MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #10, the Vietnam War issue – Preview Part 2

My previous post on this blog provided a preview of the first half of Issue #10 of the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY, the magazine I co-edit with book designer and head of Pulp 2.0 Press Bill Cunningham. (Bill is also my co-editor on THE ART OF RON LESSER series, Volume 2 of which is coming soon.)

MAQ #10 focuses on stories about the Vietnam War published in men’s adventure magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. Like other MAQs, #10 is available on Amazon worldwide in full color print and “Digital Replica” editions and a lower cost black-and-white “Noir” edition. (You can also get the full color print editions with free shipping via my bookstore.)

Two of the stories mentioned in my first post about MAQ #10 involve people who were quite famous.

One is Mario Puzo, who wrote many stories for MAMs under the pen name Mario Cleri before his novel THE GODFATHER was published in 1969.

The other is an early biographical piece Barry Sadler, who wrote the song “Ballad of the Green Berets” and later launched the CASCA action/adventure novel series.

Two of the stories that follow the article about Sadler are by authors who were both top writers of fiction and non-fiction stories for MAMs that later became authors of history books—Glenn Infield and Robert F. Dorr

I asked my friend Rob Morris to write special introductions for those stories because he has special personal connections to those writers. Infield served in of the 95th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force Group during World War II and Rob is the official historian of the 95th.

His definitive book about them, THE WILD BLUE YONDER AND BEYOND: THE 95TH BOMB GROUP IN WAR AND PEACE (2011), is one of several excellent WWII history books Rob has written. Others include UNTOLD VALOR: FORGOTTEN STORIES OF AMERICAN BOMBER CREWMEN OVER EUROPE IN WORLD WAR II (2006), and UNTOLD VALOR: THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE PACIFIC (2014).

If you like the Apple TV series MASTERS OF THE AIR, which features the Eight Air Force, you’ll like Rob’s books.

Rob was also a personal friend of Robert F. Dorr, who started out as a writer for men’s adventure magazines in the 1960s then became one of America’s foremost military aviation historians.

Before Bob passed away in 2016, Wyatt Doyle and I had the honor of co-editing an anthology of some of his best MAM stories with him for our Men’s Adventure Library book series. It’s titled A HANDFUL OF HELL: CLASSIC WAR AND ADVENTURE STORIES BY ROBERT F. DORR.

Infield’s story is one of the wildest in MAQ #10. It’s the “Saga of ‘Mad Mike’ Kovacs and His Battling Lepers of Vietnam” from MALE, January 1967. The cover art for that issue was done by Mort Künstler. The interior illustration for the story was done by Earl Norem.

As Rob Morris notes in his intro, although Infield’s men’s adventure magazine writing was mostly fact-based, his “Battling Lepers” is not. It’s a fictional tale about a lone-wolf Hungarian refugee who comes to America to escape communism, joins the military, and almost single-handedly discovers a secret route out of Cambodia used by the Viet Cong. Kovacs holds off a huge Viet Cong force using only his wits, a tiny army of twenty-one South Vietnamese lepers, and a jury-rigged “blunderbuss” consisting of two .50 caliber machine guns and an M5 grenade launcher scrounged off a crashed Huey helicopter and mounted on the Huey’s skids. The body count is astronomical.

The story in MAQ #10 by Robert F. Dorr, reprinted from MAN’S MAGAZINE, February 1968, is written in fast-moving action style, but it’s not fiction. Titled “Mig Bait over North Vietnam,” it tells the true story of F-4 Phantom pilot Major Paul J. Gilmore, the first American to shoot down the powerful new Russian-made MIG-21used by the North Vietnamese, considered by many at the time to be the best fighter in the world. Dorr tells the story from Gilmore’s point of view and it’s a real nailbiter.

In between the Infield and Dorr stories is an exclusive article about Vietnam War novel series written by pulp fiction historian, novelist and Acquisitions Editor for Wolfpack Publishing, Paul Bishop. (I’ve written about Paul in past posts on this blog and collaborated with him on one about the MAM story that inspired the movie THE WACKIEST SHIP IN THE ARMY.)

His article, “PAPERBACK BATTLEGROUND: VIETNAM,” covers classic Vietnam War series that are popular among military fiction fans. They include:

  • The four-book HATCHET series, written by Michael Kasner under the pseudonym Gordon Knox. Kasner is also author of the BLACK OPS, CHOPPER COPS and WARKEEP 2030 action/adventure novel series.
  • The cult favorite TUNNEL RATS novels penned by Stephen Mertz under the pseudonym Cliff Banks. As noted by Paul and in the interview I did with Mertz a while back, Stephen is a grandmaster of action/adventure novels. Early in his career, he was picked to write Mack Bolan novels by the creator of THE EXECUTIONER himself, Don Pendleton. Mertz went on to write dozens of novels under his own name and pen names, including the popular M.I.A. HUNTER series (written as Jack Buchanan) and his more recent CODY’S WAR series.
  • The GUNSHIPS series, sort of a Vietnam version of THE DIRTY DOZEN written by British writer Christopher Lowder. Lowder also wrote the first book in the DEATHLANDS post-apocalyptic action series and authored many JUDGE DREDD stories and books.
  • The BLACK EAGLES series, one of the longest-running Vietnam War novels series. The 21 books in that series were written by several authors using the pseudonym John Lansing, most notably William Fieldhouse, best known for creating the PHOENIX FORCE series, a spinoff of THE EXECUTIONER series, under the pseudonym Gar Wilson.
  • The SCORPION SQUAD and VIETNAM: GROUND ZERO series, co-written by Kevin Randle and Robert Cornett using the name pseudonym Eric Helm. These two series are unique in paperback publishing as they are two series that were published by two different publishers, yet kept the same continuity of story and character.
  • The SAIGON COMMANDOS series written by the masterful action/adventure novelist and former military and civilian policeman Nicholas Cain as Jonathan Cain. This cult-favorite series, focusing on military police stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam War, has been referred to as the HILL STREET BLUES of Vietnam. Cain has also written several other excellent men’s adventure novel series, including the CHOPPER 1 series (as Jack Hawkins), four books in the WAR DOGS series (as Nik Uhernik) and the great urban cop LITTLE SAIGON series under his own name.

