Category Archives: Action

Tooting the Horn

Actually, just quoting some Amazon reviewers who tooted for me.

“Author Hank Brown has created quite the enduring cast of characters here. …Heckuva Ride!”

“Pulp Fiction is back with a vengeance! It is truly a must read in the genre, or in any genre.”


“This was a fantastic read with plenty of action. The characters are well defined and carry over from the first book. If you loved the first book you will want to read the second one too. …I can’t say enough about this author Henry Brown. I will probably read every book that he has put out. Happy reading!”

“I read the author’s first work, Hell and Gone, and was amazed by the author’s strong, engaging prose and pacing. …Tier Zero capitalizes on the author’s keen sense of pacing of Hell and Gone and the result is a story that naturally progresses in a meaningful way. …Tier Zero is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the action-adventure/thriller paramilitary genre.”

#1 in The Retreads Series.

“Damn, better than first book! …Not just action (lots of good stuff) but now international intrigue. Great character development, good storyline, great action. What more can you ask for? …Oh yeah: liberal wusses need not bother, not your type.”

“…Brown clearly has ‘been and done.’ He gets the terms and the tactics right, which not all authors [not to mention movie plots] do. I place a high value on this because I read to learn as well as be entertained. Action stories with nothing but a high round-count bore me.”

“Henry Brown has written some of the best military fiction out there and I personally enjoyed this one the most. …The characters are very believable and complex and the action is non stop. If you like old school weapons, escape and evasion and a good shoot-em-up thriller this is one of the best.”

“If you like military kick ass take names kind of books you will love this series.”

The Audible audiobook.

“The author’s experience and insight helps deliver a story that is action packed, yet not so far fetched that it detracts from the story.”

“I loved Hank’s sequel to Hell and Gone and that it focused in on one of my favorite characters from the first book, Tommy Scarred Wolf. Tier Zero (a great play on words) harkens back to the classic bygone era of Men’s Adventure when you could find Mack Bolan books in all the book shops. Today the genre is enjoying a bit of a comeback and Hank is one of the author’s driving that.”

Tier Zero comes loaded with a kickass protagonist–unique, flawed, thoughtful, and capable of extreme violence–hitting southeast Asia in a rescue mission alongside a team of mercenary ex-soldiers (all equally unique and memorable) that bring so much ass-kick to the game it makes me want to write every action-film director and tell them to stay home–their work bores me. Now, I know Brown likes to call his work an homage to the bygone mens’ pulp-fiction genre, but it surpasses that. Sure, he hits on the essentials–the attractive women, the brave, rugged fighting men, and the unmistakably evil bad guys–but he’s a master storyteller, too.”

“Although I have no doubt legions of Men’s Adventure fans have tried to imitate the writings of their favorite authors over the years, in Henry’s case, the student has definitely become the master.”


“I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, HELL AND GONE. As good as it was, TIER ZERO is better in every way. The characterizations are deeper, the plot has more twists, and hard as it may be to believe, it has even more of the gritty, well-written action scenes at which Brown excels. I thought I knew where the story was going, but it takes a nice hard turn about halfway through that powers it on to the end of the book.”

“As much as I enjoyed Hell & Gone, this book is better. Hank has polished some of the character interactions. There are still conflicts between even characters on the same side, much like there were in Hell & Gone (both books are about ad hoc units put together for a particular mission). He even has a bit of a romantic subplot going on, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the action. There are multiple threads running through the plot, and several betrayals ratchet up the tension between the good guys, over and above the tension of being on their own in a foreign land, surrounded by enemies. Questions are raised about who to trust, both within and without the group. ”

#3 in The Retreads Series.

“In this tough, gritty paramilitary thriller (sequel to the popular HELL AND GONE) author Brown harkens back to the ‘men’s adventure’ novels that were so popular in the 80s and early 90s. He does an exemplary job of carrying on that tradition and even adds some depth and background to his characterizations that increases their humanity, makes them seem more real — all without ever getting in the way of the balls-out, full throttle action. The plot is tight, with plenty of twists and surprises, and the ‘good guys’ are characters you really care about. So much so, that you will be rooting for a continuation of this intriguing, exciting series.”

“I listened to the Audible version, and it kept me entertained from start to finish.”

Tipping at Windmills and Men’s Adventure

As a young paratrooper back in the day, there were many times when I wanted to escape from everything that reminded me of my job. But there were other times when I couldn’t get enough.

A limited sample from my personal library. Some of these are in bad shape from being stuffed in a rucksack or buttpack during Happy Camping excursions.

Literarily (is that a word?) speaking, I was probably spoiled. All around Fort Bragg, it was easy to find stuff to read that appealed–namely: anything that offered more excitement than what I was getting out of real life. During my escapist periods, I gravitated toward sci-fi, sword & sorcery, and pulpy adventures (I was a big Indiana Jones fan, to give you an idea). When I was gung-ho, I read Vietnam novels, WW2 novels, military sci-fi, and tons of paramilitary fiction. The 100-mile radius around Bragg probably has the worst male-to-female ratio in the world, so options were limited for off-time–especially when on DRF-1 (a ready-stand-by status for the Rapid Deployment Force; when troopers were on a short leash and had to be close and sober awaiting deployment).

