Casca Longinus, Green Berets, and my granddad

Casca 1: The Eternal Mercenary - Barry Sadler, Tony Roberts Blood Harvest (Mack Bolan The Executioner, #213) - Don Pendleton Pilgrimage To Hell - Jack Adrian

Sometimes being tired sends my brain off in very weird detours. At least this one is book related for once!


So the other day, Bookstooge was talking about the very (very!) longrunning Mack Bolan series but I didn't have a decent internet connection on the train to reply there, and I forgot. Also I couldn't find number one of that series, so the book above is #213--I wasn't kidding about long running. Anyway, that post reminded me of a friend of mine who was a long haul trucker who used to swear by two other really long series, so I thought I'd tip them (or, if I remembered, which I didn't until just now, see if Bookstooge has already read any of them)


Interestingly, one reason these two series are very popular in trucker land is that they are available as audiobooks but produced as full audio plays (like the BBC does) with large casts, and full on sound effects and music, the works. They also cost a BUNCH, so my friend and his pals used to trade them around like the trucker version of Pokémon cards, but apparently, if you like the stories, the productions are amazing. (Oddly, the same company does some random selections of other books the same way, like, Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series.)


Death Lands


Death Lands is a post-nuclear-holocaust pulpy thing, with a crew of folks criss-crossing the now blown up US via leftover teleporter technology, trying to avoid the local warlords that have sprung up. It also has a spinoff called Outlanders that goes way into very weird sci-fi verging on paranormal territory. I think there's a couple hundred books between them. I've read a few, here and there, and I they just didn't really do it for me. I think one problem is there's actually an ongoing story here, so reading them way out of order is spoiler central, but they're pretty difficult to come by *in* order. Still if you can find the first couple, for pulp, they're far from the worst.


No, I don't know where the US army got it's teleporter technology that our future heroes are using either, but I sure wish they'd share it, it'd save so much commuting time!




Now this is where it gets weird.


Casca is, as you may have guessed from the title, Casca Longinus, the roman soldier who ended the crucifiction of Christ with his spear. And was (in this series) cursed to not only live until the second coming (literally) but to always be a soldier.


So it's a really different take from most of the pulps, because it's very unconstrained as to setting. Casca has been around for 2000 years, and many of the books is him basically filing in an in-the-know historian on some of his adventures. Also, he is a soldier, on the ground, in the mud, not a commander, and tbh that's not a perspective you read about all that much. That and, while Casca himself is fairly upright, morally, he's not always fighting on what we'd call the right side, in hindsight.


This series, I liked the first couple well enough (they're hardly great literature, but they fit their purpose!) But unlike Death Lands, which was always a "house author" job, with multiple people writing, Casca was initially a single author series. Unfortunately he died, and the books since then don't have much of a rep as being even readable.


Now the weird part. I looked up the name of the author and it was Barry Sadler, and darned if that hasn't been bugging me for three days now, why it was familiar, and I finally figured it out. Because someone was humming "The Halls of Montezuma" which is the US Marine Corp hymn (of ALL things to hear on a Swedish train!).


Which somehow jogged loose the memory of hanging out with my grandpa, in the garden with the speakers to the stereo up on the windowsill of the living room so we could listen to his copious collection of 50's through 70's LP's. Mostly old ballad singers and country - I can still sing along to most Jim Reeves songs, even now.


But one of those songs was "The Ballad of the Green Beret" by none other than SSG Barry Sadler.  Go figure. 


Granddad was a sapper (Army Engineer Corps) in the NZ army, stationed in Guadalcanal, and seconded to the US forces on the ground there, and although he never talked much about his war experiences, he did have stories to tell about the marine raiders he met there. Also that's where he learned to play poker, and in turn, taught me. I got suspended once in fifth form of high school (don't know what grade that is, I was about 14) for running a gambling table during study period :) Nana gave Grandad absolute hell about that, at the time. Anyway, Grandad really liked that song.


Turns out Sadler had a pretty tragic life, post one hit wonder, and pre Casca, and an even more tragic death. This post is already long enough, but is quite a read.


And anyway, back to the point of this post. I forgot what the point was. So here's a video.



Stil makes me think of my Grandad (and also John Wayne)