Thursday, June 9, 2011

Able Team #8: Army of Devils


Able Team #8: Army of Devils, by Dick Stivers
October, 1983 Gold Eagle Books

Without a doubt, this is the most insane, brutal, sadistic, over-the-top gory book I've yet reviewed on this blog. It's great!! It goes beyond even the lunacy of Gannon or Blood Bath, which is shocking enough, but even more shocking is that Army of Devils comes from a most unexpected source: Gold Eagle Books. If more of their novels had been like this rather than generic, status quo terrorist-of-the-month stuff, then they'd be as hotly-collected as the earlier, more lurid examples of the genre. Because in reality Army of Devils is more like something Manor Books would've published a decade earlier.

"Dick Stivers" was a house name for the series; this novel was actually written by GH Frost, a man who wrote a dozen or so Able Team books, many of which are supposedly as insane as this one. When I was a kid in the mid-'80s I subscribed to Gold Eagle; every other month I'd receive a box of books. Able Team was always included, but I never read any of them. (They sure looked good lined up on my bookshelf, though!) Being such a fan of the publisher I knew all about them, though: a three-man commando team who usually responded to domestic terrorism threats, but would occasionally go abroad.

The Team is comprised of Carl Lyons, the leader and general alpha male, Pol Blancanales, and Gadgets Schwarz. It doesn't really matter though, as Lyons is the star of the book; the other two don't even show up until over halfway through, and even then mostly serve as back-up. This isn't a problem for me, as it allows Frost to concentrate on a protagonist and really build up the novel. Because quite honestly, Army of Devils is superbly written, with a level of character depth usually unseen in this genre; the action scenes are sadistic and brutal and insanely gory, but amid all of that Frost is still able to dole out exceptional dialog, narrative, and quiet moments of reflection.

But first the carnage. The novel opens with some of the most over-the-top stuff I've ever read, as Frost details the murderous rampage of a gang of punks one summer night in LA. Out of their minds on a variant of PCP which turns them into zombies, their only thought is to kill whitey. Yes, this novel preys on the fears of the conservative white male even moreso than the earlier Hijacking Manhattan.

These opening pages give the tone of a horror novel more than action, as the punks -- black and Chicano the lot of them, as Frost often reminds us -- kill with abandon, often in the most brutal of ways. And they truly do become zombies under the influence of the mysterious drug; unable to reason or talk, unable to feel pain. And the only way to kill them is to blow off their heads or sever their spinal columns! Just when you think this opening section has attained the peak of brutality, it goes even further, ending with another gang of punks killing the occupants of a broken-down car and then playing a quick game of ball with their baby...before finally tossing it out the window of their speeding car.

LA is set into a panic and Carl Lyons just happens to be on the scene, in town to provide a demonstration of an automatic shotgun to the LAPD. He's here with his girlfriend Flor, a pretty DEA agent who happens to be a sort of liason with Stony Man, the shady ensemble for which Able Team works. And who would believe that here we get an actual sex scene in a Gold Eagle novel?? Again, it's as if Frost has no idea who he is writing for, and more power to him. Beyond the shenanigans this is another well-crafted scene, with great dialog and introspection for the two characters. And Lyons himself comes off like a throwback to those earlier men's adventure protagonists, a hothead who's always about to blow a fuse.

Lyons hears all about the horror that was the previous night, and vows to find out what's up. He calls in his teammates and here the gory fun begins. The whole middle section of this novel concerns Able Team infiltrating a building filled with these drugged-up zombies, all of them armed and ready to kill. It's one hell of a gory ride, with the Team blasting apart wave after wave of zombie-punks, even hacking them up with machetes when they run out of ammo. In fact it gets to be so gory that eventually the Team finds themselves standing in ankle-deep blood!

Army of Devils comes off like Dawn of the Dead meets Assault on Precinct 13...or even like an NC-17 version of Death Wish 3 or Stallone's Cobra. If you have a fondness for those '80s action movies where middle-aged protagonists spend the entire film blowing away punks, then you owe it to yourself to check out Army of Devils. Just when you think he's topped himself, Frost rises to another peak and shocks you all over again. And again, it's not just a case of ultraviolence -- the man can truly write, even delivering some dark humor.

Every time I read one of these OTT novels I wonder how seriously we're to take the author. This is especially important when one is reading a Gold Eagle novel, a notoriously right-wing publisher. And Army of Devils does go out of its way to bash the "liberal media," the hippies of the '60s, the Black Panthers, and on and on. There's even a Geraldo Rivera-type who works for a "communist" public access show who suffers perhaps the goriest fate in the book, literally hacked to pieces by frothing, drugged-up punks -- Frosts's commentary on what the liberals deserve? There are also many instances where Lyons and his friends lambaste the liberal, tree-hugging attitudes of both the public and the media.

