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Phoenix (The Complete Action Series)
David Alexander
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M.I.A. Hunter : Cambodian Hellhole

M.I.A. Hunter: Cambodian Hellhole - Jack Buchanan Ex-P.O.W. Mark Stone has one purpose in life: to rescue America's abandoned heroes, the soldiers listed as M.I.A. A former Green Beret, Stone will not rest until the debt owed these patriots has been paid…in blood.

This is the premise of the 1980s action series M.I.A Hunter, succinctly stated in the back cover copy. In Cambodian Hellhole, the second in the series, Stone, returning from a failed P.O.W. recovery mission, is accosted by CIA agents in Bangkok and although their mission is to arrest him for bringing light to M.I.A. American prisoners, something that officially does not exist, this time they need Stone for another reason.  It seems that one American service member held captive in a Cambodian prison camp actually managed to escape and will talk to no one but Stone.

Armed with the knowledge that there are other Americans still held captive at that camp, one of them being Stone's old army buddy Jess Lynch, Stone promptly commences with the ass-kicking and evades the CIA spooks. Together with his cohorts Hog Wiley, the veteran Texan, and Terrance Loughlin, a former SAS commando, Stone hooks up with a group of Hmong allies and embarks on a mission into a Cambodian Hellhole!

The publication of this series was timely, no doubt due to the popularity of Vietnam War-related movies and TV so prevalent in the '80s. Stuff like Chuck Norris' Missing in Action and Stallone's First Blood, Part 2 were popular, but Vietnam War-related material was also all over the TV, in shows like Magnum PI and Simon and Simon. I tend to look at this phenomena sociologically, as America, years after clumsily exiting the conflict, attempts to come to terms with the tragedy using popular fiction as discursive media.

While Cambodian Hellhole is not intended to be the kind of book to inspire serious academic thought, it's a pretty good read. Compared to many other books in the "men's action" genre, it's written quite well and thankfully free of blatant jingoistic posturing. Stone comes across as a man who could care less about recovering any sense of nationalistic pride than bringing some honor and peace back to his fellow service members.

Cambodian Hellhole was written by Mike Newton (under the "Jack Buchanan" house name) and does a fairly good job. Although it wasn't any remarkable literary triumph, it did succeed in delivering some good jungle atmosphere as well brisk plotting and violent action. It was everything you'd expect an '80s action movie to be and I wasn't expecting or hoping for any more or less. I kept imagining Mark Stone as Tom Berenger.

All in all, I found Cambodian Hellhole to be a quick, enjoyable read. I'll be looking forward to locating the third in the series, Hanoi Deathgrip. There's a preview for it at the end and it seems pretty crazy, featuring a badguy pit-fighter with an actual deathgrip--he crushes peoples' heads like melons! For added value, Hanoi Deathgrip was written by one of my all-time-favorite authors Joe Lansdale as "Jack Buchanan." Is that cool or what?