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Book Review: 187 Pain and Bliss by Wade J. Halverson

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When much younger (a long, long time ago), the reviewer – yours truly – and his brothers lived vicarious lives through so-called pulp fiction. The authors of pulp fiction were referred to – by the hoity-toity, high literary types (a phrase that has to be spoken with minimal enunciation, using the nasal passages) – as “hacks.” Some of these snobs dignified such authors by appending the term ‘writer’ to the term ‘hack’ – hackwriters.

The implication of either expression was definitely derogatory.

The Brothers Radic paid no attention to such literary fastidiousness. Essentially, the Brothers Radic considered the tastes and preferences of the intellectual elite to be false, doctrinaire, artificial, shrill, shallow, uncertain, eclectic, jejune, and insincere. In other words, the Brothers Radic believed that the literary aristocrats were missing out on a whole bunch of fun by eschewing such writers as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heinlein, and Robert E. Howard.

For example, Robert E. Howard conceived Bran Mak Morn, who was a warrior-hero of the Picts, and Solomon Kane, who was a combination of Bruce Lee and Snake Slipkin (Escape from New York). These swashbuckling adventurers lived and breathed danger, dark intrigue, and exhilarating combat. Put simply, they saved the day by kicking butt and annihilating legions of bad guys, who were responsible for putting ‘evil’ in the word devil. The damsels they saved were frail and vulnerable and beautiful.

In hindsight, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn were the worst stereotypes of macho, imperialist males. Which goes a long way toward explaining why they were so much fun to read. Pulp fiction was and is so much fun for one simple reason. It’s pure, unadulterated Darwinism: only the strong survive!

Happily, this kind of writing is still around. One purveyor of action-packed, rock-em-sock-em, macho tales is Wade J. Halverson, who himself has lived a most unusual life. Halverson was a super-heavyweight Thai boxer, holds multiple black belts in various martial art disciplines, and worked as a bodyguard for the rich and famous.

All that to say this: Halverson has lived what he writes. And he writes Kane Silver novels, the latest of which is 187 Pain and Bliss. And it’s a doozy.

187 Pain and Bliss is the story of 10-year old Axle Hunter, who, surviving a plane crash, finds himself alone, standing in the middle of an opium poppy field in Thailand. Adopted and raised by Chang So’Ming, a drug lord, Axle grows up in a world of violence, honor, and tradition.

When rival drug cartels murder the only family Axle has ever known, he seeks revenge. Yet Axle can’t take down the bad guys by himself. Enter Kane Silver, who teaches Axle the true meaning of honor. And it goes without saying there’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat and dead bad guys involved in the learning process.

187 Pain and Bliss is not high literary stuff. Which is why it’s so much fun. Reading 187 Pain and Bliss is akin to watching both Kill Bill movies, Reservoir Dogs, The Boondock Saints, and Snatch – all at the same time. In other words, there’s just enough character development so the reader identifies with the protagonists, but the driving force of the story is action, action, action. Which means Halverson does his job well. He writes action-packed pulp fiction. There’s no namby-pamby stuff included.

Halverson has a real knack for action thrillers. He crafts his story carefully, moving from scene to scene with just the right amount of escalating tension. The chapters are short, as they have to be. And the dialogue is authentic, which adds reality and humanity to the characters.

Admittedly, this type of ferociously goosed up, testosterone dripping yarn is not for everyone. But for readers who crave careening action and gladiator-like fight scenes where no quarter is asked and none is given, 187 Pain and Bliss is just the right cup of tea.

187 Pain and Bliss is highly recommended.

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