a show of support for women in the military? A change suggested by the editor or publisher?

JIM: When I wrote that part, women were just coming in the Army as other than WACs and there was a lot of resistance. I saw that as a dramatic situation too intense not to explore at least a little.

Gene Young, a Chinese-Filipino woman, was a young editor at one of the majors when I first sought a publisher for A&B. She liked it and wanted to buy it. Before they were through six editors had read it and the vote was four to two against. Later Gene Young went on to be the most successful editor in New York, the only one who has ever had the number one bestsellers in both fiction and non-fiction (Love Story and Zelda).

HANK: Was there a literal Project Theta or was that your disguise for an actual unit?

JIM: Theta was based more on Omega than any other project. But I didn't want to stick any real organization with the naughty goings-on I depicted happening in Theta. That was based more than anything else on the II Corps Mike Force. I went to that party. The line about the sergeant with six notches on his pistol who "don't count Gooks" also came from the II Corps Mike Force.

HANK: It would be illustrative for potential readers if you could paint a picture of SpecOps during Vietnam, showing how SOG, the LRRPs, special projects like the one in your book, SF A-Teams, plus the Mike Force and the 101st's "Tiger Force" fit in MACV's toolbox, and what overlap they had. (For instance, you described SOG as basically the same as Project Theta, except they worked over the fence.)

JIM: Delta was first. It evolved out of an operation code named Leaping Lena. But Larry O'Neil, who was then the Special Projects S4 started all that Greek letter stuff by marking all Leaping Lena's supplies with a chalked triangle. Delta grew to the point that it was producing 40% of the tactical intelligence in Vietnam. But when Splash Kelley took over 5th Group, he went to a party at the Delta compound one night and somebody kissed him on the ear and said, "Don't ever die, you sweet motherfucker; don't you even catch cold," and he thought that was a bit extreme. So he diluted Delta by forming Sigma and Omega.

Later when the SOG recon projects (Op34 as I recall) were formed Command & Control North was formed from scratch, as was Command & Control Central. But Omega was converted to Command & Control South. I don't know what happened to Sigma, as that conversion was made after I got hit. At one time CCN had a 115% annual casualty rate, but they killed over a hundred enemy for every man they lost, and the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) had a battalion out searching for every man they had in the field, so they were highly, highly effective. Guys who volunteer for a unit with a 115% annual casualty rate have unusual motivations.

HANK: Holy understatement, Batman!

JIM: The Mike Force were airborne qualified battalion-size reaction forces for Special Forces in each Corps Tactical Zone. In Pleiku, which is where I had the most contact with them, they were across the street from the C team HQ. In II Corps they were Montagnards. I think in I Corps they were Nungs, at least for the most part. Got no idea who made up the III Corps Mike Force...maybe Viets or maybe Montagnards. In IV Corps I would assume they were Cambodes. They were very proud and fought very well.

As to the Tiger Force...don't know much about it. Everything I do know was told to me by Tom Carhart over the phone when I was an editor in New York. And what he told me was what I told you, about their commander and founder. Oh, yeah, when his widow got the medal there were demonstrators outside the Pentagon chanting "WAR-MONGER WHORE! WAR-MONGER WHORE!" Nice, huh?

HANK: I'm pretty sure those demonstrators went on to become my high school teachers, college professors, members of Congress and the perfectly neutral, impartial opinion-shapers of the news media.

Ahem again. Do you approve of how the military has been evolving, overall?

JIM: We seem to have great soldiers now. I hate to say it, but they may be much better than we were. But the generals are the same if not worse, and communications have improved to the point that micromanaging is the order of the day. It's like a hospital administrator trying to run a heart transplant over the phone. In my day we were "controlled" by one coded message a day. We did what we had to do and told them what they wanted to hear.

HANK: Jeez. Can you imagine operators in the bush having that kind of room for initiative today? Or even in my day?

Leadership-wise, by the time I joined the Army, the officer corps had a whole lot of Freniers and almost no McLeods...at least below field grade. Maybe this trend has been underway since WWI. Maybe it's post-Vietnam. What is your take on it?