SAIGON COMMANDOS author Nick Cain happens to hang out in some of the same Facebook Groups I frequent, like the Men’s Adventure Paperbacks of the 20th Century Group and the Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Group. Earlier this year, I noticed several posts Cain write about the 1988 movie based on the series that was made by Roger Corman’s Concorde Studios. It was a frustrating but memorable experience for Nicholas that ultimately led him to be flown to the Philippines, where the movie was filmed. With his permission, we turned his reminiscences into another exclusive article in MAQ #10. It’s actually a pretty good Corman film, available on DVD and on YouTube.)

The “art gallery” section of MAQ #10 showcases men’s adventure mag covers with Vietnam War scenes that feature the legendary male model Steve Holland. As shown in the series of must-have books about him published by our friend by Michael Stradford, The Steve Holland Library series,

Holland’s face and body were used by scores of top illustration artists for literally thousands of magazine cover paintings, interior illustrations, and paperback cover art. Most of the examples shown in MAQ #10 were done by Mel Crair, one of the go to artists for Vietnam War scene covers.

One of the MAQ #10 stories that’s a precursor to the TUNNEL RATS novel series by Stephen Mertz is “Smash the Cong’s Terror Tunnels” by Eric Broske. It’s a gritty fiction story first published in TRUE ACTION, November 1968 with a great illustration by Mort Künstler (under his Emmett Kaye pseudonym).

The Viet Cong used a vast underground tunnel network during the Vietnam War. Broske’s story features those tunnels and the “Tunnel Rats” who had the terrifying job of going down into them after VC guerrillas.  The Viet Cong’s Cu Chi tunnels, located in an area northwest of Saigon, are particularly famous. Ironically, a 75-mile stretch of them has been preserved by the government of Vietnam and they are now a popular tourist attraction.

As noted in my intro to the story, there are a number of non-fiction books about American and Australian “Tunnel Rats.” The only movie I know of that focuses is the 2008 film 1968: TUNNEL RATS, by Uwe Boll. (Like most Boll films, it’s not a classic but it’s worth watching. You can stream it on Amazon Prime.)

The next story in MAQ #10 is a fact-based account of the long, bloody siege of the American military base at Khe Sanh. Titled “Ambush! The Horror at Khe Sanh,” it was written by Dave Graham and appeared in BLUEBOOK, June 1969, another Vietnam era MAM that featured a cover by Mel Crair.

The 77-day siege of Khe Sanh was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Author Graham provides a good idea of how hellish it was for the American marines stationed there. Nearly 1,000 of them were killed and many more were wounded. Estimates of the number of North Vietnamese soldiers killed range from 2,500 to 15,000.

The “Gal-Lery” section of MAQ #10 focuses on Raquel Welch. When Raquel died in February  2023 at age 82, many obituaries mentioned that she was a featured star of Bob Hope’s 1967 USO Christmas tour to entertain American troops in Vietnam.

At that point, Raquel’s appearances in movies like FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1965), ONE MILLION B.C. (1966), FATHOM (1967) and BEDAZZLED (1967), and eye-popping photos of her on popular posters and in countless magazines (including the men’s adventure magazines featured in this article), had made her one of the hottest young female celebrities in the world.

During the 1967 USO tour shows, Raquel cracked jokes with Bob, sang, and danced for tens of thousands of servicemen in Saigon, Long Binh, Danang, Cam Ranh Bay and other places in South Vietnam. She often gave some a special thrill by bringing them on stage to dance with her. In between shows, she went with Hope to visit wounded GIs in hospital wards. In addition to showing photos from that tour, the MAQ #10 article reprints some of the photo spreads of Raquel from several men’s adventure magazines. (By the way, there’s an archived video of 1967 Bob Hope Christmas Special on C-Span at this link.)

The Vietnam War stories in MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY #10 are in chronological order. They go from 1963, when the first American GI’s were killed to a final story published near the end of the war. The last story, “Uncle Sam’s Universal Shafting of Viet Vets,” is a non-fiction exposé written by award-winning journalist Edward “Ed” Hymoff, originally published in SAGA, November 1972.

It’s a sad, eye-opening account of how badly treated Vietnam War veterans were when they returned home. It wasn’t until the 1980s that those vets began to be given the type of positive recognition they deserved for their service and sacrifices.

I’m proud that MAQ #10 has received positive reviews from people I admire, including reviews by: bestselling novelist James Reasoner on his “Rough Edges” blog; legendary paperback historian and author Gary Lovisi on his YouTube feed; Bud’s Art Books (which carries MAQ issues), novelist Dan Leo, author of the trippy MEMOIRS OF ARNOLD SCHNABEL series, book review blogger Nick Anderson, and the retromedia expert and podcaster Jules Burt.

Jules posted an especially cool video preview review and review of MAQ #10 on his popular YouTube channel that you can view by clicking this link or the image below.

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