WAR DOGS #4 BODY COUNT BY NIK-UHERNIK

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Copyright 1986.

The War Dogs are at the friendly Khymer village when they hear that Amy who is in the Philippines is in trouble. She ran afoul of some bigshot in Manila so Justin Ross and two others go there. The guy who is after her has his five daughters frame her for a bombing. So the guys have to break her out of jail. Meanwhile two of the guys head off to Saigon with their Khymer girlfriends. They save a journalist during a VC raid on their bus and get invited to a bar. There is also a third story going on about a seventeen year old girl from Portland who signs up as an entertainer and finds herself being sold into white slavery in Saigon. She gets raped and hooked on heroin. Meanwhile the reporter is found out to be a KGB agent and he is killed in a big raid by the North Vietnamese as one of the guys goes after him. At the end the leader Justine finds the girl who turns out to be his daughter and kills the guy responsible for raping and hooking her on drugs. Unfortunately at the end she dies of a drug overdose.

Well this book was a mess. It ends the series not on a very high note. It was all over the place. Half of it occurred in Manila and I still don’t have any idea why this guy was after Amy. Plus it had a very downbeat story. One of the guys who had a Khymer wife thinks she was killed in a bombing. He blames the reporter who ends up killing him and we find out he was a KGB agent. There was also the subplot with the girl that was just filled with depressing scene after scene of rape and getting hooked on drugs. The book was all over the place. Not a very coherent story. A sad ending to a series that up to now was entertaining and had some potential.

WAR DOGS #3 BUSTING CAPS BY NIK-UHERNIK

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Copyright 1985.

The War Dogs have decided after their last mission to go to Cambodia after reading about a princess who has problems with Chinese bandits. They make friends with the tribe and rescue the princess’s brother and take out the Chinese bandit leader in the process. Yet the mysterious Mr. Y in the Pentagon finds them and they get their next assignment. The NVA have an interrogation center for POWs next to the Cambodian border. Their mission is to go there and assassinate a recently captured Air Force pilot that was shot down. A strange assignment but the War Dogs don’t question their assignments and proceed to the base. Only they’re ambushed by T-54 tanks. The group escapes except for Chandler. Chandler finds out the Air Force lieutenant is the son of a man he served with in Korea. He died in an assault on Camp Starburst. The son has been searching for his father and found out a traitor defected to the Chinese.

Meanwhile the War Dogs after failing in their mission get another assignment. A Congressman is in Vietnam leading a mission to defeat the opium dealers in Cambodia. In the POW camp Chandler and the lieutenant are rescued by an old mercenary friend of Chandler’s from Africa. The man was posing as an East German interrogation specialist known as The Claw. They manage to escape and it all ends with a confrontation with the Congressman who was the traitor in Korea and the one responsible for trying to silencing the Air Force lieutenant for exposing him.

So this was another wild book in the series. I have to admit that the author has a way of throwing stuff at you that you don’t expect. The prologue that starts in Korea with Chandler and his run in with the sentry that was asleep and triggers the claymores when he is surprised killed the returning patrol. His actions result in the destruction of Camp Starburst. Yet it makes sense at the end. A traitor that’s now a congressman who is funding his campaign with drug money. There is goofiness abounding in the book. A German mercenary looking for a cache of weapons he can steal and impersonating an East German with a mechanical hand. Tanks used by the NVA in 1964 even thought they would be next to useless in the terrain and type of war they were fighting. An Air Force fighter pilot who was only 20. A little too young. All this made it an interesting read.

WAR DOGS #2 M-16 JURY BY NIK-UHERNIK

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Copyright 1985.

The War Dogs are in Bangkok to take out the local Communists who plan to attack the U.S. Embassy. After saving the deputy ambassador its off to Saigon. There the team has to assassinate an Army colonel who is running a white slaving operation on the side. As the team waits around two of the men decide to do a little extracurricular active to supplement their incomes. They kill a notorious drug dealer and steal his money.

June Wanda is a rising singer and movie actress. She is also a notorious Communist who married a prominent Black Panther. She also is a highly outspoken critic of the war. She has just been on a trip to Hanoi. Now she is coming to Saigon and the mysterious Mr. Y in the Pentagon wants her taken out. So the team plans an assassination at the rally she is attending. Only the mortar round they are using is a dude. An exciting car chase with a helicopter involved leads to the team capturing June. They take her to a safe house and torture her on why she is really in Saigon. We find out she is there to deliver $250,000 from a rich Texan to pay off the North Vietnamese to release his POW son an Air Force officer shot down in the north. We find out she is actually an NSA agent who has successfully penetrated the anti-war movement, the Black Panthers and the KGB. Then its found out she is a double agent working for the KGB and funneling secret war plans to the north. A final confrontation at an old French fort outside Saigon ends with the traitor getting her just deserts.

