Sunday, July 10, 2016

“Charge of the Mad Machine Gunner” – one of Robert F. Dorr’s classic war stories…

Robert F. Dorr with some of his books pic 2013EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of a post I wrote in 2009, shortly after I had my first of many phone calls with writer Robert F. Dorr. In the years between then and Bob’s death in June 2016, I talked with him farily often. He became a long distance friend and mentor who encouraged and helped support my efforts to publish the Men’s Adventure Library book series. In 2015, I had the honor of collaborating with Bob on the book A HANDFUL OF HELL, a collection of his classic men’s adventure magazine war and adventure stories. Over the years, I wrote quite few posts about Bob, his stories and books for this blog. Now that he’s gone, I’m updating and reposting them for the benefit of his old and new fans who may have missed them. It’s also therapeutic for me. I miss Bob. He was one of a kind.
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From the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, men’s adventure magazines published stories by many writers who later became famous novelists, such as Mario Puzo, Bruce Jay Friedman, Lawrence Block, Robert Silberberg, Harlan Ellison, Walter Wager, Donald Westlake and Martin Cruz-Smith.

One writer who regularly penned stories for men’s adventure magazines went on to become famous for his non-fiction books: Robert F. Dorr.

Bob is now best known as one of our country’s top military aviation historians. He’s the author of nearly 80 history books and a regular contributor of articles and columns to history and military magazines.

Relatively few of Bob Dorr’s current fans know that he learned and honed his skills as a writer by writing stories for men’s adventure magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, he wrote hundreds of them for a long list of men’s adventure magazines, including ACTION FOR MEN, BLUEBOOK, ESCAPE TO ADVENTURE, FOR MEN ONLY, MAN TO MAN, MALE, MAN’S MAGAZINE, REAL and STAG.

Most of them are war stories. Some are clearly direct forerunners of his history books.

His latest book is HELL HAWKS! THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMERICAN FLIERS WHO SAVAGED HITLER’S WEHRMACHT — which he co-wrote with former U.S. astronaut Thomas D. Jones.

It tells the story of the 365th Fighter Group, a legendary group of American pilots who flew P-47 Thunderbolts on missions that played a crucial role in winning World War II. One reviewer has aptly described it as “‘Band of Brothers’ with planes.”

Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with Bob Dorr by phone. He had stumbled on this blog and sent me an email saying that he used to write stories for men’s adventure magazines. I wrote back asking if I could talk to him about those days to learn more. 

Now that’s I’ve hooked up with Bob, I plan to do a number of posts about him, his men’s adventure magazine stories and his books.

I’ll start with a look at his Korean War story “Charge of the Mad Machine Gunner,” the featured cover story from the January 1967 issue of MAN’S MAGAZINE.

MAN'S MAGAZINE. Jan 1967. Cover by Mel Crair WMMAN'S MAGAZINE, Jan 1967. Robert F Dorr, Mel Crair BW WM

It’s a gripping story about an American soldier who became a hero during a bloody fight with North Koreans troops near Seoul in 1950.

The illustration used for it on the cover and two-page interior spread was done by artist Mel Crair. Crair was a versatile artist who created thousands of top-notch illustrations for men’s adventure magazines, other magazine genres and paperback books.

Dozens of his men’s adventure magazine paintings were done for stories written by Bob Dorr.

Like almost every story Bob wrote, “Charge of the Mad Machine Gunner” includes so many realistic details that I couldn’t tell if it was true or not, especially since some of the war stories he wrote for men’s adventure mags were based on real people and events.

The task of separating fact and fiction is especially complicated in men’s adventure magazines, since the editors wanted readers to believe most stories were true. To create this illusion, they often illustrated stories with photographs that the captions said were photos of the characters, places and scenes involved.

For example, on page three of “Charge of the Mad Machine Gunner” there’s a headshot photo that’s purported to be the central character in the story, Corporal Ray McIver. Another photo supposedly shows GIs in McIver’s squad pinned down by North Korean gunfire.