JIM: No, it's always had a lot of Freniers and a very few McLeods. But I loved the McLeods I knew. I based the character on one of my COs on Oki, Major (later LTC) Clinton A. Drury. He was a wonderful guy, a Norwich grad who had been an Air Corps bombardier in WWII. Physically McLeod looked like LTC Drury. The things he did were based on one of the commanders of Project Omega, Pappy LaMar.

HANK: When you set out to tell this story, what led you to set it during the peak of US involvement in Vietnam? (You were there before the first combat troops arrived and could have set it in the early days, for instance.)

JIM: My first CO in Vietnam, Captain Crews McCulloch, told me after he had switched over to the 173d to get his artillery command time, "We're going to lose this war, Jim, and I don't want to stay around to watch." That was about September of '64. I believed him, but wanted to write a book that included more than one TDY tour. Later I convinced myself that we could win it if we changed our ways.

HANK: Do you remember when it first became clear to you that the US had no intention of winning in Vietnam?

JIM: I had two TDY tours in Vietnam before troops were committed. SF was there from 1957 on in one form or another. My team was deployed on 17 Dec ' 63 for six months. We went back to Oki on the 6th of June--20th Anniversaary of D-Day. I was back in command of my own team in October. Got wounded the day before Christmas Eve, 1964. That was my third Purple Heart, and it was before the troops were deployed, and before the first anti-war demonstration. We all knew it would take about thirty years to win in Vietnam. We were also pretty sure Kennedy would have never committed combat troops.

The advisors had the leadership and the Vietnamese had enough privates. If they didn't care enough to fight and win why should our guys do it? When I got back to Oki from the hospital in January '65, Crews McCulloch, for whom my youngest son is named, told me what was going to happen in Vietnam, and got out. He was on orders for C&GS, on the five percent list for major, and nobody who knew him thought he would retire as less than an LTG. Instead he just made a really good living, raised two great girls, and taught Sunday School.

I had decided at Kham Duc, when I had my own team, that what the army was doing wasn't working, and maybe the CIA had something worthwhile going. You can't segue from one to the other on your own initiative, so I got out and applied. Not selected. I was pretty upset about it and wrote the CIA shrink who had interviewed me, and with whom I had struck up a friendly conversation. He wrote me that he had recommended against hiring me because "you are too intelligent and have too much imagination for the kinds of orderly, procedure-dominated jobs for which you are being considered." He also said something I took as a compliment. "You are rather an odd duck." Anyway I figured if what they wanted was lock-step idiots who would do what they were told and not think about it then they didn't have their stuff together either.

Jim Morris

But I got bored after a couple of years and went back on active duty. The only fun I had while I was out was in the Special Forces Reserve anyway.

But I knew we COULD win, and kept hoping we would wake up and do it.

Tet '68 blew that. I knew it was over then. We did not lose the war to Ho Chi Minh; we lost it to Walter Cronkite.

HANK: A lot of dunderheads opine about why we lost over there: "Americans don't know how to fight in the jungle." That's probably what the Japanese thought right before the Solomons campaign, too. Obviously BS. "Americans don't know how to fight a guerilla war." More BS. We've always excelled at guerilla fighting. After 1945 Washington has never been committed to winning a war, unless it involved oil. If you're gonna commit American boys to fight and die in Indochina, you bomb bridges, supply lines and ammo dumps; you march through Hanoi and secure the borders to prevent arms being supplied to the enemy, and if they sting you across the border from Laos and Cambodia, you march in there, too, and deprive them of their resources and safe haven. Do you think for a moment we'd have let the Wermacht hit and run from behind the border of Spain or Vichy France? Obviously not...because we were commited to victory in Europe. In other words: we were at war, not conducting a "police action.".

Triple ahem. Special Forces is a small community, considering the enormity of the Army. Yet it seems there was a disproportionate representation of SF vets who became authors--compared to the line doggies, gun bunnies, etc., and REMFs in the Big Army. Not only that, but you had two authors on the same SF reserve team at one point...with Charles W. Sasser as the team sergeant. How does that happen????