The second book in the series was a fun read. The story moved fast and was filled with plenty of action. I loved the wild twists and turns the story took. What was at first just some hit on a kooky Jane Fonda type celebrity seemed kind of pointless. Then all these wild revelations are revealed and it becomes clear why she was tortured and marked for assassination. The guys also donate most of the money recovered to a local orphanage giving the group with such questionable motives and tactics some redemption at the end. A very solid read.

WAR DOGS BY NIK-UHERNIK

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Copyright 1984.

1963. Lt. Justin Ross and his elite clandestine team are ambushed. They were going to assassinate a cousin of President Diem who is a known Communist sympathizer. The team was betrayed and now all his men are dead. Only the timely intervention of South Vietnamese police save him from certain death. Now Ross has to rebuild the War Dogs. So he gathers a new bunch of individuals he can use. One is a former Korean war vet who was working as a mercenary in Rhodesia. He was caught planning a bank robbery and deported back to the states. Because he faked his death and his wife collected $250,000 in life insurance he has to join or be exposed. A Pueblo, Colorado police officer who beats an arrest subject to death. A seventeen year old from a rich family that ran off and joined the Army. He kills his drill instructor who bullied a friend to suicide. Then a helicopter pilot arrested for smuggling drugs. Finally a Guatemalan prostitute working in New York City. She kills a pimp and the Bronx Basher a serial killer that was targeting prostitutes.

This group is trained to be an elite squad of assassins that clandestinely eliminate enemies of America. Their first assignment is back in Vietnam. They first get the chance to take out an arms dealer who is selling to the VC in Hue. Then they infiltrate the presidential palace to kill the cousin. Only the coup starts against President Diem and they find out their real mission is to assassinate President Diem and his brother Nhu who is head of the secret police. They follow the two through secret underground passages to the cathedral in Cholon where they shoot both of them.

So my tradition to read a Vietnam war book for the holidays I started this new series. The first book is an extra length one at over 400 pages long. This was a common practice for Zebra when starting a new series for the first book to be extra long to establish the characters and world. The book definitely does this for the first half, except for the prologue doesn’t even take place in Vietnam. Instead it skips all over the world for Rhodesia, New York City, Pueblo, Florida Everglades, and Panama. We get backstories to all the team members and why they are in the War Dogs. The ending actually involved real world events. President Diem and his brother did escape to the Cholon cathedral using underground passages. Yet history says the two were captured and killed by an ARVN captain in the back of an M-113. A bit of revisionist history.

The first book was an enjoyable read. The characters were fleshed out and feel real. Nik-Uhernik is the pen name for Nicolas Cain who wrote the excellent Saigon Commandos. So the first review of the new year. I plan to do many more with a mix of new books I’ve read and older ones that I plan to reread. Happy New Year.

HEROES BOOK I

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Copyright 1992.

ABLE TEAMRazorback by Dick Stivers(David North)

Hermann “Gadgets” Schwarz is part of the three man Able Team. A clandestine group that is part of the organization known as Stony Man. Gadgets was wounded on the last mission and has time off to recover. While visiting his old martial arts instructor he runs into an old comrade from Vietnam. He invites him over to his farm in Arkansas for some razorback boar hunting. He soon finds out his old buddy is in league with a corrupt sheriff. The sheriff is buying stolen military assault rifles from a white supremacist biker gang and selling it to Colombian drug lords. Soon he finds himself fighting for his life while waiting for his teammates to rescue him.

PHOENIX FORCESurvival Run by Gar Wilson(Mike Linaker)

The U.S. Secretary of State is kidnapped while visiting Saudi Arabia. The group Hammer of Allah is a radical Shiite group lead by the Iranian Abu Niad. The group plans to execute the secretary and broadcast it live on July 4. So Phoenix Force a clandestine group is assigned to rescue him. The search takes the team from Saudi Arabia, to Lebanon and finally an exciting rescue at the terrorists camp in Libya.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZEROZebra Cube by David Baxter(Nicolas Cain)

A high level prisoner exchange is taking place on the Cambodian border. Captain Tate and his squad are to oversee the exchange. Only problem is a renegade Arvin police chief Quac is against this exchange and attempts to stop it. The exchange is really a cover for the NVA to go after a high ranking prisoner General Tran. Tran has been imprisoned in the notorious Zebra Cube so named because of its black and white stripe paint job. A shipping container that is constantly moved. Now Tate and his men must stop the NVA from freeing this notorious prisoner.