Here’s the new E-Book cover.

Anyhoo, as a civilian later on, I noticed my reading options dwindling quickly. The New York Publishing Cartel just wasn’t producing anything I enjoyed reading anymore. I’ve blogged about this before, so to make a long story short: when I first discovered the opportunities presented by publish-on-demand (POD) and e-publishing, I assigned myself the quixotic task of reviving the “men’s fiction” I had once so enjoyed.

Surprisingly, I ran into other fledgling authors with similar goals.

The revival did happen–albeit on a small scale (because men have by-and-large given up on reading). Some of us carved out a niche for ourselves. My most focused effort to date is Tier Zero.

Here’s the original, pulpy retro-paramilitary adventure cover (which I still like best).

Fellow author, blogger, and men’s adventure fan Jack Badelaire over at Post-Modern Pulps has a nice post about his connection to the revival, combined with a review of my testosterone-fueled shoot-em-up.

The e-book is currently on sale for 99 cents at the online stores. But for those of you who don’t have time to sit down and actually read, there’s an audio version you can listen to while driving or performing mundane tasks, narrated by Johnnie C. Hayes.

Weapons Malfunctions are Such a Bloody Nuisance

By the time everyone was buckled in, the chopper was rocking and bouncing in place like a hyper child on a trampoline. With the clock ticking toward the call to prayer, it seemed to take years for it to finally lift off. The wind from the rotors kicked up a dust storm all around the helipad as the Chinook got airborne.

The pilot, Wade Haugen, had once flown Harriers for the US Marine Corps. Since transitioning to a paramilitary career, he had mastered a variety of fixed-wing aircraft and added choppers to his repertoire. After being hired by SSI, he converted the old Chinook into a combination troop carrier and gunship. There were rocket pylons on both sides, topped by miniguns. He had flares and chaff, too—not that he should need them on this sortie.

The fuel tanks were full. Every weapon system was go. Haugen was primed to deliver these ground-pounders and get waist-deep in some close air support.

Underneath the reaction force, the land gradually transformed from the fertile ground of the Euphrates Valley to dry, harsh desert.

The Chinook (an ugly beast resembling an old telephone receiver upside-down) was a fairly fast bird, stable and tough, mostly due to its absence of a tail rotor. It got the QR force to its debark point quickly. The ramp dropped as it settled onto the ground just long enough for the light platoon to pour out, then the chopper tilted nose-down and accelerated to max speed at low altitude.

Leon, his spotter, Warner and his gun crew remained on the bird.

Up in the cockpit, the target compound came into view. As the chopper neared, Figures came into view—several men, bowing toward the east in an open area between buildings. But several rose from their penitent positions and scattered.

“Guess they hear us coming, eh?” Ryan Flees, the British copilot groused. “And that looks like a lot more than ten hostiles.”

Haugen shrugged. “Intel is sketchy—based mostly on what the Iraqi cops can see from their location.”

“Which apparently wasn’t too bloody much.”

“Patch my mike through to the loudspeaker,” Haugen said.

Flees did so and said, “You’re live.”

They were close enough now to make out faces on the men running, pointing, and leveling weapons at the helicopter. Haugen popped his bubblegum and keyed the mike. “What’re you all looking at me for? You’re supposed to be facing Mecca!”

The miniguns opened up and Haugen raked fire across the compound as he came over, banking left to catch a concentration of fleeing hostiles…and to avoid the building where the women were supposed to be. A few hostiles were shredded by the streams of 7.62mm rounds.

Down below, the first squad was moving into position to take their first building, trusting the bedlam caused by the gun run to divert attention from them. By the time the Chinook cut loose the miniguns on its second pass, they were ready. During the BRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAPPP!!! of Haugen’s burst, the lead man used a shotgun to breach the door and First Squad burst in to sweep and clear, room by room.

They encountered no hostiles in the building, and declared it secure. Now watching key avenues of approach from in and around the building, First Squad held their position while Second Squad took the adjacent building.

Only one hostile was found inside—an armed adult male trying to escape the big, ugly gunship. He lost a quick draw contest with Chris Reecio and the second building was soon secured. One fireteam from each squad was left to hold the two buildings and the rest of the force linked up, preparing to move to the next position.

On the ground, with eyes on the small building where the cops were trapped, Mac keyed his radio mike. “Double Dragon, this is Hudson Hawk. We’re ready for Santa Clause…Mechanic, over?”

“Roger, Hudson Hawk,” Haugen replied. ”Santa Clause One coming in.”

The Chinook came around again, this time settling into a hover low over the roof of the first building. Leon and his spotter dropped down onto the roof. Flees told Haugen they were off, and the chopper slid over to drop the machinegun crew on the second roof.

Small arms fire was incoming now, but poorly aimed and sporadic. Haugen swung wide out to the northwest and charged back into the thick of it. His amplified drawl echoed throughout the compound over the noise of the rotors, “Out on the streets, they call it MUUURRRDEEERRR!”