MAN'S MAGAZINE, Jan 1967. Robert F Dorr Mad Machine Gunner p3WMMAN'S MAGAZINE, Jan 1967. Robert F Dorr Mad Machine Gunner p3cu1 WMMAN'S MAGAZINE, Jan 1967. Robert F Dorr Mad Machine Gunner p3b

But in the phone call I had with Bob, he told me “Charge of the Mad Machine Gunner” is a fiction yarn. He didn’t know who the man in the photo was. He did know it wasn’t Corporal MvIver, since Bob made him up.

Bob also told me this interesting anecdote:

“For my first five to ten years writing for men’s adventure magazines, I submitted my stories and the editors didn’t ask if they were true. Eventually, there was one occasion when an article was concocted over the telephone, to fit a piece of art. That happened in a conversation I had with Mel Shestack, editor of MEN magazine at Magazine Management, who seemed blithely unconcerned I had been making up most of my stories all along.”

Bob’s writing is so vivid and convincing that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d told me “Charge of the Mad Machine Gunner” was true. And, as he explained, some of his other men’s adventure magazine stories actually were about real life war heroes. He later featured some of the same men in his history books and articles for history magazines.

If you’re curious, you can read “Charge of the Mad Machine Gunner” for yourself. With Bob’s permission, I’ve made a free PDF copy available to readers of this blog. You can download it by clicking this link.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related reading…

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The art of torture and execution using honey-crazed hummingbirds, killer anteaters and big ass snakes!

MAN TO MAN, June 1960, torture by birds & honey
In a previous post here, I showed a set of men’s pulp adventure magazine covers and interior illustrations with scenes depicting the use of various types of animals as instruments of torture.

Just for the record, I’ll reiterate that I am not into bondage and torture of any kind in the real world.

Nor do I think most MAM readers were when those mags were originally published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

I’m just an aficionado of gonzo men’s pulp yarns and artwork. And many of those involving torture by critter are among the most gonzo.

There are real historical examples of animals being used for torture both by so-called “civilized” people, like the ancient Romans and witch-hunting Christians, and by “primitive” tribes of North America, South America, Africa and elsewhere.

And in fiction, torture-by-critter scenes show up in many novels, movies, TV shows, comic books and other media.

But few real or fictional examples are as wild and crazy as the those dreamed up by the writers and artists who worked for men’s adventure mags.

They took torture-by-critter to another level.

For one thing, men’s adventure magazines seem to have used it as a plot trope more often than other genres.

They also expanded the range of the animals used into more branches of the animal kingdom than any other genre that I know of.

In fact, many of the creatures in MAM stories that involve torture-by-critter scenes are not really maneaters. Sometimes, they are not even meat eaters.

Indeed, it would be nearly or totally impossible to get most of them to do the things shown in many MAM illustrations.

Of course, imagination stretching scenarios are a hallmark of men’s pulp adventure mags.

That’s one of the reasons why you either love them — or not.

Obviously, their torture-by-critter stories and artwork are politically incorrect in multiple ways (as are many other types of stories in vintage men’s adventure magazines).

MAN TO MAN, June 1960, artist uncreditedIf you’re someone who can’t get over zoological absurdities, outdated racial stereotypes, sexploitation and other unPC or squirm-inducing aspects of those stories, you’ll never understand their appeal.

If you can, you’ll understand why illustrations like the first one shown here, from MAN TO MAN, June 1960, is one of my all time favorites.

It was done by an uncredited artist for the story “JUNGLE JUNKET TO BLOOD, SEX AND GOLD.”

In it, a hapless white treasure hunter is being pecked to death by birds – including a hummingbird.

The birds are supposedly doing so because members of a Guatemalan Indian tribe poured honey over his head, which supposedly drives local jungle birds into a fructose-lusting pecking frenzy.

I guess examples like that might better be called torture-and-execution-by-critter, since the victim is not intended to survive.

Another classic torture/execution-by-bird illustration is the cover of TRUE ADVENTURES, March 1957, done by the great Mort Kunstler. The original painting, featuring vultures and a stray eagle, was sold in 2008 by Heritage Auctions for nearly $10,000.

Torture and death are not the only potential threats posed by animals in MAM artwork when scantily-clad damsels are present.