So back in the early nineties Gold Eagle decided to merge three of their titles into this anthology series. I got this because it has a lost story from Vietnam: Ground Zero an excellent series. First they decided to give the series a whole new face-lift. A new house name was assigned to the author and new characters were created. It was assigned to the writer of the excellent Saigon Commandos series. He did an excellent job of this story. There was also a subplot about a member of the team returning home to Indiana to attend his parents funeral and getting involved with a Vietnamese stripper. It actually tied in to the main plot. This was also the last Vietnam: Ground Zero ever written. Why they decided to abandon the story I have no idea. Possibly by the nineties the Vietnam war craze was dying down and it didn’t hold much appeal anymore. Still an enjoyable take on the series.

The other two stories are spin offs from the popular Mack Bolan The Executioner series. It involved a clandestine organization called Stony Man that fought the various threats to America. Able Team handled domestic threats while Phoenix Force the international ones. I always wanted to try these series out and now I got my chance. I will say that they were very well written. I read the other stories in the next two anthologies and can say the quality was consistent as we will explore in future posts. I have no doubt that more books are in my future.

THE EMBASSY HOUSE BY NICHOLAS PROFFITT

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Copyright 1986.

1970 the Mekong delta region. In a small province Capt. Jake Gulliver a Green Beret is assigned to an Embassy House to be an adviser for the local Phoenix program. This program is the clandestine CIA program to eliminate VC operatives and sympathizers usually through assassination and torture. Code name Sandman because he was an expert assassin who killed his targets while they slept. Gulliver hates his assignment and especially the CIA boss Steadman code name Razor. Razor is out to get Gulliver for messing up one of his operations that derailed his career. Gulliver finds refugee from this life in opium, his affair with Nhu a local celebrity in the theater troupe. He also has a strong friendship with his Vietnamese counterpart Dang.

So in this life one day an overzealous new American officer arrests and tortures the wrong man. An act that inflames the local populace and threatens to destabilize the whole province. Now he has to choose between his conscience and duty for the retribution that his superiors have chosen to resolve the crisis.

So I have always as a tradition read a Vietnam War book over my Christmas vacation. This year was this enjoyable novel. It was actually one my father bought and gave to me after he finished reading it because he thought I would enjoy it. He was right. This book was an engrossing read. The author served as a reporter for Newsweek during the war so he has experience being there. This comes out in the book for you do feel that you are in Vietnam. It states in the notes that the methods of interrogation are based on fact. This books gives a were realistic portrayal of the torture and other methods used by the Phoenix program.

He combines it with fleshed out characters that you feel are real. Each one has a believable backstory. It captures the pettiness of bureaucrats doing anything to save their asses. Combined with intrigue of counterspies and local corrupt politics make this an engrossing read.

A RECKONING FOR KINGS BY CHRIS BUNCH AND ALLAN COLE

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Copyright 1987.

It is the calm before the storm. At the end of 1967 it seems the war is winding down. Soon the General Offensive will be launched on the Tet holiday. The 302nd North Vietnamese Division has moved to the province of Song Nhanh to participate in the offensive and planned uprising. Lead by General Vo Le Duan who has doubts about the wisdom of this plan but is committed to it. Major Shannon on a patrol of the Cambodian border witnesses the arrival of the division but the American leadership doesn’t want to hear about it as it goes against the official narrative that the war is already won. Soon Vietnamese and Americans will clash in the provincial capital.

This is probably the finest Vietnam War fiction book that I have ever read. The setting is the fictional province and city of Song Nhanh. Both the 203rd NVA and 12th US Army Divisions are fictional units. The setting is an amalgamation of parts of the real Tet offensive. What really makes this story is the intricate detail of all the characters both Vietnamese and American for the generals to the lowliest private. The action is intense and realistic. Both sides are treated fairly. The sense that you get from this book is how all the soldiers are just caught up in events and doing their best to survive. Even the generals seem to have little control over the events. For Duan it is the old men who are desperate to see the south liberated before they die. They are deaf to the possibility that the people will not rise up. For the Americans its the official narrative that the President pushes that the war is already won.

Chris Bunch and Allan Cole were known for mostly space opera sci-fi so this was something new for them. The biography of the authors is that they are both journalists and friends since high school. One was in Vietnam although didn’t say if a soldier or journalist. A lot of research went into this and it clearly shows that the writers have a good understanding of the people during the war. A good book to read if you are interested in the Vietnam War and the Tet offensive.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO RECON BY ERIC HELM

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Copyright 1990.