Flees put hands to both sides of his helmet as if covering his ears. “Oh, bloody hell, Wade! I’m sure that must be against the Geneva Convention. Open fire already, and put them out of their misery.”

So instead of singing it again, or worse: trying to rap the lyrics; Haugen opened up with the miniguns.

Leon and Anwar, his spotter, dropped to the prone at the edge of the roof. They were down less than a second when a man popped out of a doorway, shouldering an RPG and pivoting to track the Chinook.

“RPG!” Anwar cried.

“Got ‘im,” Leon said, taking up trigger slack. “Welcome to Jam-Rock, baby.” The Monolith SWAT spoke, and the man with the RPG nearly folded in half backwards as he fell.

Three men, who had been hiding behind a wall, ran for the building where the women were, once the chopper had passed by. The assistant gunner yelled and pointed. Warner traversed the Vektor SS77 on its tripod and put the trio in the dirt with a couple of eight-round bursts.

On the ground below, Mac led the bulk of the QR force out and around the back of the compound. They came at the third building from the flat desert, bounding forward by fireteam.

A figure appeared behind the scratched, dusty glass of a window. The mercs caught the movement and dropped in their tracks. Fire crashed through the glass to the familiar tune of an AK47 on full auto.

A gunner in Second Squad ripped a burst through the window, and the man. Mac shot to his feet and closed the rest of the distance to the building’s wall. The other shooters did the same, as the SS77 laid covering fire. One merc cooked off a frag grenade and dunked it through the shattered window. When it detonated, the covering gun crew rushed to join their comrades.

Ideally, the mouse hole should be blown in this back wall. But the wall was the only cover they had, so they couldn’t go somewhere else when the charge went off. Around the corner seemed the best plan, since not that much enemy fire was concentrating there.

Mac peeked around the corner nearest the second building and yelled to get the rooftop crew’s attention. “Warner! Yo! Warner!”

Warner’s ammo bearer heard him, looked down and to the right until he spotted Mac. “Yo!”

Mac pointed in the general direction of the rest of the compound and yelled, “Cover!”

The ammo bearer nodded, turned to Warner and the assistant gunner and said something inaudible from where Mac was. Warner poured it on, raking fire back and forth across his sector.

Mac turned back to his men, holding out one hand, palm-up. “Demo!”

Barry Teor, the new demo guy, slapped a crude shaped charge into his hand and Mac rounded the corner. He slammed the charge against the wall facing the second building and got back around the corner with no new bullet holes in him.

“Fire in the hole!”

The charge blew. He allowed time for the dust to settle, then peeked around the corner again. The outside wall now sported a four-foot-diameter mouse hole. He turned back to his men. “Breach!”

The lead fireteam plucked grenades from their vests. There would be no flash-bangs on this sweep. They knew there was opfor (opposing force) in the building and they could afford to take no prisoners until they broke through to the besieged police. Hopefully there were no women or children inside.

The lead team stacked on the corner while other shooters got out of their way. With a strangled grunt the team leader rounded the corner, lurched sideways and tumbled through the mouse hole. The second man went through almost on top of him. A short burst from an AA12 sounded inside, then one of the mercs called back through the mouse hole, “We’re in a hallway! We’re going left; next pair go right!”

The next two men jumped through the breach. The next fireteam stacked on the corner, waiting for their turn to go in.

Inside, the shooters cleared each room methodically: kick in the door, toss in a grenade. After the blast, the first man entered the room and buttonhooked left; the second man entered, buttonhooking right. Anyone still moving or breathing got a double tap. In fact, they got a double tap even if they weren’t still breathing. Mark the room secure and move on to the next door.

It was the kind of overkill professional soldiers hadn’t employed probably since Stalingrad or Kassino. Fragmentation grenades in every room; universal double taps…

But SSI’s quick reaction force believed in overkill. Big Jake McCallum swore by overkill.

The building was secured quickly with no friendly casualties and six opfor dead. By now it was obvious, even to the mercs at ground level, that enemy strength had been underestimated.

With a team pulling security outside to the rear, the remainder of the force gathered inside the freshly-cleared building. Now four of them, including Mac, positioned themselves at doors and windows facing the inside of the compound. The windows were smashed out with rifle butts. They yanked pins and hurled smoke grenades into the gap between their building and where the police were holed up.

“Litter teams up!” Mac barked.

Six men moved toward the front door and readied their litters—still collapsed so far. Mac glanced outside several times to assess how the smoke was spreading. Second Squad’s gun crew set up their SS77 on an old desk, poking out the front-facing window. The litter teams assumed the ready-scat position.

Mac switched his radio to the Iraqi Police frequency. In Arabic, he said, “This is Hudson Hawk. We are coming to get you in one minute. I say again: 60 seconds. We have litter teams for your casualties. We’ll be coming from the building west-southwest of you. Do not fire at us! I say again: do not fire on us. Do you copy, over?”

“We copy, Hudson Hawk,” a quavering voice replied. “We are ready.”

Mac switched back to the QRF frequency. “Double Dragon, this is Hudson Hawk. Are you ready to bring smoke, over?” He could hear the Chinook hovering outside and knew it was in position, but had to be sure its weapon systems were still functioning.