JIM: First off, SF guys are smart. Same IQ requirement as OCS. Pretty much any SF trooper who wanted to be an officer could, but they wanted to stay on a team, not do politics or the obligatory Pentagon tour or any of that crap. And they have great stories to tell. Jim Donahue's stuff makes the hair raise on the back of my head. Jim Prewitt's own story of his Medal of Honor recommendation does that too. Incidentally, I took Neil's death scene from Fred Zabatoskie's M.O.H. citation. I fancied it up a bit, but basically that's what it was.

HANK: Makes sense to me. That's one aspect that really sets Special Forces apart from other elite forces, in my opinion: the intelligence of the men who wear the funny green hats.

From a previous conversation I know you've read Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Is sci-fi something you read a lot for the fun of it? What else (you know--when you're not helping out brilliant up-and-coming new authors, editing for pay or writing your own books)?

JIM: I started reading sci-fi in the 6th grade and kept at it through college. But I'm not versed in current science-fiction. I'm from the Heinlein-Theodore Sturgeon generation. Somehow I got sidetracked. What I'm fascinated with now are the works of Carlos Castaneda, his apprentices and successors. It's a great literary puzzle: what is real and what is bullshit? So far it seems the stories are semi-bullshit, but the techniques work like gangbusters.

HANK: Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to answer all these questions. Oh...one last one: What are you cooking up next?

JIM: A few years back I discovered I was part Cherokee, and did a lot of research on the tribe. I've mixed that in with a lot of what I know about the Toltecs and written a supernatural thriller called Tahlequah.

 

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MEN'S FICTION AUTHOR FROM THE '80S GOING EBOOK!

By Hank Brown

My introduction to men's adventure novels, and war fiction, was The Sergeant #4:The Liberation of Paris by Gordon Davis. Up until I cracked open that paperback, I had never read anything like it before. I turned pages in a stunned trance, eyeballs dilated, jaw slack, visions of bayonet duels dancing in my head.

The Sergeant #4

With this new literary universe to explore, I began collecting similar books. (It took me years, but I now have the entire Sergeant series in paperback.) Another series I collected was The Ratbastards by John Mackie. It was also a WWII series, but set in the Pacific rather than Europe.

ratbastards #1

At the time, I took the different author names at face value, but couldn't help noticing similarities in style, phrases in the dialog, and certain recurring sequences in different battle scenes.

The main protagonist in both series is a big, tough, battle-scarred Master Sergeant in the infantry--Clarence J. Mahoney in The Sergeant and John Butsko in The Ratbastards. Both have loyal junior NCO sidekicks that were once innocent all-American boys, but are now the best soldiers in any man's army.

Sergeant #5

In The Sergeant, the narrative usually focuses on Mahoney and Corporal Cranepool, as they are often sent on special missions by themselves. But sometimes they stay with their line platoon in the 88th "Hammerhead" division, and one other recurring character from their platoon bears mentioning: Private Butsko. He is not like MSgt Butsko over in the Pacific, but more like one of Butsko's men, Frankie LaBarbara--a trash-talking goldbrick who is always looking for ways to take personal advantage of the circumstances in war.

Ratbastards #11

In The Ratbastards Butsko and Corporal Bannon are a fixture, but other members of the 23rd Infantry's Recon Platoon get plenty of attention, including ladies' man Frankie LaBarbara. My favorite was probably prolific point man Sam Longtree, an Apache from Arizona who is the ideal soldier-scout. Where he conforms to the Redskin Stereotype, it is only because he knows that's what white folks expect of him and he's too careful to make trouble for himself. Nutsy Gafooley is a former hobo. Homer Gladly is a huge corn-fed country boy with tremendous physical strength. Then there's Regimental Commander Colonel Stockton, who has a special place in his heart for his incorrigible ratbastards.

In both series, the POV regularly jumps around...not just between the GI characters but between Axis and Allies, and between the respective high commands, to division, regiment, battalion and company commanders, to the grunts on the line.