Something big is going on in the Three Rivers Secret Zone in Laos. Several special forces recon missions have been ambushed and disappeared. A rescue mission finds the remains of one group. Besides the normal mutilations that the NVA do to corpses one stands out. A Caucasian man is among the corpses whose head and hands were cut off. A search of one of the Green Berets finds a Soviet paratrooper badge hidden in his mouth. It looks like the team captured a Soviet paratrooper and the NVA made sure the body couldn’t be identified. It looks like the Soviets have an active military presence in Laos and the Americans are very interested in finding out why.

So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are put in charge of a team to go in and find out why the Soviets are in Laos. They parachute in and are to meet up with a former French Foreign Legionnaire who has a plantation and works for the CIA. When they arrive they find that their contact has mysteriously been killed and they must rely on his beautiful widow. The widow turns out to be an enemy agent and the team discover the Soviets have established a radar base to track American aircraft.

So this is the final book in the series. As we go into the nineties the interest in the Vietnam war was fading. After thirty-six books they were probably running out of story ideas and it was starting to show. Still this book was a solid effort and I think the series went out on a strong note. This was a very interesting series. While the quality varied as you would expect in such a long series most of the books were good. This was actually a sort of history series masquerading as a men’s adventure series. The war was explored from its early days of 1964 to 1968. It covered both North and South Vietnam as well as Cambodia and Laos. Even an adventure in Hong Kong. It explored the various aspects like counterinsurgency and the politics that went on. The CIA programs, the drug trade and corruption in the South Vietnamese government. How Tet affected the war with the NVA taking over from the decimated VC. You learned little tidbits like ham and lime beans were the worst C-ration. They fought NVA, VC, Pathet Lao, renegade Cambodians, The Red Chinese and even Soviet soldiers. This was definitely one of the best Vietnam War series to come out of the eighties.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO SNIPER BY ERIC HELMS

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Copyright 1990.

A well planted CIA spy has managed to come back with important information that could change the course of the war. The Chinese are ready to commit 100,000 troops to protect the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This would free up much needed NVA troops to wage the war in the south. So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are put in charge of a mission to stop this. Senior military officers of both the NVA and Chinese PLA are going to meet in a village in Laos to sign the agreement. Gerber is to lead a team with a Marine sniper to take out this delegation. Gerber has worries about this mission. The sniper is a nineteen year old with over twenty confirmed kills in just two months. Yet he has dreams about the first person he killed a fifteen year old girl running supplies for the VC. He also finds out their old nemesis the Chinese officer that tried to kill them in Hong Kong is still alive and leading the security. He has brought in the most decorated sniper in the NVA to guard the ceremony. Now two of the best snipers are going head to head.

This is the fifth and final Super books in this series. Once again they manage to keep the action interesting with the expanded format. This is basically the story of two snipers. Corporal just promoted to Sgt. Robert Corbett. A nineteen year old with an uncanny accuracy. He also has disturbing dreams and wonders if what he is doing is right. The other is Sgt. Duc Van Co of the People’s Army of Vietnam. He has recently scored 85 kills giving him the highest kills in the NVA army. They also decided to bring back their old nemesis the Chinese officer from the beginning of this series. He was presumed killed in the Hong Kong adventure but left it open that he could have survived. Nice to see they didn’t forget that and gave some closure concerning this character. A very good story for the last of the super sized books.

VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO SPIKE BY ERIC HELM

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Copyright 1990.

The rail yard at Son Tay is a major transit point for arms and ammunition coming from China. It’s close proximity to the Chinese border makes a B-52 strike not politically viable. So Captain Gerber and Sgt. Fetterman are tasked to go in and destroy it. With two other Green Berets they form a Spike team and parachute into the north. There they hook up with two Kit Carson Scouts of questionable loyalty. Luckily the fuel tanks are situated on a hill overlooking the rail yard so they can unleash fuel into the site destroying it completely.

So another mission into the north. This time they seem to have a fairly easy time taking out their target. In fact they do a good job of destroying the place. Not much going on in this story otherwise. The backstory of the two men that join them is fairly interesting. One is a veteran on clandestine operations in South and Central America who lost his wife and daughters to a drunk driver. The other has a cheating wife at home who married him for the possibility of getting the guys life insurance. In a twist she is the one who dies in a car accident and he gets the life insurance money.

There are also some interesting Vietnamese. The two Kit Carson scouts that Gerber doesn’t trust get captured and tortured by a KGB agent. One manages to escape and ends up sacrificing himself so the team can escape. Another is Bicycle Chain Tran a NVA officer candidate. He got his name because he hit drunk American soldiers with a bicycle chain. Otherwise not much happens in the book. They wander around. They shoot a tiger for no reason. I think the idea well was starting to run dry for this series. Not an uninteresting book just nothing really stood out about this story.