We learn early in the novel that the drug has been dispersed by a former Black Panther (of course, right?) who works with the CEO of a non-profit Hispanic American company. This non-profit guy is secretly a Communist agent and works to destroy the government (of course, right?). These two have amassed a veritable army of punks -- all of them black and Chicano, remember -- and juiced them with the drug, working them up into anti-white fits of rage. The idea is to foster a race war which will destroy the US. But the question is, where did they get this drug? The Team discovers there's more to the story than they first expected, and it all ends with a climatic battle with the Team in a helicopter going after a van which might be driven by CIA agents...a battle which ends in personal disaster for one of the Team.

Anyway, you can consider me impressed with the work of GH Frost. I'm definitely going to seek out more of his Able Team novels one of these days. This one comes highly recommended to all who want to see just how extreme the men's adventure genre can get.

15 comments:

Jack Badelaire said...

Frost is the Able Team writer that locked the series in for me, and Army of Devils was the book that did it. Sadly he only wrote aa relative handful of titles, but they are easily some of the best, and not just with regards to the action, but the writing as well.

I'll eventually be reviewing this title, and I'll be sure to reference this review. You hit it spot-on.

Zwolf said...

Never had a lot of interest in Able Team, but I'm definitely going to have to look for this one next time I'm in a used book store... sounds amazing! With all the "shoot for the head" stuff it sounds like he really wanted to be writing a zombie novel, but hey, works for me!

And over-the-top politics in these books is usually just funny to me. I recently picked up a series called _Raker_ based on an ad I found in the back of a Penetrator book. It looked hilarious, something about "Raker is a hero who believes in America first, my country right or wrong, and he'll take on any enemy, from Communists to feminists!" It sounded like Archie Bunker with a gun, nothing I could take seriously but have to crack myself up reading. Haven't read 'em yet (there were only 2), but I'm expecting something along the lines of the Geraldo scene you mentioned. :)

Speaking of Black Panthers, I found a series that Death Merchant author Joeseph Rosenberger wrote, called _Murder Master_, which looked like an attempt at a Blaxploitation series. It had a black hero whose name was "Louis Luther King," like MLK's was the only "black" name that typically-right-wing Rosenberger knew to work with. I haven't read those yet, either, but had to get 'em (except for the first one, which is going for around $15, which is more than I wanted to pay, especially since I'd never read one; I got 2 & 3, though).

reflexivefire.com said...

Oh, man, that was too funny! I'm going to have to track down some of these old Able Team books. The only one in my collection is Cairo...something or other.

Jack Badelaire said...

#5, Cairo Countdown. I remember reading that one as a kid, and it was pretty hardcore. It features the Armburst portable disposable rocket launchers, which blow away a lot of bad guys. Awesome stuff. I'm currently reading #4, Amazon Slaughter, so CC will be next on the list.

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks all for your comments. Zwolf, let me know how that Raker is. I've thought about checking that one out myself. I first read about it here: http://www.spyguysandgals.com/sgShowChar.asp?ScanName=Raker The site owner berates the series for its America "Fuck Yeah" attitude, but it sounds to me like it HAS to be a spoof...but then I say that about everything.

A similar series I've thought about getting is "Soldier For Hire," from the mid-'80s. The first 3 books or so were written by some other guy, but #4-on were written by Mark Roberts, aka the Penetrator writer. I learned about this series via Mike Newton's 1989 book "How To Write Action-Adventure Novels." Newton roasts the Roberts volumes of the series for its overbearing (right wing) political sentiments; apparently the hero cares only about killing "Commie bastards," and at one point, after nearly drowning, yells at the sea "for its temerity to stop him from killing more Commies." There is also a Ted Kennedy stand-in the protagonist also rails against. Any book which includes a main character yelling at the sea MUST be a spoof as far as I'm concerned.

And Jack and Reflexifire -- that Cairo Countdown sounds promising, as it was written by Paul Hofsomething, a writer who turned out some of the later volumes of the Sharpshooter series. And Able Team #4 is another I'd like to check out...apparently Lyons gets drugged out on some native concoction and goes wild.

reflexivefire.com said...

Every time that Bolan or Lyons get drugged things go really bad. I remember one where Mack rolled over on a poisonous spider in South America and spent weeks out in the bush fighting a guerrilla campaign while tripping on some kind of psychedelic spirit journey.