“Hudson Hawk, this is Double Dragon,” Haugen drawled. “We are guns-up and awaiting your verbal, over.”

“All shooters…all shooters,” Mac broadcast. “Covering fire initiates on Double Dragon’s gun run.” He glanced once more at the smoke, now probably at its maximum spread. “Double Dragon: execute!”

The turbines throttled up and the pounding of the rotors grew louder. Mac turned his back to the door, making eye contact with the litter teams.


The QR force opened up with everything they had, and the noise was terrific.

“GO! GO! GO!” Mac bellowed, running to get out of the litter teams’ way as they charged through the door and across the open ground. Tracers streaked over their heads in such volume that nothing downrange of them could possibly survive.

Atop the roof of Building One, Anwar screamed to be heard above the din. “Target two o’clock, 90 meters, window!”

Leon’s peripheral vision had already caught the jihadi popping up in the window. His cross hairs centered on the head—a chip shot from this range—and he tickled the trigger. The man disappeared from view, leaving a splatter of blood and brain on the wall behind him as a memorial to his curiosity.

Below, the litter teams reached the small building. The door opened. Verbal conversation impossible at that location in the circumstances, the litter bearers pointed, gesticulated, then finally yanked and shoved the cops into motion. Three cops dashed for the secured building across from them as the litter teams entered the building.

When they reemerged, the litters were deployed, bearing three human figures. The litter teams sprinted back across the open ground. When they reached cover, the firing slowed to a trickle.

At the same two-o’clock building from Leon’s position, a jihadi appeared on the rooftop with an RPG.

“See that?” Anwar asked.

Leon could barely hear him over the ringing in his ears, but nodded and said, “I see him.”

“How did he get up there?”

“Your guess good as mine,” Leon drawled. “But I got a hunch how he gonna get back down.”

The Les Baer rifle fired. The man spun half-around and tumbled over the edge of the roof, the RPG flipping up in the air like a baton during a majorette’s juggling trick.

As the litter teams burst back in the doorway of Building Two, Mac examined their cargo. Thankfully, the wounded cops were still alive. He turned to the three still on their feet. “What can you tell me?” He asked, in Arabic.

One of the men in plainclothes pointed back the way he had come. “As you were laying down fire, most of them gathered in that building.”

“What building?” Mac demanded, unslinging his fag-bag. He extracted the aerial photo and held it out.

“That building!” The cop said, pointing to Building Seven.

Mac stared at the photo for a minute, thinking. He turned to his men. “Weapons check, reload and head count! Get ready to move!” Hey keyed his radio. “Santa Clause One and Two: exfil in two mikes. Over.”

“Wilco, Hudson Hawk. Santa Clause One out,” Leon replied, and Warner replied right after. “Roger: exfil in two. Santa Clause Two out.”

Mac pulled out his cell phone and texted Haugen about the concentration of opfor in Building Seven. His following text said, “Whatever u do, don’t violate R.O.E.”

After a few seconds, he heard Haugen’s voice on the radio. “Hudson Hawk, this is Double Dragon. I’m afraid we must have taken some hits. We seem to be experiencing a weapons malfunction.”

And then the rockets fired—three in rapid succession. Through the window, Mac and his men watched Building Seven obliterated in a strobing flash, quickly replaced by a tremendous cloud of dust and smoke.

Two of the Brits grinned at each other. “Weapons malfunctions are such a nuisance,” one of them said.

“I just hate it when the Rules Of Engagement are blown to hell and gone,” one of the Americans added.

The squad leaders reported to Mac with head counts and ammo inventory. None of the mercs had been lost or even wounded. He would celebrate later, but for now he didn’t want to wear out his welcome with Lady Luck.

“Alright, move out!” Mac bellowed. “Rally Point Echo!” Then, supervising the exfiltration by squads, Mac muttered, half under his breath, “They can stick the Rules Of Engagement where the sun don’t shine.”

This was an excerpt from Tier Zero.

Scramble Hot

The truck bounced around the corner toward the checkpoint.

Leon Campbell yawned and stretched, rolling over to the prone and getting behind his rifle, still resting on its bipod. He keyed his radio mike. “One truck. Two bodies—driver and passenger. Tarp coverin’ somethin’ in the truck bed.” His voice spoke in a marble-mouth Georgia drawl. His lazy brown eyes found the sight picture through the Les-Baer Custom SWAT’s scope. His brown hands, now much darker from the desert sun, slid into a familiar grip on the sniper rifle. He flipped off the safety and his index finger rested against the trigger guard.

Leon had a nice pair of gloves, but didn’t like having them on for “surgical work.” For some reason, it was a lot more difficult for him sensing when the sears would trip with glove material between his skin and the trigger—no matter how thin that material was.

“Get ready, girl,” he told the three-year old shepherd mix sharing the shade of a jujube tree with him. Shotgun rose from her sitting position so that all four of her legs were straightened and she watched the truck as he did.

Below the hill Leon and Shotgun observed from, Johnny and Drew got into position, their rifles at the ready. Drew stood in the roadway with one hand raised, palm toward the approaching vehicle, while Johnny remained off to the side.

