Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday's Film Adaption: First Blood by David Morrell

First came the man: a young wanderer in a fatigue coat and long hair. Then came the legend, as John Rambo sprang from the pages of FIRST BLOOD to take his place in the American cultural landscape. This remarkable novel pits a young Vietnam veteran against a small-town cop who doesn't know whom he's dealing with -- or how far Rambo will take him into a life-and-death struggle through the woods, hills, and caves of rural Kentucky.

Millions saw the Rambo movies, but those who haven't read the book that started it all are in for a surprise -- a critically acclaimed story of character, action, and compassion.

Chapter One
His name was Rambo, and he was just some nothing kid for all anybody knew, standing by the pump of a gas station at the outskirts of Madison, Kentucky. He had a long heavy beard, and his hair was hanging down over his ears to his neck, and he had his hand out trying to thumb a ride from a car that was stopped at the pump. To see him there, leaning on one hip, a Coke bottle in his hand and a rolled-up sleeping bag near his boots on the tar pavement, you could never have guessed that on Tuesday, a day later, most of the police in Basalt County would be hunting him down. Certainly you could not have guessed that by Thursday he would be running from the Kentucky National Guard and the police of six counties and a good many private citizens who liked to shoot. But then from just seeing him there ragged and dusty by the pump of the gas station, you could never have figured the kind of kid Rambo was, or what was about to make it all begin. Rambo knew there was going to be trouble, though. Big trouble, if somebody didn't watch out. The car he was trying to thumb a ride with nearly ran him over when it left the pump. The station attendant crammed a charge slip and a book of trade stamps into his pocket and grinned at the tire marks on the hot tar close to Rambo's feet. Then the police car pulled out of traffic toward him and he recognized the start of the pattern again and stiffened. "No, by God. Not this time. This time I won't be pushed."

The cruiser was marked CHIEF OF POLICE, MADISON. It stopped next to Rambo, its radio antenna swaying, and the policeman inside leaned across the front seat, opening the passenger door. Hestared at the mud-crusted boots, the rumpled jeans ripped at the cuffs and patched on one thigh, the blue sweat shirt speckled with what looked like dry blood, the buckskin jacket. He lingered over the beard and the long hair. No, that's not what was bothering him. It was something else, and he couldn't quite put his finger on it. "Well then, hop in," he said.

But Rambo did not move.

"I said hop in," the man repeated. "Must be awful hot out there in that jacket."

But Rambo just sipped his Coke, glanced up and down the street at the cars passing, looked down at the policeman in the cruiser, and stayed where he was.

"Something wrong with your hearing?" the policeman said. "Get in here before you make me sore."

Rambo studied him just as he himself had been studied: short and chunky behind the wheel, wrinkles around his eyes and shallow pockmarks in his cheeks that gave them a grain like weathered board.

"Don't stare at me," the policeman said.

But Rambo kept on studying him: the gray uniform, top button of his shirt open, tie loose, the front of his shirt soaked dark with sweat. Rambo looked but could not see what kind his handgun was. The policeman had it holstered to the left, away from the passenger side.

"I'm telling you," the policeman said. "I don't like being stared at." "Who does?"

Rambo glanced around once more, then picked up his sleeping bag. As he got into the cruiser, he set the bag between himself and the policeman.

"Been waiting long?" the policeman asked. "An hour. Since I came."

"You could have waited a lot longer than that. People around here don't generally stop for a hitchhiker. Especially if he looks like you. It's against the law."

"Looking like me?"

"Don't be smart. I mean hitchhiking's against the law. Too many people stop for a kid on the road, and next thing they're robbed or maybe dead. Close your door."

Rambo took a slow sip of Coke before he did what he was told. He looked over at the gas station attendant who was still at the pump grinning as the policeman pulled the cruiser into traffic and headed downtown.

"No need to worry," Rambo told the policeman. "I won't try to rob you." "That's very funny. In case you missed the sign on the door, I'm the Chief of Police. Teasle. Wilfred Teasle. But then I don't guess there's much point in telling you my name."