Jack Badelaire said...

I read Amazon Slaughter and Cairo Countdown over the last few days. Yeah. Lyons decides, after Pol's advice to be more interactive with the natives, to try some of their "snuff", which isn't anything Copenhagen ever thought of selling. He trips out, goes native, and starts running around in body paint and a loin cloth. Gadgets takes a number of photos, no doubt to be used against Lyons for comedic value back at The Farm.

Oh, and both books are just as insanely violent as I remembered from 20+ years ago. Amazing the little details that can still rattle around in the noggin after all that time.

ghfrost said...

Thank you for the praise. I went to an 'art' opening last night and I was sooooo bored. I found this review this morning and I am laughing.

I wrote Army of Devils at a total spaced out 20 day frenzy.

The publisher had decided to fire me.

In Cairo Countdown, I had written the closing scene as summary justice. The Muslim Brotherhood government infiltrator who had choregraphed the missile-assassinations of pilots, then the kidnapping and torture of an American serviceman, the Egyptian had kicked the American close to death -- so I had Lyons do a justice scene on him.

When Lyons captured the Egyptian, he shot off his feet. "He'll never kick an American again."

More or less. I can't find my typescript of the novel.

( Just now, I looked for my copy of the book. It's in a box somewhere. If I remember correctly, the published last page cuts off, as if the editor simply crossed out paragraphs. Look at the book, I think that's it. )

So the editor had decided to not renew my contract. At that time, there were many wars in the world. I wanted to go somewhere interesting, I wanted to finish my contract, take the payoff, and go ---

I wanted to finish the last books on the contract and take off for another country. So ... I hyped up with coffee, wrote hyped until I passed out, woke, wrote.

I laughed my way through Army of Devils. A long wide eyed nightmare for weeks. But if you read the sections of the punk murders, the sections set up the punks for death. No mercy. Kill them all! ( I'm laughing now. )

If you don't want to buy the used paperbacks, search for the title, Army of Devils, there is a pdf scan upload out there. Don't think you are cheating me out of a cents per copy payment. Gold Eagle / Worldwide / Amazon, they don't pay me for used copies sold.

If you want to read more serious work, less torture, Central American culture and war in detail, more foreign policy error in action, Marines killing in very smart and unseen ways, go to the Recon series -- Recon and Recon Strike by G. H. Frost.

Simon and Schuster expected easy sales. I got the Able Team / Stonyman titles up to the hundreds of thousands, S & S wanted to exploit the genre. But the Recon novels are too slow, too careful.

Army of Devils, Recon and Recon Strike ain't.

( go to paperbackairborne.com to read Recon and Recon Strike for free / .pdf to screen )

If you want to see a book I did last year, go to fearlessjihadikillers.com. Free .pdf available. The .pdf is the draft completed last year. The revised and printed version is on blurb.com. That print costs money.

Be advised. Fearless Jihadi Killers is not Army of Devils, it is not Able Team, it is not Recon.

The novel presents my years of experience with Marines and years of work with Muslims who want to kill the freak show crazies who call themselves 'mujahadiin / jihadis'. Bin Laden and his want-to-be's are not jihadis. They violate all the laws of Islam. They are murderers.

I exceeded the character count .... I finish this rave in the next comment upload

ghfrost said...

"Fearless Jihadi Killers" presents a very different strategy for the killing of the crazies. The idea came to me in a fever-dream in the Moroccan city of Fez. I had traveled hard for weeks through Morocco

( this was after Al Qaeda fi Al Maghrib had bombed 40? 44? tourists, that many dead, many many more wounded, we moved fast through Tangiers, Marrakech, the villages, the desert, the roads near Algeria, then back into the tourist cities, I knew Al Maghrib would be looking for the chance to kill more foreigners, and a tall American traveling with an Arabic-speaking blonde would be a headline score ---

( I was totally exhausted and sick, I lay in the dark, the ceiling swirling with a moving mosaic of colors, and a vendor in the alley saw the blonde hair of the woman going into the pensione (smaller than a hotel, a house divided into rooms for travelers )

The vendor wanted to make a sale, so he put on music he thought the foreign woman would want to buy --

( I think, I don't know what he was thinking, maybe he actually liked .... )

Surf music. I'm laying in dark in Fez, fever hallucinating lights in the darkness, and there's surf music playing in the alley outside --

And the idea came to me.

How could US Marines travel through the deserts of North Africa without getting spotted and killed?

As a ....

You'll see.