The truck rolled to a stop some ten meters from Drew. Johnny stepped up to the driver’s window and asked the standard questions. The driver produced his ID and answered the questions.

Examining their faces through the scope, Leon recognized both men in the cab as regular visitors to the power plant. But that meant nothing, of course, in this part of the world.

“On station,” he said, and Shotgun charged down the hill to the truck.

She sniffed all the way around the vehicle and made no fuss. Now Johnny had the two Iraqis get out of the cab. Drew sidled over to stand a safe distance from both of them while Johnny moved around back to have a look under the tarp. Seeing nothing that caused alarm, he lifted Shotgun off the ground and let her snoop around in the truck bed. She finished and wagged her tail a bit.

Satisfied, Johnny put her back on the ground. They let the two men climb back in the vehicle and start it, then waved them on their way.

Shotgun climbed back up the hill and joined Leon with a wagging tail and a dripping tongue. Leon gave her a piece of jerky and said, “Good girl.”

“Mechanic, this is Home Alone, over?” squawked the radio.

“This’s Mechanic,” Leon replied. “I copy, Home Alone. Over.”

“Scramble hot. Romeo-Fox is hammer down, over?”

Leon bolted upright, gathering his rifle and gear. It was time to play war, finally. He’d shot nothing but paper targets for months.

The quick reaction force (Quebec-Romeo-Foxtrot, or Romeo Fox for short) only scrambled when hostile contact was made. “Hot” meant live rounds were already flying. Home Alone was the current call sign for their base camp, and Statler was the one minding the store today.

Leon ran down the opposite hill slope from the checkpoint, where the HMMWV was parked, Shotgun trotting along beside him. Over the radio, Statler gave him the code for the link-up site.

A rough, dusty ride later and Leon’s Hummer rolled up next to the QRF’s helipad. There were two dozen men standing near the ugly old surplus CH-47 Chinook, all armed to the teeth but weighted down with little more than their ammo and ballistic protection.

The other Black American working for Secure Solutions, International happened to be the vice president, Jake McCallum—who was also leader of the quick reaction force. McCallum had the frame of an NBA superstar, but with a lot more muscle on it. His stature was intimidating for a lot of men, offset by a face which somewhat resembled the comedian Eddie Murphy’s.

There was nothing comical about Mac’s expression right now. He was hungrier than anyone else in SSI to get some trigger time and now that it was imminent, he was all business.

“Okay, we’re all here,” Mac said. “Gather ‘round.”

He squatted at the corner of the helipad, spreading a topographic map out, then setting an aerial photograph next to it. The force mobbed in around him.

Mac pointed to a grid on the map. “Here’s where we’re going. Anybody remember those guys from Interpol that came by last week?”

A few men nodded.

“Well,” Mac said, “they got a lead on Liberace.”

“Liberace” was a confirmed leader of a terror cell responsible for over 50 deaths, most of them westerners, with some west-friendly Iraqis, mostly unfortunate Sunnis, thrown in. Nobody could pronounce his real name.

Mac pointed at the photo. “Them and some Iraqi cops came into this place, showing mugshots, asking questions, as if they were in Mayberry with Sheriff Taylor and Barney Fife.”

Most of the men looked confused by this reference. Mac frowned. He had forgotten that the younger generations grew up with a lot more than three channels to watch; all kinds of cartoons and kids’ shows to choose from and never had to watch reruns in their life.

“Like they were on CSI or Law and Order or something. Never mind. As you can see, it’s a collection of 13 abandoned buildings. It’s been populated for a while now, by what were assumed to be just a few families of squatters.”

Leon leaned in to get a better look over the shoulders of a couple contractors. The compound was a scattershot of various-sized flat-roofed structures, out in the middle of nowhere.

“One of the cops has been killed,” Mac went on, “two others wounded. They’ve locked themselves in this small building, here. They’ve only got sidearms and not much ammo to hold off the hostiles. It’s only a matter of time before the door or a wall is breached. When the jihadis give up on having hostages to torture and decide to just kill them, they’ll run up there and plant some demolitions, or just fire an RPG at the building. We gotta get there first.”

A couple of the mercs barked their enthusiasm.

Mac nodded, approvingly, shifting focus back to the map. “We’re coming in east-southeast. The chopper’s gonna set us down in this draw right here. It’s got to be a quick offload, folks. Pilot drops the ramp; we unass the bird; he continues on for the first gun run. It needs to happen so quick that the hostiles don’t realize he’s dropped us off.” Mac pointed back to the photo. “First Squad takes this building with Second in overwatch. Once secure, Second Squad takes this building right next to it.”

Mac continued on with the plan, only going over it once and entertaining few questions afterward. He was investing supreme confidence in his squad and team-leaders because, frankly, he had no choice with the time crunch he was faced with. One question he did answer pertained to the enemy’s strength.

“Estimate is ten armed men,” Mac said, then his expression turned especially grim. “Twice that many women, and an unknown number of rugrats.”

The mercs moaned, groaned and cursed.

