Thursday, March 6, 2014

Soldier For Hire #6: Commando Squad

Soldier For Hire #6: Commando Squad, by Mark K. Roberts
No month stated, 1982  Zebra Books

Mark Roberts's second go on the Soldier For Hire series is nearly as outrageous as the others I’ve read, once again featuring our “hero” JC Stonewall acting like a regular horse’s ass, but this particular installment goes to some dark extremes that put the novel on a scuzzy level. More damningly, Commando Squad is kind of boring. And it’s certainly padded, Roberts trying to accommodate Zebra’s overlong word count requirements.

But make no mistake, Stonewall’s still a bastard this time around, denouncing any and all who would even dare to question him and salivating over the prospect of killing more “commies.” His victims this time around are the members of a rebel faction in El Salvador, lead by Juan Escobar, El Proletario; these people have made an unwitting but huge mistake by abducting pretty young American tourist Janice Kurin, who happens to be the neice of Trojan, Stonewall’s handler.

El Proletario is the expected walking cliché, who has carved out his little kingdom in the El Salvador jungles with little resistance from the government. Spouting socialist invective while brutalizing and ruling the natives without mercy, Escobar displays zero leadership qualities, but regardless is a darling of the liberal US media (more of whom below). Even worse though is Hector Garcia, Escobar’s second in command. Garcia is the character who takes this novel into a darker realm, as he is a rapist and murderer of little girls. And Roberts doesn’t just tell us this – he shows it as well.

The titular “commando squad” is a group of soldiers Stonewall puts together after Trojan offers him the job – and Roberts gifts us with one of his awesomely purple-prosed sex scenes right before this, as Stonewall is seduced while he’s in a hot tub by his girlfriend’s “kid sister,” Karen. However this is just the first of Stonewall’s conquests in the novel; as the narrative progresses he’ll score with a few more ladies, and while it’s all appropriately goofy none of it is as preposterous as the stewardess screwing of the previous volume.

But anyway Stonewall’s 7-man team is made up of Theo Levi, the black commando of previous volumes, as well as Ed Cotter, who showed up in the unforgettle #8: Jakarta Coup. The other five men are a variety of redshirts, from an American Indian named Julio Whitebear to a Japanese dude who likes to go into combat with a samurai sword, sort of like something out of a William Fieldhouse novel – and Roberts by the way indulges in his penchant for in-jokes, namedropping Fieldhouse himself in the narrative as a guy Stonewall met in Fort Bragg who had a theory that America’s socialists should be rounded up and dropped off in Siberia!

After some training in Mexico the squad splits up and travels down to El Salvador in twos; we’re informed that due to the friggin’ liberal media, the locals are very aware of soldier-type Americans coming into their country for mercenary purposes. Stonewall’s mission is to keep the extraction of Janice Kurin nice and quiet, and then to kill El Proletario and his people, so he’s not to draw any attention to himself, even though he will have the secretive help of the El Salvador government. It’s here in El Salvador that Stonewall “reconnects” with Margaret Collenbrander, a gorgeous reporter who apparently first met Stonewall in one of the earlier, pre-Roberts books in the series.

Roberts graces us with yet another hot and heavy sex scene that leaves little to the imagination, but never reaches the stupefying “fill me with that enormous phallus before I lose my cookies” heights of Jakarta Coup. In fact the same could be said of the entirety of Commando Squad, which comes off as rushed and padded throughout, Roberts trying to hit all of his marks and get in his page count so he can move on to the next project. There’s sort of a listless feeling to this volume, and though it has all the stuff of the other Roberts Soldier For Hire offerings, it just comes off as forced.

Roberts does excel at a sort of Jack London feel when Stonewall and Theo reside for a few weeks in a village near El Proletario’s base. Here Stonewall fishes and hunts with the natives, and also of course scores with Soledad, a pretty young girl who per series tradition throws herself at him and practically demands they have sex. But Stonewall’s called away when Senator Ned Flannery (aka the Ted Kennedy analog who plagues Stonewall throught the series) shows up in El Salvador due to reports of the presence of “white American mercenaries” in the country. Stonewall leaves the village for a confrontation with the man.

This is actually Stonewall’s second battle with the liberals in Commando Squad; in an earlier, humorous scene he runs afoul of two “socialist” American actors who have come down here to spread news to the world how heroic the “freedom fighters” of El Salvador are. These two men are Bob Templeton and Brick Brewster, the latter a muscle-bound gay who friggin’ lisps when he gets upset, providing Roberts all sorts of room to lampoon gays in general. These two guys get in a bar fight with Stonewall, who beats the shit out of them…but what’s funny is, they’re so easily outclassed. I mean, Stonewall’s this battle-hardened warrior. These guys are just actors. And Brick Brewster keeps getting back up to fight him. And yet Stonewall (nor Roberts) never once acknowledges how courageous this is.

