‘A Handful of Hell’ Book Review By Ron Fortier

A Handful of Hell Book ReviewA HANDFUL OF HELL
Classic War & Adventure Stories
By Robert F. Dorr
New Texture Books
323 pages

At the height of the classic pulp era of the 1930s and 40s, variety was the name of the game as magazine racks were inundated with titles covering every conceivable genre of fiction known to mankind. There was clearly something for everyone; men, women and children. In the post World War II years starting in the early 50s, pulps outgrew their small, square format and morphed into the more typical, larger publications. With this evolution the diversity continued only now it seemed to be a lot more noticeable. Glancing at drugstore racks, one could clearly see sections set aside for women’s interest ala romance and confession titles, whereas the kids now had their comic books and for the men readers; many made up of veterans, there were the Men’s Adventure Magazines or, as we’ve come to refer to them today, MAMS.

Month after month throughout the 50s, 60s and well into the 70s, dozens of title covers featured soldiers, sailors and airmen along with scantily clad, busty babes in all manners of death defying scenarios. These were periodicals loudly proclaiming their machismo and all things rugged. There were no fobbish, sophisticated intellectuals in these pages, but true American patriots, battling tough-guys willing to give all for God and country. The writers that produced mountains of these stories were men cast from the same mold as they heroes they wrote about. None was better at this craft than Robert F. Dorr.

Now editors Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle, two men dedicated to preserving the history of MAMS, have collected 17 of Dorr’s classic action adventure shorts that appeared in various titles between 1962 and 1970. These blood and guts yarns portray American warriors in both the European theater and South Pacific, from on-the-ground hand to hand combat to the nerve-wracking trauma of airmen battling in the skies aboard massive air bombers. Then there are stories detailing the horror of the Korean conflict and finally brutally detailed accounts of jungle action in the steaming valleys of Vietnam.

Throughout them all, Dorr brings to each such authenticity that he immediately captures his readers and sucks them into action. Enough so that this reviewer could hear the sounds of the mighty Pratt & Whitney engines as they carried airmen over enemy territory and felt hot lead zipping past his head as he crouched in a foxhole of hardened mud on a Korean hillside awaiting the oncoming charge of crazed Red Soldiers. This ability to share an experience is the hallmark of a true writer. It is a rare talent only few have ever possessed and Dorr is one of them. My personal favorite was his recounting of “The Incredible Glory Saga of the Boondock Padre.” This is story of Father Robert Liteky, an Army Chaplain who won the Medal of Honor for his courage at the battle of Phuoc Loc three weeks before the Tet Offensive of 1967. You see, this reviewer was an Army Spec 4 stationed at Long Binh only a few miles away when this happened. Robert Dorr’s story brought back lots of memories of the brave men and women I served with in those log ago days. Many never came home and we salute writers like Dorr for not letting their stories be forgotten.

“A HANDFUL OF HELL,” is a remarkable collection by a truly great writer. One we are damn proud to have in our library. It deserves your support and then some.

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