“I know. I know,” Mac said. “But this is nothing new. When they can’t hit us, then disappear inside a mosque, they hide behind women and children. They understand that ‘weak infidels’ don’t normally have the stomach for that.” He took a deep breath and tried to grin. “But we’re a bunch of bloodthirsty, cold-hearted mercenaries, right?”

“Hoo-hah!” cried one of the Brits.

Mac abandoned the morbid humor tack, and nodded toward the pilot, who nodded back, shared a look with his copilot and climbed inside the Chinook. “If we go wheels-up right now, we’ll catch them during the next call to prayer.” He pointed at a building in the photo. “The women all gather together in this building.” He made eye contact with Leon and Warner, one of the machinegunners. “That’s why I want you guys where I put you. You get me?”

Leon nodded. “Roger that.”

“Loud and clear,” Warner said, in his Cockney accent.

The Chinook’s turbines whined to life, and the rotors began to turn.

“One minute for weapons check,” Mac shouted over the noise of the turbines. “Then let’s go.”

The mercs formed a rank facing west, where there was nothing but empty countryside, and did a brief test fire. The crackle of small arms echoed across the plain, then safeties clicked back on and they loaded the bird, some topping off their magazines as they went.


This was an excerpt from Tier Zero.

Excerpt #1.

Excerpt #3.

What’s the Difference Between an Illegal Semi-Automatic and an Illegal Full-Automatic Weapon?

Read this excerpt from Tier Zero to find out.

Two vessels knifed through the waves, away from the port and out to open sea. The Barbara Gee was a recreational trawler, and the Tinseltown was a diving support craft once used for underwater cinematography, as well as towing robot sharks and other sea monsters. It was now stripped of all deck machinery and had plenty of open space inside the horseshoe-shaped fence of antennas and satellite dishes, bristling from just inside the gunwales like the mutant quills of a giant aquatic porcupine.

Tied down to the deck was what looked like a radio-controlled airplane. Only it wasn’t a scale model of an existing aircraft. There were no fake windows or any markings at all. It was made of smooth, nondescript aluminum painted dull green on top, blue on the bottom.

Rocco Cavarra had procured both the watercraft and the captains when Tommy gave the green light. The line of credit provided by Vince’s new pal in New York paid for them, and a whole lot more.

“How does that work again?” Josh Rennenkampf asked, pointing at the German shepherd mix on the deck of the Tinseltown.

“First you gots to put her in demo search mode,” Leon Campbell replied. He called down to his dog, “On station!”

Shotgun put her nose to the deck and ran immediately to the ammo crates not yet loaded in the hold below. She bellowed low, like a cold engine being turned over with a weak battery.

“That’s her bark for powder-type explosive,” Leon explained. “Good work, girl. Now check that one.” He pointed to the foot locker which contained bricks of C4.

Shotgun trotted over to the footlocker and yelped repeatedly at a higher pitch.

“And that there’s her bark for putty-type ordnance. Good job, Shotgun. Stand down.”

Shotgun stopped barking and returned to Leon’s side, sitting beside his feet.

“I bet she comes in handy in Iraq,” Tommy said.

Leon nodded. “She saved a few lives.”

“How long did it take you to train her?” Gunther Scarred Wolf asked.

“Well, I ain’t done with her, yet,” Leon replied. “Folks say I shoulda’ trained her like the bomb squad dogs, but I didn’t know I’d even be able to teach her this much. She still tend to put herself in demo search mode all by herself when new ordnance come into a secured area. I’m workin’ on it.”

“The last thing we need on this trip is a mutt,” Vince said. “You better clean up behind it, ‘cause the first time I step in something that stinks, I’m throwing it overboard.”

Tommy glared at his brother, then slapped Leon’s shoulder. “Hey, we’re glad to have a mascot, buddy.”

Dwight Cavarra came up the ladder from belowdecks huffing and puffing. “Okay, somebody else’s turn to stack gear down there.”

“I got it, Rocco,” Campbell said. “Go lay down, Shotgun.”

Shotgun slunk away to the stern and curled up on a coil of ropes.

Rocco caught Leon’s attention before he climbed down. “Hey, I think I found a stock for your M21 you’re gonna like.”

“Not one of them ‘chassis’ I hope,” Leon replied. “The ones cost both arms, a leg and your firstborn.”

“I can get you a deal on those, too,” Cavarra said. “But no. This is a polymer stock with a nice grip, and an adjustable cheek piece. A fraction of the price. We’ll talk about it later.”

“Okay, sounds good,” Leon said, and disappeared into the hatch.

“Speaking of weapons,” Tommy said, nodding to Josh, “we’re far enough away from snooping eyes, now. Show me what we got.”

Josh nodded, kneeling beside a large plastic case. He unlocked it and swung it open, pulling out a heavily-oiled M10. Out of habit he racked the bolt to check the chamber before handing it to Tommy. “It’s Christmas, Chief. Mr. Ingram has seen to our short-range room-clearing needs.”

Tommy worked the bolt himself, peering into the empty chamber, then inspected the exterior of the little blocky box of a machine pistol.

Vince stepped closer for a look at the weapon. “Is that a MAC-10? Those are illegal.”