Some illustrations suggest that the creatures involved may be used for, uh, X-rated purposes. Since men’s adventure magazines were not sexually explicit, that possibility is usually just implied.

For example, check out the cover of EXOTIC ADVENTURES, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1958), shown below. It was done by artist Hugh Hirtle, who appears to have modeled the nearly-nude victim on Bettie Page.

It’s not entirely clear what the native witch doctor wants the huge snake to do with her. And, the cover painting doesn’t actually go with any of the stories inside the magazine. So we’ll never know. But somehow I think that when you’ve got a combo that includes a topless babe with big boobs, a big snake, and a big native guy, Dr. Freud might have some ideas about it.

Hugh Hirtle is far less known than Mort Kunstler, but he was a talented illustration artist who did hundreds of illustrations for men’s adventure magazines. I think the EXOTIC ADVENTURES snake cover is one of his best.

TRUE ADVENTURES, March 1957, Cover by Mort Kunstler WMTRUE ADVENTURES, March 1957, Painting by Mort KunstlerEXOTIC ADVENTURES, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1958), cover by Hugh Hirtle

Men’s adventure mags frequently capitalized on and helped stoke ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. So it’s natural that they were among the go-to creatures for torture/execution-by-critter stories and artwork.

The example on the cover of MAN'S ADVENTURE, March 1958 was done by Clarence Doore, a great and prolific illustration artist who did hundreds of illos for early pulp magazines, men’s pulps and paperbacks. It goes with the the story inside titled “CRAWLING DEATH.”

Doore also did the snake cover painting used for the July 1959 issue of MAN'S ADVENTURE, which goes with the story “BRIDE OF THE ANACONDA.”

The cover artist for ESCAPE TO ADVENTURE, November 1960 is uncredited. I wish I knew the artist because that cover goes with one of my favorite men’s adventure yarns: “ANN DAWES: LOVE QUEEN OF THE PYGMIES.”

That story is over-the-top in multiple ways. It’s racist, misogynistic, offensive to Africans and little people, and it’s spiced with sex, voyeurism, bondage, hallucinogenic drugs and torture using ants and scorpions. (If you dig such things, you can download a PDF copy of it in my Payloadz store. It’s on the bottom “shelf.”)

MAN'S ADVENTURE, March 1958, cover by Clarence DooreMAN'S ADVENTURE, July 1959, cover by Clarence DooreEscape To Adventure, November 1960

Like the honey-crazed birds, the creature in the next illustration is an unlikely killer in an unlikely scenario.

It’s a giant anteater, also known as an “ant bear,” since it survives by eating ants and other insects. The illustration, by an uncredited artist, goes with the story “THE THING IN THE PIT.” Giant anteaters are big and they do have sharp claws. But they use them to dig into ant hills and termite mounds.

Would an “ant bear” be interested in or effective at killing humans thrown into a pit with them? Well, in the weird world of men’s adventure magazines, they would.

The cover of PERIL, December 1960, also uncredited, depicts another damsel-tormenting snake. It goes with the story “BLOOD LUST OF THE JUNGLE GODDESS.”

ESCAPE TO ADVENTURE, Oct 1960. Artist uncredited WMPERIL, Dec 1960, artist uncredited

The snake torture painting on the cover of ESCAPE TO ADVENTURE, January 1961 is another classic by Clarence Doore.

I don’t think the snake is a phallic symbol in that one since the story it goes with is “I WAS A CAPTIVE STUD OF THE HUAHAPOS.” If it was supposed to be phallic, it was ahead of its time.

The fan favorite MAM artist Norm Eastman did the snake torture cover for MAN'S ADVENTURE, May 1961. It doesn’t go with any story inside. You’ll have to make up your own.

The torture-by-snake cover for WILDCAT ADVENTURES, August 1961 was done by Basil Gogos another favorite of both men’s adventure and horror magazine fans (including me on both counts). In case you missed it, here’s a link to an interview I did with Basil recently for this blog.