In any given volume from one of these series, it's normal to see a firefight break down into an up-close rumble, and for more bayonet combat to take place than happened in the entire war. Maybe even more than took place in WWI. It's also normal to have at least one explicit sexual episode, featuring details just as graphic as the stomachs ripped open and limbs blown off during the battle segments.

Ratbastards #16

I enjoyed The Sergeant a bit more than The Ratbastards--perhaps because the campaign in Europe was more linear than in the Pacific, with a geography familiar from history and National Lampoon's European Vacation. In MacArthur's island-hopping campaign on the other side of the world, men bled and died in obscure patches of jungle surrounding military airstrips with no Eiffel Tower or Parthenon in sight and nothing to distinguish the ground taken or lost from any other patch of jungle.

Maybe I also enjoyed the Davis titles better than the Mackies because Mahoney was more over-the-top than Butsko. He's not a guy I would like in real life but he sure is fun to read about. Butsko is rough around the edges, but I might could share a drink with him in a civilian context without feeling icky.

For whatever reason, though, the Mackie series was longer-lived than the Davis one, and those I've met who read both have the opposite preference I do.

I could go on with the comparisons, but now that we are in the Information Age it has been made public that John Mackie and Gordon Davis were both pseudonyms of author Len Levinson--a guy I'd definitely want to share a drink with and chat about his books.

Somehow (probably plain old moxie and business acumen) Levinson managed to either retain or win back the rights to some (or hopefully all) of his fiction. And that means his fiction is being digitized and re-released in ebook form! That means I can collect the Ratbastards titles I don't have in paperback and eventually read the entire series. It means the uninitiated, with e-readers, can now easily discover his pulpy action extravaganzas for themselves, download them for a paltry sum and read the entire series in sequence if they so desire.

The e-books are being published under Levinson's actual name. He has some westerns out, and hopefully will digitize the entire Gordon Davis series before all is said and done, too. It goes without saying that we will be adding his e-books to our cyber-shelves here at Virtual Pulp Press. Enjoy!

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MORRIS ROLLS ON!

Jim Morris served three tours with Special Forces (The Green Berets) in Vietnam. The second and third were cut short by serious wounds. He retired from his wounds as a major. He has maintained his interest in the mountain peoples of Vietnam with whom he fought, and has been, for many years, a civil rights activist on their behalf. His Vietnam memoir War Story won the first Bernal Diaz Award for military nonfiction. Morris is author of the story from which the film Operation Dumbo Drop was made, and has produced numerous documentary television episodes about the Vietnam War. He is author of three books of nonfiction and four novels. He has appeared on MSNBC as a commentator on Special Operations.

War Story

“If you want to know how it really was in the Special Forces in Vietnam, this is the book to read—no fantasy, no antiwar message, just a true war story.”
–Major General Jack Singlaub, USA (Ret.), former commander, Special Operations Group, Vietnam

“Jim Morris is an unusual case…a writer whose style is spare, controlled, sprung with tension, whose subject matter is war, whose obvious purpose is to ‘tell exactly what it’s like’—all dicta impeccably consonant with the Hemingway canon, and yet he is still very much his own man.”
–The Editors of Esquire

“War Story is very real, and the low-key approach gives it all the more impact.”
–Publishers Weekly

“No other book gives the feel of what it was like to be a Green Beret in Vietnam the way War Story does.”
–Lt. Col. Robert K. Brown, Editor and Publisher, Soldier of Fortune

“Morris captures the historical accuracy of Special Operations in the language learned from firsthand experience.”
–Lt. Col. Chuck Allen, Commander, Project Delta

“War Story is the lore of Special Forces in Vietnam told in the tradition of Woody Guthrie.”
–Al Santoli, author of Everything We Had

“Jim Morris is a highly decorated Green Beret combat veteran, with a unique talent for making his readers feel a part of his gripping, action-packed personal experiences. Morris commands your attention as a reader with the same authority and ability with which he commanded troops in combat.”
–J.C. Pollock, author of Mission M.I.A.


Jim Morris was an educated young man who had always wanted to be a soldier. In 1963, he found the perfect war...

"The war was like a great puzzle, great to think about, great to plan, great to do. It was so incredibly peaceful out there in the jungle."