Josh cocked an eyebrow up at him as he pulled another Ingram from the case. “According to who?”

“According to the law,” Vince said.

Tommy groaned. He knew there was a volatile mixture of personalities aboard, but it looked like they were going to touch off even faster than he feared.

“The law says the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” Josh said. “If you’re a cop, and you sure act like one, then you swore an oath to uphold that law…not the so-called laws that violate it.”

“Those are easily converted into automatic weapons,” Vince declared. “And full-auto weapons have been banned from civilians for 80 years, hot shot.”

“These are full-auto, Vince,” Tommy said.

Vince’s complexion darkened. He appeared ready to blow a gasket. “Do you even know…? I mean, I could throw all of you… I could lose my badge just for…”

Josh handed one of the submachineguns to Cavarra. “Why waltz when you can rock & roll? Do you know what the difference is between an ‘illegal’ semiautomatic weapon and an ‘illegal’ full automatic weapon?”

Cavarra worked the bolt and gave it the once-over. “Yup. Firepower.” He snapped the fingers of his free hand and strode across the deck, stooping to unzip a nylon rifle case. From it he produced a Galil rifle with an M203 grenade launcher mounted underneath. “Remember this?”

“Fondly,” Tommy said. “In fact, I got a variety of 40mm rounds for it in some crates downstairs. Brought a 60mm mortar too, just for giggles.”

“Tommy,” Vince protested. “You know better than this! These guys are all…” the words froze in his mouth when he saw Josh screwing a suppressor onto the threaded barrel of an Ingram. “Silencers? Silencers!”

Josh rose to his feet with an irritated scowl, gesturing toward Vince with his free hand, and asked Tommy, “Is he gonna do this the whole trip?”

Excerpt #2.

Excerpt #3.

Alternate Covers For Tier Zero

I could use some feedback on these covers. I plan on replacing my cool retro-men’s adventure cover for the E-book version of Tier Zero…at least temporarily.

Here’s Alternative 1:

And here’s Alternative 2:

I’m having trouble deciding which I like better. Any constructive criticism would be helpful. Shouldthe font be more like it is in the other books of the series? Do you think the overall tint should be tweaked to the muddy, muted colors of the other books? (I know the weapons and gear don’t reflect exactly what’s in the story–this is more an attempt at a striking image that connotes, thematically, the content in a general sense.)

Birth of the Dragon – a Review

This film was inspired by the fabled showdown between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man.

I was only vaguely familiar with the story; and only as told from the perspective of Lee and his legions of devoted fans. But there is controversy surrounding not only the outcome of the fight; but why it took place.

If you’ve seen Bruce Lee biopics before this, you’ve seen Lee’s victory over Man depicted. In Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, the showdown occurred because the Old Guard of Kung Fu demanded Lee endure trial-by-combat, for the crime of teaching their ancient secrets to non-Chinese.

Pretty heroic narrative. The stuff of legends.

This film, however, tells the story from an entirely different perspective:

Wong Jack Man was not sent to San Francisco to spy on Bruce Lee, to punish or kill him. Although he was reluctant to share Kung Fu with non-Chinese, it wasn’t his motive for coming to the USA. Rather, he came to work as a dishwasher as a form of pennance, while ostracized from his Shaulin monastery for badly injuring a Tai-Chi master during a demonstration that was not supposed to be full-contact. Washing dishes will put his pride in check and help him restore internal balance.

Bruce Lee fans probably hate this movie, because (although he has some likable qualities, including his fighting skills) he’s an egomaniacal bully blinded by his own ambition. He delights in publicly humiliating others, and it is he who tries to goad Wong Jack Man into a fight. The prideful, childish side of alpha male behavior is portrayed accurately in this regard. Nobody knows for sure how the real life events played out, because there are few witnesses, and those witnesses tell contradictory versions of the story. However, this version does have the ring of truth to it. Certainly it’s not 100% accurate; but it strikes me as more plausible than the more popular Bruce Lee hero myth.

The acting is good–especially Xu Xia as Wong Jack Man. Philip Wan-Lung Ng has a physique much like Bruce Lee, and has mastered Lee’s poses, gestures, and movement. This was displayed best when fighting or sparing, when he would dance around his opponent (in western boxing this is called “the bicycle”–Bruce Lee’s bicycle was distinct and rather flamboyant).

What eventually persuades Man to fight Lee is a sub-plot concerning an American Kung Fu student trying to rescue a Chinese babe (Jingjing Qu) from indentured Servitude to a Chinatown mob boss. Perhaps the premise is too fairy-tale, but the part of Steve “Mac” McKee (Billy Magnuson) was written and performed adequately. I appreciate that they didn’t make this fictional character the stereotype “arrogant racist American who had to be taught a lesson before he could believe in equality” yada yada yada. He’s a very likable character, with his own ego in check (if not his emotions); a teachable student who respects both Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man.

We know that in real life, after the fight with Man, Lee abandoned traditional Wing Chun and went on to develop Jeet Kun Do. In the film we see a more extensive turning point for Lee–that he has actually learned some humility by the end. Not to sound like the message in a fortune cookie, but this film version of Lee is closer to bringing his inner self “into balance” before the final credits.

