THE FIVE FINGERS BY GAYLE RIVERS AND JAMES HUDSON

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Copyright 1978

Gayle Rivers is a warrant officer in the New Zealand SAS. One day in 1969 he is called to a meeting and finds himself part of a covert operation. Codename the Five Fingers the groups consists of seven highly trained special forces members that include three Green Berets, a South Korean ranger, a British and Australian SAS and Gayle. The mission is to go through Laos and North Vietnam to a small town on the Chinese border. There they will kill the delegates of a conference held there. The conference is to arrange China and North Korea’s entry into the Vietnamese conflict and force American out of Asia.

The mission starts off as planned and the squad arrives at the town in China. Then they get an abort signal and must fight there way back. In addition to the communist forces pro-American Laotian government troops and mercenaries are out to stop them. It seems that their own government doesn’t want them to return. Now their only chance is to link up with an American unit in South Vietnam.

This book I read in high school and absolutely loved it. It has to be the most action packed books I ever read. A reviewer quoted on the back states that there is more killing than a Chicago stockyard and I have to agree. The squad fights NVA, VC, Pathet Lao, tribal mercenaries, the Laotian National Army and Cambodian mercenaries. These seven men leave bodies all over Laos and North Vietnam.

You also get a feel for what the unit goes through. Gayle talks about the mosquitos, leeches, snakes, dysentery and malaria that plague them. The various emotional states that the men go through. You get to see how this mission forms a deep bond among the unit from the hardships that they endure.

The book hints that this is a real story and Gayle Rivers is a pseudonym. Is it real? Well I suppose it could be. Some of it does seem farfetched but who’s to say that it didn’t really occur. I thought the ending was a bit anticlimactic and leaves unanswered the reason for the mission. While it was unsatisfying it also does lend an air of reality to the story.

Real or fiction The Five Fingers is definitely one incredible action packed and interesting book.

THE RESURRECTION OF JIMBER-JAW BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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Copyright 1937

An aviator who has invented a new type of engine is hired by the Soviet government. He strikes up a friendship with another American who is a cryogenicist. They go off on a flight to test the new engine when their plane crashes in the wilds of Siberia. The two find a frozen caveman and the they decide to revive him. The caveman proves intelligent and they teach him English and take him back to the states.

Jimber-jaw as they name him becomes a successful boxer. He sees a movie and recognizes the actress who looks like his mate. Unfortunately the actress does not act like his former mate. When he catches her with another man he decides to commit suicide by locking himself in a meat locker. He leaves a note stating not to thaw him out.

At 21 pages this is actually more a short story then an actual book. The story starts out with an interesting premise but the author sort of lost interest and ends it on a dour note. The story is a curiosity on a very obscure writing of Burroughs. That would probably be the only reason to bother with this short story.

THE GIRL FROM FARRIS’S BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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Maggie Lynch is caught by police officer Doarty as she is climbing down a fire escape from Farris place. Abe Farris runs a notorious brothel and Doarty is not getting the kickbacks that he thinks he deserves. So he uses Maggie as a pawn in his dispute. Maggie decides that she has had enough with the sleazy red light district and sets out to find a more respectable life.

She finds out that the business world is full of greed and deceit even more than the streets she left behind. She finds a job as a secretary to Odgen Secor a respectable businessman. One night he is hit over the head in a robbery. While incapacitated his business partner runs the company into the ground. He finds himself friendless and starts over in Idaho where he strikes it rich in finding gold.

Maggie now using her real name June Lathrop is arrested for the murder of his father John Secor. Luckily an amateur detective finds the real murderer.

This book was written in 1913 and is one of his realistic books. If my summary is a bit confusing that is because this book was confusing to me. It starts off good but in the second half he sort of crams everything together and it becomes a jumbled mess. It is supposed to be social commentary on the corruption of Chicago. I think that it does portray an accurate picture of the society at that time and the slang is very authentic. It still doesn’t make up for the dull and confusing plot. This is one of my least favorite Burrough’s books.

So unless your a Burrough’s completest I would skip this book.

THE GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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Life on the Pennington ranch is hard but removed from the problems of the big city. Unfortunately the problems are coming to the ranch. Custer the son has a drinking problem and his best friend Guy Evans is involved in smuggling bootleg whiskey. Guy is an aspiring writer that wants to marry Custer’s sister Eva. He needs money so that is why he turns to the bootlegging operation.

While this is happening a young actress Shannon Burke gets the news that her mother has died and she must dispose of some property in the country. Shannon had high hopes when she came to Hollywood but was tricked by a sleazy producer onto cocaine and now sells drugs for him. While visiting the ranch Shannon is taken in by the Pennington’s. She finds the life in the country peaceful and kicks the drug habit and falls in love with Custer.