ESCAPE TO ADVENTURE, Jan 1961. Cover by Clarence Doore WMMAN'S ADVENTURE, May 1961, cover by Norm EastmanWILDCAT ADVENTURES, August 1961, cover by Basil Gogos

On the cover of WILDCAT ADVENTURES, July 1962, the scary creatures being used to torment a distressed damsel are wild boars. The painting is by another grandmaster in the realm of pulp and paperback illustration, Walter Popp.

The cover of MAN'S EXPLOITS, June 1963 shows two unfortunate ladies being dunked in a tank with a presumably poisonous snake.

The thing is, it’s supposed to go with the story “WE SAVED THE BLONDE BEAUTIES FROM THE PIRANHA HORROR.” As you can see, there are no piranhas in the cover painting.

It’s one of many MAM illustrations which show creatures that are different than the creatures in the story. What’s the reason for those of out-of-sync illos? Here’s my theory...

Many men’s adventure mags were low budget productions. To save costs, the editors often used artwork like stock photos. The artwork they had on hand was often recycled for two, three or even more stories over time.

In a month when money was tight and deadlines loomed, if the editors didn’t have a previously-used illustration showing the critter involved in a story, they used an illo with some other killer critter, to avoid the cost of commissioning a new one. They probably figured — probably correctly — that most readers wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t care if they did notice.

WILDCAT ADVENTURES, July 1962, Cover by Walter PoppMAN'S EXPLOITS, June 1963, artist uncreditedMAN'S EXPLOITS, Sept. 1963, Norm Eastman cover

The final cover in this post, MAN’S EXPLOITS, September 1963, shows what looks like Frederick’s of Hollywood models being menaced by a maddened bull, while some pervy bad guys look on. The artist is uncredited, but my friend Rich Oberg IDed it for me as a Norm Eastman cover.

Rich should know. He owns the world’s largest collection of men’s adventure magazine artwork in general and original Eastman paintings in particular. He also owns a lot of wild fumetti artwork.

Some of the MAM paintings Rich owns are featured in the must-have books IT’S A MAN’S WORLD and MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES. His fumetti originals are featured in SEX AND HORROR: THE ART OF EMANUELE TAGLIETTI and the forthcoming volume SEX AND HORROR: THE ART OF ALESSANDRO BIFFIGNANDI. I highly recommend all of those lushly illustrated books.

Coming up: more farfetched torture (and/or execution) by critter artwork.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related and recommended reading…

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Farewell to writer Robert F. Dorr...

Robert F. Dorr (1939-2016)
Robert F. Dorr
, the great military aviation historian, journalist and novelist who got his start as an author by writing stories for men’s adventure magazines in the 1960s and 1970s, passed away on Sunday, June 12, 2016 at age 76.

Regular readers of this blog know that Bob Dorr is one of my favorite writers. I have done many posts here about his stories and books.

Most of Bob’s many fans know him best for the scores of books he wrote about military aircraft and the men who flew them, or for his regular columns and commentaries in military magazines and newspapers, or for the many articles he wrote for aviation and history magazines.

But before all that, he learned his craft as a writer working for men’s adventure magazines. He wrote hundreds of stories for them in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Many are among the best ever written for the MAM genre.

My publishing partner Wyatt Doyle and I included two of them in the first book in our Men’s Adventure Library series.

That first book is a kind of “all star” collection of MAM stories by writers like Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, Bruce J. Friedman and Robert Silverberg. That’s the league Bob Dorr was in as a writer of short stories (for any genre).

More recently, we worked with Bob to publish a collection entirely composed of war and adventure stories he wrote for men’s adventure magazine stories, titled A HANDFUL OF HELL.

I have talked to Bob off and on by phone and email since 2009, after he noticed this blog and contacted me to let me know he had written many stories for men’s adventure mags. He became a long-distance friend and eventually a collaborator and a mentor on indie publishing.

Bob’s passing hit me hard, even though I knew it was coming. He told me in a phone call last November, around the same time he announced it in a post on his personal blog on November 17, 2015.

That post reflected his inspiring outlook on life, his love of writing and his wry sense of humor. It said, in part:


     I have a brain tumor.