Anyway the Stonewall-Flannery match is pretty fun, mostly because it’s the first (only?) time the two meet. Posing as a UN rep(!), Stonewall attempts to convince Flannery that there are no American mercenaries in El Salvador. But soon enough Stonewall starts putting down Flannery and his idiotic liberal ideas. Here Roberts exposits on a grand scale, with Stonewall belittling Flannery as he rants and raves about current US politics. And like the two actors, Flannery actually holds his own, and indeed Stonewall comes off like the bigger ass (believe it or not). It’s funny, because throughout the series Flannery is presented as the villain. 

Flannery properly put in place (and one could argue stupidly put in place, as Stonewall’s blatherings do nothing more than make Flannery aware of who Stonewall is and vow to get vengeance upon him someday), Stonewall heads on back into the jungle, only to find that El Proletario’s men have attacked the village while he was gone. While Soledad was able to escape, blowing away people with a borrowed gun alongside Theo Levi, the villagers themselves suffered mightly, in particular a little girl who was taken by El Proletario’s depraved second in command, Hector Garcia.

As mentioned, Roberts pushes some buttons in Commando Squad. Hector Garcia is a murderous pedophile, and with each raid he always takes the opportunity to rape a little girl. Roberts actually shows this happen midway through the novel, as Garcia rapes a ten year-old girl in a shockingly explicit sequence that goes on for like two pages. Strangely enough, Roberts employs pretty much the same words, phrases, and style that he’d use for a regular sex scene. Needless to say, something like this could not be published in today’s market. But also, I felt it didn’t need to be here anyway, and came off as too much.

Anyway, Stonewall’s plan is to infiltrate El Proletario’s terrorist camp, he and his squad posing as commie American soldiers who want to help out the cause. And Stonewall suceeds! Able to meet with El Proletario through rebel contacts, Stonewall successfully presents himself as a disaffected American commando who has a squad of similarly-inclined Americans at his disposal. Here Roberts again gets to indulge in some commie-baiting, having Stonewall prove himself to a mock tribunal, spouting out how much he hates America and how great Communism is. Roberts even takes digs at various veteran-run organizations, claiming that they are commies themselves.

Oh, and kidnapped Janice Kurin is still here, though she’s gang-raped practically every day. In another button-pushing sequence early on Roberts has Janice raped after she runs her mouth at Proletario, and apparently this has become a daily treat for the rebels. Stonewall is even asked to join, but he merely lays overtop the girl and tells her he’s here to free her. Not that he hurries about it; his demands not being met, Proletario starts cutting off little pieces of Janice and mailing them home. Yet Stonewall keeps biding his time.
And indeed when the battle finally begins, it’s because Hector Garcia runs into Stonewall while he’s rigging explosives around the camp. This leads to a practically endless denoument (with even “commie” actors Rob Templeton and Brick Brewster showing up) in which Stonewall and squad blast the shit out of the rebels, run into the jungle, evade their pursuers, and try to make their way for safety. Along the way a few redshirts on Stonewall’s team buy it, of course, though Stonewall himself is unscathed, blowing people away with his Sidewinder submachine gun or hacking them up with his assegai blade. Strangely, El Proletario’s death is anticlimatic, and not even depicted; Stonewall calls in a friggin’ napalm strike, and that’s that!

The novel actually ends on one of Roberts’s sex scenes, with Stonewall, who we’re informed is sore from an all-night love session with Margaret, surprised next morning when Janice Kurin comes knocking on his hotel door. Now mind you, Janice has been gang-raped throughout the novel. However, despite flying all the way back to the US for an emotional reunion with her family, she’s snuck on another plane to come back down to El Salvador, so she can “pay” Stonewall for saving her!

But just as they’re about to have sex, Soledad storms in! Janice and Stonewall try to calm her down, and Stonewall proposes that they all sleep together – and the gals are all for it. Ironically, the exact same thing once happened to me! Okay, maybe not.


Grant said...

I mention this series a lot, but a scene between the protagonist and a Ted Kennedy parody sounds like something right out of a DESTROYER book. The same with the two actors (especially if they had recognizable parody names).
The same with the "liberal media." I mentioned this before too, but the Destroyer book PROFIT MOTIVE has a really gruesome (or at least very dark)scene involving a reporter of that kind. Even though what happens to the reporter isn't done by Remo or Chiun, it does sound like it's meant to be some kind of comeuppance.

RJR said...

Hey Joe, whataya know about Ralph Hayes? Seems to me he had a Soldier of Fortune series.


Joe Kenney said...

Thanks guys, for the comments. RJR, I'm only aware of Hayes; I've got a few of his series titles, but haven't read any of them. "The Hunter" looks like it might be the most interesting.

brian january said...


This is hilarious! I'll have to find a used book store to look for some of these! I write adventure thrillers, but I sincerely hope they're elevated above these!

Brian January