It all comes crashing down when the sleazy producer comes out to make a movie. Guy’s partners in the bootleg business frame Custer for murder of the producer. Shannon’s secret is exposed and Custer is arrested.

Wow drug use in Hollywood. Sleazy producers getting young impressionable girls hooked on drugs. Its so great that in the last eighty years the entertainment industry has been able to clean up its image. This is not your typical Burroughs story. The male lead is an alcoholic and the female lead is a drug addict. Not what you’d expect to find in one of his stories. The story is set in the real contemporary world of his time with none of the fantastical elements.

I give him a lot of credit for going out of his comfort zone to try something new. I’m sure he had some exposure to Hollywood from the Tarzan movies that were made. The story except for the prohibition bootlegging subplot is as relevant today as it was eighty years ago. It has mystery, courtroom drama, and fair amount of action.

I AM A BARBARIAN BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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These are the memoirs of Britannicus. Britannicus was the son of a chieftain of a tribe in Britannia that lost a war and was sold to the Belgae. Later the Belgae tribe was defeated by the Romans. He is spared because the young son of the legion’s commander desired him as his personal slave. So begins his life as the slave to a seven year old that was nicknamed by the soldiers in the legion as ‘Little Boots.’ He would grow up to be the mad emperor Caligula.

The memoirs chronicle his life among the Romans. Rome is depicted as a grand city but Roman civilization as decadent and corrupt. Everyone is conspiring to climb up the ladder to power and position. He witnesses the intrigue, gladiatorial games and chariot races.

Eventually his master Caligula becomes emperor and a reign of terror grips the empire. Caligula bankrupts the state with his extravagant lifestyle and mad projects. Finally in one of his mad moods he has a portion of the gladiatorial audience throw into the arena to be fed to wild animals. Finally he is assassinated with Britannicus being the first to plunge in the knife blade.

This is another of Burroughs pseudo historical novels. I am not familiar enough with Roman history to vouch for its historical accuracy. I will say that it is an excellent exciting story. The decadent civilization and the antics of Caligula and his family provide a fascinating story. This is a book I really enjoyed.

THE MAD KING BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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Barney Custer of Beatrice, Nebraska is visiting the kingdom of Lutha, a fictional European country in the Balkans. While there he is mistaken for the escaped Leopold the mad king of Lutha. Leopold has been imprisoned unjustly by his uncle Peter who wants to eliminate Leopold and rule the country. Barney gets into adventures were he must impersonate the king. He also falls in love with the king’s betrothed princess Emma. He defeats the evil schemes of Peter but is forced to flee the country. It is discovered that Barney’s mother was the runaway princess and he is in fact of royal blood. Also Leopold discovers the love between him and Emma so Barney must flee the country as his father did but without a princess.

The second part of the book finds Lutha being threatened by Austria at the start of the First World War. Barney returns to help his friend and once again is involved with the intrigue of Lutha. Forced again to impersonate the king in order to free the country from the Austrians. The end finds him crowned as the true king and Emma as his queen.

I really enjoy these stories that Burroughs set in these fictional little European countries. They have a sort of goofy charm with their convoluted plots and fairy tale romance. This one was probably his best for one of these stories.

THE LAD AND THE LION BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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The story starts in an unnamed European country. The king has been assassinated in a coup and his young son Michael is taken out of the country. What follows is essentially two separate stories running parallel to each other.

The even chapters tell the story of Michael. He is on a ship when it goes down and finds himself floating alone in a lifeboat. He has no memory of his past life. He is rescued by a crazed deaf mute on an old steamer. His only other passenger is a caged lion. The old man enjoys to torture the lion and also starts to torment the boy.

One day he is careless and the lion escapes and kills the old man. The boy is unharmed since they formed a friendship. The boat beaches itself on the shores of North Africa and both leave for the freedom of the wilds. Eventually the boy rescues a Bedouin girl named Nakhla. She finds that the boy now a young man has no knowledge of speech. She names him Aziz which means beloved and teaches him Arabic. What follows is his adventures in North Africa and how he saves Nakhla with the help of his lion friend. He later marries Nakhla and settles with her father’s tribe.

The odd chapters deal with the European country. The new king Otto is a tyrant kept in power by Sarnya the head of the army and secret police. His son Ferdinand is even worse. This story deals with the intrigue as various factions plot to overthrow the government. Eventually Ferdinand becomes king and proceeds to bankrupt the country for his own extravagant lifestyle. He is killed with his mistress by a group of young officers and Sarnya becomes dictator. The final chapter ends with him receiving a telegram from Michael congratulating him and offering his sympathy.

This book was an interesting story. I liked the use of telling two separate stories with alternating chapters. One was a jungle adventure that Burroughs was known for. The other was a tragic tale that had no happy ending. It’s tied together at the end quite nicely.