As an advisor to a Montagnard strike force, Morris and his guerrillas outfought and outmaneuvered the Viet Cong in his sector. To a Green Beret like Jim Morris, the “Yards” were brothers—so fiercely insular, they would serve no outsider and made the Berets who fought with them honorary members of the tribe…so valiant, they would follow the right man into a firestorm…But while he loved the ambushes, the firefights and the Montagnards, he could see a tragedy unfolding in Vietnam.

"As I jumped I heard a crack and felt a thud in my right shoulder. I squeezed the trigger on my M-16. The bolt went ka-schlugg and that was that, baby. Jammed again."

In the most widely admired Special Forces memoir to come out of the Vietnam War, Jim Morris tells his story: of the early days and the Tet Offensive in '68, of the slaughters and the beauty, of the violence, the courage, the loyalty and the loss...

"The war was my life and I identified with it totally. To end it was to end me, and that I would not do..."


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CAPTAIN AMERICA AND ART-DECO-PUNK

FROM THE TWO-FISTED BLOG

Ever since learning Joe Johnstone was the director, I felt confident that the character was in safe hands. And he was. Other critics are kvetching about the "safe" screenplay, but aside from the obligatory irritation of one of my personal pet peeves, I think Johnstone did a fantastic job. Rather than a typical review, I'm gonna focus on a challenge or 2 Johnstone met with aplomb.

In the Golden Age of comics (coincident with the halcyon days of pulp fiction and cliffhanger serials), when Captain America was first created, people couldn't have guessed half of the technology we take for granted today. And yet, creative types imagined some technology that has yet to be achieved in reality.

Like practical rocket packs and a super-soldier serum.

(Individual jet packs were developed during the Vietnam War, and demonstrated at one of the first Superbowls, but consumed too much fuel for more than one short flight and were abandoned as impractical for transport of troops by the US Army. They were never more than an expensive and dangerous novelty.)

So one of the challenges Johnstone faced was presenting still-futuristic (?) gadgets during an historic setting. Not that this hasn't been done before. One of my favorite reruns to watch, growing up, was The Wild, Wild West, which did just this. And there is an entire genre called "steampunk" which features this anachronistic premise as a primary ingredient. In The Rocketeer and Captain America, Johnstone pulls off the anachronisms so masterfully, I think it deserves it's own phrase. I'll call it "art deco-punk."

Howard Hughs' rocket pack looks like it could actually work. And yet it also looks like something designed and built in the 1930s. Same for the helmet Cliff Secord wears. Of course the Rocketeer props were based on the drawings from the comic source material, but kudos to the film makers for not attempting to "fix" something unbroken.

In First Avenger, the same imaginative skills are in evidence in the Red Skull's fortress and aircraft, as well as the secret lab where Steve Rogers is transformed into Captain America. But the art deco-punk was carried out well in the costume, also. The original Captain America costume from the comics (with the triangular shield) is cleverly incorporated into the flick as what Rogers wears for USO and War Bond appearances. But when he hits his stride as "the bona fide article," Cap wears an outfit a little less outlandish. Johnstone and his crew rose to the challenge of finding a "realistic" excuse to have an operative in the ETO fighting the Nazis in a red, white and blue costume.

In comic books, readers have apparently never had a problem with flamboyant costumes in robust hues. But in real life, people are offended by bright colors. So with the exception of the Superman and Spiderman films, and one particular campy TV series from the 1960s, every successful comic book adaptation for the screen has either replaced the superhero's costume or modified it with bland, muted colors. Johnstone's costumer did mute the Star-Spangled Avenger's colors, but it's also noteworthy that they conceived his headgear more as a helmet than a mask, but didn't take the cheap, ridiculous route the makers of the '70s TV pilot did (in photo below):

Cheesy Cap

In the medium close-ups of Cap in his costume, you can see material and stitching consistent with that issued to American troops during WWII.

Did the screenwriter also modify the origin story from the comic book canon? Yes, but not in the disrespectful, ham-fisted manner of so many other adaptations. Bucky and other stock characters were worked into this cinematic tale, re-conceived to be more believable, and even my own purist/stickler-for-accuracy self was pleased with how it was handled.