The older I get, the harder it is to sit through the old Hong Kong martial arts flicks, pioneered by Bruce Lee. The Hollywood-produced Enter the Dragon is watchable, but still a little on the cheesy schlock side of B-movie-dom. The production values of this movie are miles higher than those old exploitation quickies. Mainstream critics (pompous SJWs who get paid to spout off their opinions) have panned this film, but I assure you it’s both written better and more exciting than any Star Wars flick made within the last couple decades.


Pick Up Your Sickle Sword, Follow Me…

I’m the Bronze Age infantry.

Tribal shock troops

Patch on my shoulder…

Free for the Amazon Kindle right now: the new epic fantasy novel Gods & Proxies.

This is not yet another Tolkien wannabe book. And, like other Virtual Pulp titles, it eschews the “strong female character” and all the accompanying feminist tropes which are obligatory across seemingly all entertainment media, ESPECIALLY fantasy novels.

If I were going to try to emulate some famous fantasy author (which I’m not), it would be Robert E. Howard.

What you have here, kind of, is opposing gods fighting a proxy war via Bronze Age nations. One nation is human, and its enemies are mostly Nephilim (giants, or Titans).

For the small price of zero dollars and no cents, you can indulge in high adventure…for the next few days.

Justice League – A Review

Last year I reviewed Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and opined on the possibility that the next DC team-up blockbuster might be a formulaic clone of the other superhero movies (of which, the Marvel flicks have rather defined the cookie-cutter).

Well, it happened. Some god-like supervillain wants to control/destroy Earth (domination and destruction are interchangeable in these movies), but first he needs to collect some ancient mystical object with cosmic power…blah blah blah. (In this case it’s three boxes–one guarded by the Amazons, one by the Atlantians, and one by the humans.)

This age-old baddie (“Steppenwolf”) captures two of the boxes, bringing Aquaman and Wonder Woman onto the Batman’s bandwagon to form a super-team and stop him from obtaining the third, or Steppenwolf will achieve total…villainhood…or something.

I rather like Steppenwolf. I also like Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and the Lovin’ Spoonful. Wonder if one of them will be the next all-powerful supervillain. But I digress.


So, Superman is still dead from the last blockbuster, which is one reason why the Batman thinks this team is necessary. If you don’t know much about the source material (comic books), then you probably aren’t aware of the characters and team dynamics that get trashed in all the virtue-signaling revamps by screen-adapting creative teams. Batman and Superman were “honorary members” of the Justice League. Obviously Batman had no super powers, but he was the superior tactician of the bunch and therefore the de facto leader of the team when he was there. But now it’s the current year (you mysogonistic bigots!) and Wonder Woman has to be the leader…because vagina. That’s one of the sub-plots of the film–Batman trying to push her into her rightful supreme role.


Since the main plot is nothing new, I guess I’ll just give you the down-low on the characters, as they are in this depiction.

SUPERMAN: (spoiler alert!…not) He comes back. And he’s got possibly one of the best lines in the movie. At first, after his ressurection, he’s a vengeful anti-hero willing to kill his allies…until Lois Lane gives him a hug. Then he is restored to his Boy Scout super-Samaritan god-dom as fast as you can say “applause-inducing plot device.” Because vagina.

BATMAN: He’s the old, over-the-hill version from Dark Knight Returns in this movie. Some good lines. Same pros and cons from the last movie. At least the writer/director is consistent in this case.

WONDER WOMAN: She’s not just attractive, she’s likeable. Unlike women in real life who think they ARE her.

CYBORG: I don’t remember much about him in the comics–he seemed little more than a token minority character. Here they’ve done a fairly good job fleshing him out and giving him some useful abilities that help the team. Not a marquis character yet, but OK.


AQUAMAN: He’s basically Wolverine in a different costume, but more effeminate. Oh yeah–he doesn’t have to swim; he sort of flies underwater.

THE FLASH: The character in the TV show is whiny, but bearable. This Flash is the worst incarnation of him I’ve ever seen. Kind of like what the film makers did to Spiderman in Homecoming, only much worse. He’s pathetic. By the time his character arc brings him some backbone, I’m too irritated by the goofy appearance of his costume to pay full attention. They should have just borrowed the one from the Netflix series. This costume looks like something that would be worn to a Gay Pride Bicycle Race.

Nice visuals, of course. Some good dialog. The Batmobile was badass for about 30 seconds, before it (like every other cool multi-million dollar asset in these movies) met its obligatory destruction.

Not a must-see in the theaters. Wait ’till you can stream it at home.

Sword & Supernatural

…That’s what I’m calling this foray into epic fantasy.

I meant to reveal the cover prior to the release of the book. Oops. But here it is now.
I meant to reveal the cover prior to the release of the book. Oops. But here it is now.

As for the setting…for now, all I’m going to say is that it’s not unlike what Robert E. Howard did with his “Hyborian Age.”

I’ll share more on this later, but if you don’t want to wait, you can always buy the kindle version now. The paperback should be out by Christmas, and E-books for non-Kindle readers should be available in February,