God, I miss the Iron Curtain! Or rather the forest of men's adventure paperbacks produced dtowards the tail end of the Cold War. They were a throwback of sorts to the pulps such as The Phantom and The Shadow of earlier generations. I've always said everything I've ever learned about writing I learned from men's adventure novels, specifically Gold Eagle's gritty epic series The SOBs. Lead by the last man out of Vietnam, Colonel Nile Barrabas, the "Soldiers of Barrabas" were a mean bunch of mercenary sons-o-bitches who got the dirty jobs done. Barrabas got the jobs from Walker "The Fixer" Jessup, who got the jobs from an unscrupulous octogenarian senator referred to only as "The Senator" and Barrabas and company went to work. They fought the private little wars that kept us safe! Were they realistic? Of course not! But they made for a consistent hellasciously-good read, though unlike Gold Eagle's more popular if not drawn-out series The Executioner, which is still being published today, the SOBs only lasted less than forty books. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading The Executioner for awhile, but how many times can a guy get shot in the friggin' shoulder?!
Unlike The Executioner, the mortality rate in The SOBs was almost as certain for the heroes as it was for the villains. Towards the end of the series, Barrabas reflected upon how the original team had started with thirteen and steadily dwindled down to a mere seven. Of course a few of the team had seemingly "died" only to return to the ranks. William "Billy Two" Starfoot II for instance, a full-blooded Osage Indian who'd been shot in the back on a Siberian airstrip, tortured to the point of near insanity, managed to escape and return to the ranks of his mercenary buddies with the help of the Hawk Spirit. The true presence of the Hawk Spirit was constantly debated amongst Starfoot's pals, but they never doubted his belief in such an apparition. Another aspect of merit that put The SOBs on a par all their own was the series' author "Jack Hild," a pseudonym shared by only a few ghost writers, whereas other Gold Eagle books like The Executioner, Pheonix Force and Able Team, shared a plethora of ghost writers. This made for consistently tighter continuity and flashbacks.
Sadly all good things come to an end. Not only did the cancellation of The SOBs mark the end of my interest in men's adventure books, but it was quickly followed by a rising trend the genre. Science fiction began to be as prevailing of a topic as topless Asian chicks. If The SOBs were still in print today, they'd have found Osama Bin Laden, liberated Iraq and took care of Kim Jong Il's plans for global nuclear dominion over the Free World.