There are two other things I'll mention about this movie. In the political sense, they disprove the contention that Johnstone "played it safe" in the making of this film.

For whatever reason (verisimilitude, probably), Johnstone chose to show Captain America bearing arms--something I've never seen in the comics (most superheros have some sort of "code against guns"). Johnstone's leftist contemporaries in Hollywood will only show firearms responsibly used by cops, government agents, Communist revolutionaries or soldiers in wars they grudgingly approve of. I guess Cap falls into this latter category, but it's still a departure for a big-screen superhero.

After Watergate, the writers at Marvel found sufficient excuse to reveal their scorn for a "patriotic superhero" by turning Captain America into Nomad. That didn't go over so well. But now that the mass media has redefined patriotism to justify their lionization of politicians who commit treason, a supposed form of patriotism is considered acceptable again. It's okay to pay tribute to our flag as long as you pervert what it stands for. It's okay to pay lip service to our Constitution as long as you subvert its actual meaning and intent with globalist or Marxist plattitudes. The "safe" road for Johnstone to take would be to present Captain America as "a citizen of the world" who just happened to be born in the USA (remember when the Justice League of America became the "Justice League, America"? Or Bill Pulman's Independence Day speech, in the movie of the same name, that was really a globalist soundbite for interdependence?) And yet during Captain America and the Red Skull's climactic confrontation, it is clear from a short exchange about flags that the Skull is the globalist and Cap is rather proud of the exceptionality of his country.

Not to take anything from the other great superhero adaptations (of which Batman Begins might be the best), Joe Johnstone, along with his cast and crew, really did a bang-up job on this movie IMO. If Marvel Films can harness the swag of this one and the first Iron Man flick, then The Avengers should turn out to be something truly spectacular.

 

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Nanok

 

Nanok, wandering swordsman of the Iron Wastes, makes a deal with the Wizard King Midar to steal the mighty Sunsword from the Tower of Sorrows, lair of the dreaded sorcerer, Draaa'kon the Bleak.

Pursued by Draaa'kon and his horde of cauldron-born mutant henchmen, Nanok discovers stealing the enchanted sword is just the beginning. Though victorious against Draaa'kon's bloodthirsty minions, Nanok is blasted senseless by sorcery and sent tumbling from a high ocean cliff. Washed ashore in a distant cove, Nanok is aided by a mysterious wilderness warrior who has his own reasons for seeing Draaa'kon defeated.

Swearing vengeance against his enemy, Nanok returns once more to the Tower of Sorrows, determined to lay waste to everyone and everything within. Battling fearsome troll-kin, brutal guardsmen, and a monstrous horror conjured through the darkest of magics, Nanok must learn the powerful secret of the Sunsword if he is going to have any hope of emerging victorious from the Tower of Sorrows...

 

NANOK And the Tower of Sorrows is a pastiche fantasy adventure short story written as a humorous, light-hearted homage to many of the Sword & Sorcery creations from the 60's and 70's: The Kyrik and Kothar novels of Gardner F. Fox, the Thongor stories of Lin Carter, John Jake's Brak the Barbarian, Karl Edward Wagner's Kane adventures, and much more. Blend in a healthy mix of cheesy barbarian movies from the 80's, Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy tropes, inspiration from heavy metal album covers, Frank Frazetta paintings, comic books, wargames, gratuitously violent adult cartoons, and a pigpile of other influences--what you get is a story that'll have you laughing out loud one minute and fist-pumping the air in victory the next.

NANOK is available for purchase right here on VPP.

 

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With the rise of Mixed Martial Arts, western boxing is being slowly, steadily pushed to the wayside in the milleu of violent sports viewed by the American public. But for most of the 20th Century it was the only legal game of fisticuffs in town.

Boxing films were popular and profitable from the Depression era into the 1950s, though the outlook of the scripts evolved from fairy tale optimistic to hard-boiled noir. The genre enjoyed a lasting resurgence, starting with the first Rocky movie.