Thank you for enduring this rave. Thank you for the review. So many laughs.

Frost

Joe Kenney said...

Mr. Frost,

Thanks for your comments! Really glad to see you are still around and writing. I recently bought a slew of Able Team paperbacks, all of them your contributions to the series. I was so impressed with "Army of Devils" I was determined to read the rest of your AT work. I've also got your "Stony Man Doctrine."

"He'll never kick an American again." Man, that's one hell of a line!

Sorry to hear you had troubles with Gold Eagle. I kind of suspected this myself, as I wrote in my review -- with the quality writing, the humor, and even a sex scene, you were already well outside of the Gold Eagle status quo. I intend to read your Able Team books as a series in itself and just ignore all of the other volumes.

Thanks also for the info on Fearless Jihadi Killers -- I'm not an e-book guy but I'll check this one out for sure. Sounds intriguing. I have to say though, I think Morocco is one of the saddest indicators of our present day...I like to read stuff from the late '60s/early '70s, when Morocco was like THE spot for all the psychedelic hipsters...Burroughs and Gyson and even the Stones...they'd go there to smoke kif and listen to the Master Musicians...and look at the place now? A hotbed of religious totalitarianism and strife. Another indicator of the despicable modern day.

Anyway, thanks again -- and I'll be reviewing more of your work here very soon!

ghfrost said...

Have you traveled to Morocco? Don't judge the situation from the newspapers or Fox News. They make money by making fear.

Is random violence real?

There was a bombing above the Square of the Dead in Marrakech -- Djemaa el Fna. A crowd got maimed and / or killed.

You can see that cafe in Rendition. That's where the CIA man smokes naghila and tells the Meryl Streep character that "This is my first torture."

We went there. My companion wanted to go there, drink tea, look at the Square. We drank tea, she took photos, I told her I didn't like that place. Expensive, crowded with foreigners.

I don't recommend touring the tourist spots.

Otherwise, Morocco is cool. It is as it was. There is more problems with European tourists than crazies.

The crazies are a reality. ( Traffic here is a greater threat. ) If you go, don't go where the tourists go. ( Such as the cafe they bombed.) If a crazy has one bomb, will he kill that lonely American wandering through the village? Or a bus crowd with cameras and golf shorts?

They want to kill foreigners. Go alone. Dress like a Russian. I went with a woman. People are less afraid of a man and woman. She and I spoke Spanish and Arabic. We had other languages to secret-speak if we got jammed.

But no problems. Everyone was so good. We did all the cities, some villages, the Algerian border, the Sahara.

Kif. I do not encourage dope smoking in foreign countries. If the local police catch you, they will lean heavy for bribes. They usually don't want to send a foreigner to prison -- but there may be a law and order campaign. Drugs are there, but the situation will be so strange and interesting, why get stoned?

Back to the random terror element. We came back through Madrid, took the subway to the airport. The next month, the subways got mass bombed. By Moroccan living in Spain. With explosives bought in Spain. So be cautious everywhere.

G h Frost

Joe Kenney said...

You're right of course...the media has always played on fear-mongering. And I'd never smoke dope in a foreign country! (That being said, I did spend a semester of college in Holland...other than that I haven't touched the stuff in like 20 years.) But I've read a lot of late '60s countercultural stuff, which for whatever reason just interests me, tons of early issues of Rolling Stone, and they always spun this almost romantic portrait of Morocco as a paradise of hemp...though many of the "true" stories were always fraught with paranoia that they'd be caught by the local cops.

Lucas said...

What an amazing, ridiculous book! Thanks for turning me on to it Joe. And how great that G.H. Frost gave you (and us) so much feedback. That is a wonderful benefit of having this blog. Thanks again to both you and Mr. Frost

Jack Badelaire said...

I'm on a re-reading whirlwind of these old Able Teams, and I read this title again this weekend. Wow. Every time I read AoD, it's a bit amazing (in a wonderful way) that someone actually got paid to write scenes like that. And the cover! One of the best AT covers ever.

tetsuo said...

Yeah probably the best Able Team book written. Love it. Easilly the most gory.

So while I love all GH Frost books the following are my rankings:

THE BEST

Army of devils
Amazon Slaughter
Cairo Countdown
Justice By Fire
Kill School
Iron Man
Stony Man Doctrine

GOOD

Rain of Doom
Scorched Earth
Into the Maze
They Came to Kill
Fire and Maneuver
Warlord of Aztlan
Recon
Recon Strike
Tech War

OK

Deathstrike(this was a dissapointment). Even though his arch enemy unomundo got wasted.