     It appears to be a Glioblastoma, the most common but also the most aggressive kind.

     I'm still able to talk, including talking on the phone, but the tumor is near the speech center and my ability to speak, to type, and to add and subtract is deteriorating rapidly...

     Robert F. Dorr - news from Bob Nov 2015I'm in good spirits amidst these gorgeous autumn days with wonderful support from family, friends, and readers.

     Well, okay, not every reader. One reader mailed me a package of Preparation H. That's genuinely thoughtful but maybe not the work of an adoring fan.

     My first paid publication was in the November 1955 issue of Air Force magazine when I was in high school. I got to be in the Air Force in Korea and to spend 60 years writing about those who fly and fight. A current example is the cover story on the B-24 Liberator in the January 2016 AVIATION HISTORY magazine...Thanks to my family, friends, and readers for a great time.

In the months after that shocking announcement, the effects of the brain tumor increasingly robbed Bob of his ability to hit the right keys on a computer keyboard.

Nonetheless, in the first few months after his diagnosis, he managed to complete and self-publish his second novel CRIME SCENE: FAIRFAX COUNTY. It was a follow-up to his alternate history novel, HITLER’S TIME MACHINE, his first foray into the realm of novels, though not his first in the realm of fiction.

That was a craft he learned and honed long ago writing for men‘s adventure magazines.

Bob put fiction writing behind him for decades. Then, about two years ago, he became increasingly disillusioned with writing books for mainstream publishers whose fortunes and marketing efforts were waning and decided that writing and self-publishing novels might be a fun alternative.

After his cancer diagnosis, Bob also wrote a series of blog posts about his life, his recent books and people who influenced and inspired him.

The titles of many of those posts include the number of days since Bob’s brain tumor had been discovered.

That struck me as both an acknowledgment of the fact that many people diagnosed with a Glioblastoma tumor die within a few months — and his determination to exceed that timeline and continue to work as a writer as long as he could.

Robert Des LauriersSome of the “influencers” he wrote about in his final blog posts were old friends he knew in the Air Force or during the few years he spent in California in the early 1960s, in between his military service and his 25-year career as a globe-hopping Senior Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department.

Among other things, Bob found it humorous that he had used names and photos of several of his old friends for characters in men’s adventure magazine stories he wrote.

He first told me about that funny aspect of some of his MAM stories when we were working with him on his introduction to A HANDFUL OF HELL.

Wyatt and I also laughed with Bob when we found out that editors had used photos of him for certain characters in his men’s adventure stories. (Several are shown in the book.)

Another “influencer” he wrote about on his blog was Robert Des Lauriers.

Des Lauriers was among the hundreds of Air Force servicemen Bob Dorr interviewed for his magazine articles and history books. He was co-pilot of one of the B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers featured in Bob’s World War II history book MISSION TO BERLIN

That and other military aviation history books Bob Dorr wrote, like MISSION TO TOKYO and HELL HAWKS! (co-authored with former astronaut Thomas D. Jones) have aptly been described as being like BAND OF BROTHERS in the sky.

In them, Bob illuminates history and gives it an up-close-and-personal feel by focusing heavily on the first-hand accounts, letters and journals of individual American pilots and crew members.

The war stories Bob wrote for men’s adventure magazines were forerunners of that personalized approach. Some were about real people, many were fictional. But almost all were gripping, highly-humanized stories about rank-and-file guys who fought and died in the air and on the front lines in World War II, the Korean War and the War in Vietnam.

Robert F. Dorr blog post April 2016Bob also tipped his hat to many other interesting people in the blog posts he wrote after his cancer diagnosis.

Three of them are members of the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group that Bob Dorr co-founded with me over five years ago: novelists Paul Bishop, Chuck Dixon and James Reasoner.

Bob admired them both as talented professional writers and as pioneers in the realm of self-publishing, a course he pursued for his two novels and his last non-fiction book AIR POWER ABANDONED.

That one is a scathing, eye-opening exposé about what Bob called “the dismantling of the U. S. Air Force” that began after the first Gulf War in 1991 and became progressively worse during the tenure of Robert Gates as U.S. Secretary of Defense.