He drove on through a main intersection where the light was turning orange. Far down both sides of the street were stores squeezed together-a drug store, a pool hall, a gun and tackle shop, dozens more. Over the top of them, far back on the horizon, mountains rose up, tall and green, touched here and there with red and yellow where the leaves had begun to die.

Rambo watched a cloud shadow slip across the mountains. "Where you headed?" he heard Teasle ask.

"Does it matter?"

"No. Come to think of it, I don't guess there's much point in knowing that either. Just the same-where you headed?"

"Maybe Louisville."

"And maybe not."

"That's right."

"Where did you sleep? In the woods?" "That's right."

"It's safe enough now, I suppose. The nights are getting colder, and the snakes like to hole up instead of going out to hunt. Still, one of these times you might find yourself with a bed partner who's just crazy about your body heat."

They passed a carwash, an A&P, a hamburger drive-in with a big Dr. Pepper sign in the window. "Just look at that eyesore drive-in," Teasle said. "They put that thing here on the main street, and ever since, all we've had is kids parked, beeping their horns, throwing crap on the sidewalk."

Rambo sipped his Coke.

"Somebody from town give you a ride in?" Teasle asked. "I walked. I've been walking since after dawn."

"Sure am sorry to hear that. Least this ride will help some, won't it?" Rambo did not answer. He knew what was coming. They drove over a bridge and a stream into the town square, an old stone courthouse at the right end, more shops squeezed together down both sides.

"Yeah, the police station is right up there by the courthouse," Teasle said. But he drove right on through the square and down the street until there were only houses, first neat and prosperous, then gray cracked wooden shacks with children playing in the dirt in front. He went up a rise in the road between two cliffs to a level where there were no houses at all, only fields of stunted corn turning brown in the sun. And just after a sign that read YOU ARE NOW LEAVING MADISON. DRIVE SAFELY, he pulled off the pavement onto the gravel shoulder.

"Take care," he said.

"And keep out of trouble," Rambo answered. "Isn't that how it goes?" "That's good. You've been this route before. Now I don't need to waste time explaining how guys who look like you have this habit of being a disturbance." He lifted the sleeping bag from where Rambo had put it between them, set it on Rambo's lap, and leaned across Rambo to open the passenger door. "Take good care now."

Rambo got slowly out of the car. "I'll be seeing you," he said and flipped the door shut.

"No," Teasle answered through the open passenger window. "I guess you won't." He drove the cruiser up the road, made a U-turn, and headed back toward town, sounding his car horn as he passed.

Rambo watched the cruiser disappear down the road between the two cliffs. He sipped the last of his Coke, tossed the bottle in a ditch, and with his sleeping bag slung by its rope around his shoulder, he started back to town.

A soft-spoken Vietnam vet drifts into a small town looking for no trouble, but finds it in the form of a psychotic local sheriff who finds pleasure in hating him for no reason. After being locked up in the local jail, he escapes into the nearby forest where he becomes a one-man army bent on revenge.

Release Date: October 22, 1982
Release Time: 93 minutes

Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo
Richard Crenna as Colonel Sam Trautman
Brian Dennehy as Sheriff Will Teasle
Bill McKinney as Dave Kern
Jack Starrett as Art Galt
Michael Talbott as Balford
Chris Mulkey as Ward
John McLiam as Orval
Alf Humphreys as Lester
David Caruso as Mitch
David L. Crowley as Shingleton
Don MacKay as Preston



Author Bio:
David Morrell is the author of FIRST BLOOD, the award-winning novel in which Rambo was created. He holds a Ph. D. in American literature from Penn State and was a professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. His numerous New York Times bestsellers include the classic spy trilogy that begins with THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE, the basis for the only television mini-series to premier after a Super Bowl. The other books in the trilogy are THE FRATERNITY OF THE STONE and THE LEAGUE OF NIGHT AND FOG. An Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee, Morrell is the recipient of three Bram Stoker awards and the prestigious Thriller Master award from the International Thriller Writers organization. His writing book, THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST, discusses what he has learned in his four decades as an author. His latest novel is the highly praised Victorian mystery/thriller, MURDER AS A FINE ART.



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