But what about fight fiction? It was widely written and read during the heyday of the pulps, but practically vanished since. Alas, there are signs that the literary counterpart to the fight film resurgence has arrived at last. Exhibit A is the Fight Card series. There are three installments so far, all of which are available here on Virtual Pulp Press. Below is a teaser for Split Decision:

Kansas City, 1954.
 
Jimmy Wyler is a fighter punching his way straight to the middle. All he wants is to make enough dough to buy his girl, Lola, a ring. And maybe make the gang back at St. Vincent’s orphanage proud.
 
A slick mobster named Cardone has an offer for Jimmy – money, and lots of it – for a fix.  Jimmy takes the fight.  The ring is almost on Lola’s finger, until Jimmy collides with Whit – another mobster with another up-and-coming fighter.
 
Whit has an offer of his own.  Same fight, different fix.  Now Jimmy is caught between two warring factions of the Kansas City underworld.  He can’t make a move without someone getting mad, getting even, or getting dead.
 
From sweat-soaked fight halls to darkened alleyways, the countdown has begun.  With his girl and his manager in the crossfire, everything Jimmy ever learned about fancy footwork and keeping his defenses up may not be enough …
 
Fight night is approaching and nobody is going to be saved by the bell.

 

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Jim Morris is Back!

We are proud to play a part in spreading the word about the comeback of this highly esteemed author and Vietnam Special Forces ("Green Berets") veteran. His out-of-print books are being re-released in both print and electronic formats, and will be available here at Virtual Pulp Press. He's also working on new material which will undoubtedly be a treat for all of us who have enjoyed and missed his work.

First out of the gates is his war novel, Above and Beyond, which comes highly recommended by many sources you can trust.

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ABOVE AND BEYOND is an adventure novel of the highest order, full of
truths about love, war, and the profession of arms.

- W.E.B. Griffin
THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR
THE CORPS
HONOR BOUND
BADGE OF HONOR

A great read. I literally couldn't put it down.
-Joseph L. Galloway
We Were Soldiers Once…And Young

The action is heart-pumping, heart-wrenching, and the story will
absolutely hold you in its grip from the first page to the last. It is being
there without the bullets.

-Don Bendell
Snake Eater
The B-52 Overture

Above and Beyond is Jim Morris's masterpiece, an epic tragedy of a
man who dared all, and either won or lost all, depending on your point
of view. Me, I think he won.

-Col. Robert K. Brown
Soldier of Fortune

“It is great news that Jim Morris, the most accomplished and admired
of the many fine writers to emerge from the elite ranks of the US Army
Special Forces, is back with a new novel. All of us who have admired
Morris’ previous journalism, fiction, and his classic memoir, War Story,
are sure to enjoy Above and Beyond. And readers who have never had
the pleasure of reading his work before are in for a special treat. This
is military literature at its finest!”

--Kenn Miller
Tiger the Lurp Dog
Six Silent Men

"Above and Beyond" is a book one cannot read in one night because
there is so much to ponder. Still, you can't put it down. So be
prepared for a long night, then.

--Mark Berent
Rolling Thunder
Steel Tiger

Jim’s first book, War Story was one of the great early accounts of the
Vietnam War. This novel builds on that legacy, confirming why he’s
one of our era’s great combat writers.

--John Plaster
SOG
Secret Commandos
Ultimate Sniper

Jim Morris is one of the most original and authentic voices in the whole
body of Vietnam literature. He is the real deal.

--John Milius, screenwriter
Apocalypse NOW
Dirty Harry
Jeremiah Johnson
Red Dawn

In 1968 Jim Morris began writing this book at a hospital in Japan while recovering from the wound that ended his career in Special Forces. His right arm in traction, he wrote left-handed to get the rough draft on paper. (Yes, boys and girls, writers once actually WROTE with pen and paper.) He worked on it 36 years before it saw print.

"Looking back, I must have been nuts to work on the same book that long. But working on it was a refuge from civilian life, which I didn't like very much, at least not when working for a corporation in New York."

Seems like Eugene Sledge took a while to get With the Old Breed into print, too.

