Friday, November 28, 2008

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: CASCA ~ THE ETERNAL MERCENARY BY BARRY SADLER!

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: CASCA ~ THE ETERNAL MERCENARY BY BARRY SADLER!

The Casca books were a men’s adventure series of the top order created by Barry Sadler (of The Ballad of the Green Berets fame) who wrote at least the first half-dozen novels in the series.

Synopsis: from the Casca website:

[Casca: The Eternal Soldier, the first book in the series,] opens in Vietnam in 1970. A badly wounded soldier is flown into a US army hospital with what seems a near-fatal wound. Major Julius Goldman spots a rapid healing of the man's wound and has him isolated to see if he can work out why. The man, Casey Romain, recovers and tells the stunned doctor of his remarkable life that began nearly two thousand years before on Golgotha at the Crucifixion.

Goldman appears to fall into a trance and is transported back to the day of Jesus' execution and spots Casey, now a Roman legionary called Casca Rufio Longinus, acting as part of the escort to make sure the condemned man is executed. Casca eventually decides to end Jesus' agony by spearing him on the cross, but only wounds him. Jesus condemns Casca to live forever as a soldier until the Second Coming, and a spot of Jesus' blood falls onto Casca's tongue, purifying him.

Casca dismisses the curse as nonsense until he receives what should be a fatal blow from his sergeant in a fight over a girl. Casca kills the assailant and lies down to die, only to make a miraculous recovery the next day. For killing his superior, he is sentenced as a slave to serve in the Greek copper mines, where he works for the next fifty years.

The story, of course, moves on from this point as Casca, the immortal soldier, moves from battle to battle, century to century, always fighting, always surviving, always the consumate mercenary.

The first half-dozen or so books in the series (those written by Sadler) are very enjoyable, working out all the variations on his original inspirational theme – taking the Roman soldier who speared Jesus and making him an immortal soldier travelling through time.

This book was written in 1979. The Highlander series came out seven years later, so Sadler beat them to the punch.

Sadler knew his audience, mostly guys like him, and so wrote in a very straight-forward style. He did his historical research, however, making the early Casca books very realistic historical war stories.

Later books in the series, especially those written after Sadler’s death, suffered from uneven quality, rushed deadlines, and hack writing. They lost the personal touch and inspiration Sadler originally brought to the series.

2 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sorry. I asked yesterday and only posted the people who responded because of the holiday. I think from now on I'll just assume you will always have one--like Bill Crider.

Barrie said...

Nice in-depth review.