22 December 2010

99. First Blood

First Blood - David Morrell

This book shocked me. It was nothing like the movie. Well, other than having a character named Rambo being the person of interest during a police manhunt in a small town.

Before I cover the book I will relate my memory of the movie. It was a long time ago, so I may have forgotten some. The thing is, there is no way I got it as wrong as I would have to for this book to be what that movie was.

In the movie I remember Rambo being a good guy who was hassled by some overzealous sheriffs deputies in a small town. They didn't like him passing through the town and arrested him. While in the jail they abused him. That is supposed to be where the "first blood" was drawn. Then he escapes and the cops chase him. I remember policemen dying, but never because Rambo killed them. It was always something stupid the cops did that caused their own deaths. Eventually Troutman shows up and brings Rambo in. Everything turns out just peachy, Rambo is a hero. The corrupt and overbearing cops get their just desserts. All is well in the world. I recall this movie being one of those action adventure films.

The book on the other hand was nothing like that. Rambo is just a psycho ex-green beret who can't leave the war behind who goes on a rampage killing so many policemen that the National Guard and state police conduct a massive manhunt. THIS Rambo is not a hero. He is nuts. He likes killing. He convinces himself he is self-righteous, but he even argues with himself about his being full of shit and lying to himself to convince himself he is correct.

What sets him off in the first place? He is a drifter. He is dirty and unshaven. He is approached by the Sheriff (Teasle) who is not mean, but is not going to allow Rambo to be in his town causing problems like other drifters had in the past. He gives Rambo a ride through town and drops him off at the far side to continue his journey. Fair enough I think. Rambo decides he "won't be pushed" any more and heads right back to town. Again, Teasle picks him up and makes it very clear that he should continue on his way. Teasle lets Rambo eat in the diner and then gives him a ride out of town again. Once more, Rambo walks right back into town defying the Sheriff. Needless to say that defiance gets him in trouble. Teasle confronts him with questions. Rambo will not give a name, has no ID, is a wise-ass in every way he can be. Teasel then arrests him.

When they get to the jail Rambo realizes he did not think it through. He sees the cell and it brings back memories of being a POW and the cages he was imprisoned within. Does he explain any of this to the sheriff? Does he give his name? No, he starts planning his escape. He is told to shower before donning his prison clothes. He is then told that per policy he must have his hair cut. Everyone arrested gets a haircut. Even to this point the police have done nothing wrong at all. The only person being a jerk is Rambo.

When they attempt to cut his hair he takes a knife and slashes a deputy across his midsection. The man's internal organs fall out on the floor. Another deputy is brutally assaulted and Rambo escapes. From there the hunt is on to catch a crazy man who is now a cop-killer.

A group of police go into the mountains after him. He picks them off one by one. Shooting some. Slashing throats. Killing 17 or 18 all together. Eventually he works his way past the search lines and back into town. He blows up gas stations. He burns the court house. He blows up the police station with dynamite. All the while justifying his actions within his own head.

The book is not about being sympathetic to the plight of an American war hero being unjustly persecuted by a demonized police force. The book is about the actions of a man returning from Vietnam with such deep changes to his psyche that he never really left the war. The lines of morality have been obscured within him. The war is all he knows.

The end is totally different. In this story Rambo is killed by Troutman and Teasle dies also.

The story is totally different and I loved it. This was much better than the movie. Read it. I just hope I didn't give too much away in this post. Sorry if I ruined it for you.

I wish they would make a movie more in line with the story as the author has written this book. It could be a great statement of the psychological effects of war on some soldiers.


  1. I actually dont think the book is better than the movie I think Rambo as a hero is much better although the book is good I prefer the movie version

  2. I understand your sentiment. The movie was great, just different.

    My comments were made int he context of showing how the Vietnam war changed some people. Rambo was one of them. He was not supposed to be a super-hero. He was a normal man in the book. A normal man with some skills he could no longer use in regular life. The book had him being much more unbalanced. He was not pushed into a corner nearly as much as he was placed in a situation that he grew tired of dealing with and decided to take a stand. His stand was to be a pain in the ass. That decision caused circumstances which escalated out of control on both sides with neither refusing to back down.

    The movie was very different. Rambo was obviously wronged and was fighting for "truth, justice and the American way". He was a real hero fighting against a system that was inherently evil. The movie took a story about the effects of war on the psyche of a man and turned it into a one-man against the world action hero film. A great film, but not like the novel.

    I still think the novel itself would have been a great story line for a film. Problem...no sequels and therefore no chance to capitalize on a box office smash with a bunch of other films of the same kind.