As anyone who has surfed this site can tell, we at Virtual Pulp Press not only appreciate new up-and-coming Dude-Lit authors, but also the well established ones who had to slog through the trenches of traditional publishing to break through. Thanks to publishing outfits like Antenna Books, more great reads will be rescued from the void. You can bet many of them will be available right here, too.

Famous Authors

Mark Berent, W.E.B. Griffin, G. Gordon Liddy and Jim Morris all agree (via secret SOG hand/arm signals): Virtual Pulp Press is NUMBAH ONE!!

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Guy Sajer was a unique individual to start with, born and raised in an area contested by France and Germany for many years. He had family ties to both sides and his worldview strikes the modern reader as an idiosyncratic, naive, homogenized nationalism. He was filled with pride, for instance, when the Vichy French joined the Axis--his 2 nations, fighting as 1 (as he saw it).

But putting his convoluted motivations aside, Sajer wrote one of the best war memoirs ever--and about one of the biggest, bloodiest campaigns ever: WWII on the Eastern Front. His experiences as an infantryman should be required reading for every young man who imagines war to be heroic or glorious.

His honesty about what he saw, did and thought is striking. The closest anyone in Sajer's auto bio comes to heroism is a man Sajer often refers to as "the veteran" (Wiener was his name, so Sajer undoubtedly did him a favor by dubbing him with that title). Sajer and the other soldiers came to depend on the veteran, who was a pragmatic survivor, almost never lost his cool, and had a keen grasp of the strategic big picture well beyond his tactical grunt's-eye-view. The men in his squad thought him invincible. "Combat fatigue," "shell shock," "post traumatic stress" or whatever you choose to call it affects every soldier differently, and I found it profoundly sad what happened to the veteran's mind by the end.

The reason for the war on the Eastern Front was that one power-mad dictator wanted territory (Leibensraum) from another. But Sajer's story resonates with the experience of veterans of any war who endured heavy fighting and monumental hardships.

 

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From the Two-Fisted Blog Archives:

A Tommygun Titan: Road to Purgatory

My introduction to Max Allan Collins was his Road to Perdition. As popular as that one is, I consider this one much better.

Let me get the blemishes out of the way, first (my nitpicking self just can't help it): Though the author obviously knows more than I about mob/mafia history, he blundered the facts a little in the Bataan segment...AND pushed the limits of believability maybe a wee bit too far.

Michael Satariano (AKA Michael Sullivan) is a troubled soul who, superficially, seems to be the perfect all-American hero. But his dark, troubled past makes it impossible for him to accept the pedestal. He is what Bruce Wayne would be like in real life (without the money). Like the Batman's alter-ego, he lost his family at a young age in a violent, traumatic fashion, to murderous criminals--and he thirsts for vengeance.

The story opens on the Philippines prior to MacArthur's evacuation. Michael's heroism and combat prowess (dwarfing that of the Transporter and the most outlandish John Woo protagonists) win him the 1st Medal of Honor in WWII, and a golden ticket back stateside where the world is his for the taking.

Haunted by his father's legacy and a lethal impulse triggered by his experiences fighting the Japanese, he dumps his perfect all-American girlfriend (who kept faithful to him while he was away), pisses away a wide-open world full of opportunities available to him, and follows a path of self-destruction. Elliot Ness is making a comeback in Chicago, and needs somebody to infiltrate the Capone mob. Without batting an eyelash, Michael signs on, and uses his Sicilian adopted father's Chicago connections to ensnare himself in the corrupt gangland leviathan.

Ness' impossible guidelines are to avoid breaking the law while winning the trust of the top mob bosses. But Michael gets trigger-happy on his first assignment, becomes a "made man" inside his first year, and quickly works his way closer to the men who ordered his father's death.

So intimately is the main character entangled with real historical figures like Ness, Al Capone, Frank Nitti and Sam Giancana, that you'll probably be tempted to do some historical research afterwards, to see just how much liberty the author took with facts. I am. Or you can just hang on for an engrossing, blood-splattered ride with a fascinating backdrop, while Michael's allegiances shift faster than a free agency era star-caliber NFL player's.

 
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