Nightmare Range by Martin Limon

I can’t say it better than Lee Child:  “Martin Limon is one of the best military writers ever. His stories are addictive entertainment today—and valuable slices of history tomorrow.”  The two protagonists on the seventeen stories in Limon’s Nightmare Range: The Collected George Sueno and Ernie Bascom Stories (Soho Crime, 400 pp., $26.95, hardcover, $14.95, paper; $12.99, Kindle), and also of Limon’s series of gripping novels, are in their early twenties, full of juice, and self-described “rear echelon pukes” in early 1970’s Korea.

These Army CID agents are an odd couple; George was raised in a series of foster homes in East L.A. and Ernie is from an East Coast family with money and education, stuff he’ll have nothing to do with. Ernie Bascom is a Vietnam veteran who did two tours in Chu Lai where he acquired some bad habits. He has long since kicked heroin. But he’s still addicted to the U. S. Army—three hots and a cot, etc.—as well as the adrenaline rush of fighting authority and chasing bad guys. George is that rare American who can speak enough Korean to get along, and Ernie has a gift for fitting in with the dregs of humanity, no matter how low.

They are perfect for undercover operations as Army C.I.D. agents, mostly wasting their time chasing down housewives who do black market deals. But they also get the occasional murder. Limon’s peerless credentials include ten years in Korea and twenty years in the Army, as well as a singular talent for story telling, especially stories of the rough and tough, back-alley brawling type, with some occasional deep thinking and mystery solving by his super bright Agent George Sueno.

Martin Limon

I’ve loved every one of Limon’s novels and each of these short stories packs as much punch and excitement as most writers’ full-length novels.  If you are a reader who hungers for stories of an exotic and dangerous world where there are beautiful women and killers down every alley, these stories of Korea where a protracted war that has never ended continues to kill, maim, and soak up billions of dollars a year, this collection of stories is for you.

Martin Limon gets the U. S. Army right on every page: the language, the details of assignment and training, the subtle differences of rank, the drinking and gambling, all of it. If you are tired of authors who just don’t seem to know what Army life is all about, and you have yet to read the works of Limon, wait no longer. Martin Limon ranks right at the top, along with James Jones.

My favorite quote from these stories is: “In the Army, the less you know, the safer your career prospects.” You said it, Mr. Limon.

—David Willson