In his next to last blog post, Bob mentioned some amazing facts about himself. They provide a hint of how much he loved flying and writing and how active and prolific he was.

He wrote:

     I've flown aboard 128 different aircraft types. They include restored World War II aircraft like the P-51 Mustang, SB2C-5 Helldiver and B-25 Mitchell. I've also flown the F-15E Strike Eagle, the B-52H Stratofortress and the B-1B Lancer. I have a record of every time I've been off the ground in an aircraft, including every commercial airline flight I've ever taken…

     Since 1955, I've published 80 books, 6,000 magazine articles and 3,000 newspaper columns, mostly about the Air Force. I've enjoyed sixty "straight" years of writing about the Air Force and aviation (interrupted only partially by a 25-year stint as a Foreign Service officer.)

Robert F. Dorr blog post May 2016Knowing the end was coming soon, Bob noted that he had donated his extensive archives about military aircraft to the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum and the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), two groups that he felt “honor veterans, educate young Americans and inspire the public.”

Bob’s final blog post, on May 28, 2016, was poignantly titled “The Last Magazine Article.” 

It discussed what was, in fact, the last magazine article he was able to write: a history piece about Avenger torpedo bombers, published in the June 2016 issue of AMERICA IN WWII magazine.

In his final blog post, Bob also said something he’d said before in several others:

     “No one ever had a greater privilege than to write about Americans who fly and fight.”

That heartfelt line reflects a major thread that runs through of most of Robert F. Dorr’s written works, from his first published men’s adventure magazine war story in the April 1962 issue of REAL to his last piece for AMERICA IN WWII.

For me, it was a great privilege to have had the opportunity to get to know Bob and to reprint his men’s adventure magazine stories.

During the time I knew him, he became one of my own personal heroes — as a writer, as a keeper and teller of part of America’s cultural history and as a human being.

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A number of websites did retrospective posts about Bob Dorr shortly before or after he passed.

Several said things that help shed light on Bob’s legacy, his worldview and his lifelong empathy for the airmen and soldiers who serve in the military.

War Is Bring on Robert F. DorrFor example, the obituary about Bob in the AIR FORCE TIMES recalled:

     “Dorr…became widely known and drew a dedicated following for using his columns to defend rank-and-file troops and call out senior military and Defense Department leadership when he felt they had fallen short.”

Another good farewell to Bob appeared on the ironically-named website, which is anything but boring. It’s a fascinating site about “how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world.”

In a section that discussed Bob’s work as a military journalist, it noted:

     Airmen brought him their gripes and concerns — they knew he would listen to them.

     “I felt like I was able to communicate with them and that I was able to understand their situation, and sometimes I was able to write something that their bosses would listen to, [Dorr said]. The bosses haven’t always done a very good job of understanding what the troops want.”

     Dorr has never been reluctant to challenge authority. At times, his column took overtly oppositional viewpoints. In particular, he was vocal in his condemnation of torture and the U.S. government’s controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba...

     Dorr was also a vocal opponent of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for homosexual service members.

Another insight into Bob Dorr’s views is in a recent article about him on, a news site focusing on Northern Virginia, where Bob lived for many years with his beloved wife Young Soon and their dog Autumn. It includes this quote by Bob: 

     “In World War II, we had the citizen-soldier who went in, did his job, came home and took off his uniform. That person represented the wishes and desires of the country, of the population. We have gone from having a citizen-soldier to what we call now the ‘warrior ethos.’ I don’t like American military members to be called warriors. I want them to be members of a country that goes to war only reluctantly and only when it must.”

One of the more personal farewells written after Bob’s passing was posted by writer and extreme sports athlete Tom Demerly, who rightly noted that Bob Dorr “brought knowledge, inspiration, entertainment, education and excitement to readers around the world.”

Another is the obituary written by Bob’s friend Chuck Oldham, editor of the DEFENSE MEDIA NETWORK website and publishing company.

A line in that sums up what anyone who knew Robert F. Dorr, either personally or through his stories and books, recognizes:

     “There will never be another like him.”

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related and recommended reading…