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David Morrell's "First Blood"

I'll admit that I was never a big fan of the Sylvester Stallone film, First Blood. It wasn't bad, but, in the eighties, it wasn't really a favorite. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet David Morrell at ThrillerFest. For those who are not aware, Morrell wrote the novel First Blood in 1972. It went on to be a bestseller, and Morrell has often been credited as the inventor of the action thriller. I decided to take the plunge and give it a read.

First Blood tells the tale of John Rambo, a long haired wanderer in a military fatigue coat who wanders into a small Kentucky town looking for a simple meal. A run-in with the local police chief, who has his own prejudices, escalates into a rural war between Rambo and the town entire police force, Kentucky's State Police, and the National Guard. No one knows how far Rambo will go in a life-and-death struggle in the hills, woods, and caves of rural Kentucky.

First, let me say that I was not at all disappointed. Unlike the film, there is a much richer history with the two main characters, John Rambo and Police Chief Wilfred Teasle. Morrell wrote the book in such a way that it is difficult to truly see who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Rambo and Teasle are both portrayed is such a light that you find yourself being sympathetic to both throughout the story.

First Blood is fast-paced, so much so that once the action starts (about twenty or so pages in), it doesn't stop until the end. It quickly becomes difficult to put the book down. No matter which character you are rooting for through the book, the tragic ending (which is very different from the movie) leaves you with mixed feelings, making you question your own judgment.

This book is a classic thriller in it's most basic terms. I couldn't put the book down because I feared I would miss something. It was engrossing, entertaining, and thought-provoking. If you have seen the movie, you will be shocked at the differences. The motivations and brutality of both Rambo and Teasle were never captured in the film. The book was well worth the two days it took to read. First Blood is a must read.

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