Forget the Movie, Morrell's "First Blood" Is a Classic

posted Feb 6, 2014, 10:14 AM by Martin Roy Hill   [ updated Aug 4, 2015, 4:19 PM ]
First BloodDavid Morrell's action thriller, First Blood, is considered the grand daddy of the modern action thriller. Better known as the first Rambo story, First Blood is the story of a homeless Vietnam vet who, pushed to the brink by harassment from southern small town cops, erupts into a murderous rampage.

I never cared much for the Rambo movie starring Sylvester Stallone. But having served in the American south at the end of the Vietnam War, I was well acquainted with the harassment service members endured at the hands of southern cops and other rednecks (I remember signs warning: "Sailors and dogs, keep off the grass"), and since I am a great fan of Morrell's writing, I decided to try the book.

Though based on Morrell's novel, Stallone's movie is in no way the same story. Where the movie is a typical shoot-'em-up action flick, Morrell's creation is a complex character study of two war heroes – Rambo of Vietnam and Sheriff Teasle of Korea – and the strength and flaws that drive each of them. Where the movie is a MacDonald's burger and fries, the book a five course feast.

Morrell has written that his writing is greatly influenced by the fact he lost his father in WWII and that his step-father was abusive. You clearly see that influence in First Blood. Teasle lost his father at an early age, and Rambo's father was abusive. Teasle's marriage is breaking up over his desire to have children, particularly a boy. The imagery circulates through the book until, in the end, Teasle and Rambo are more estranged father and son then cop and fugitive.

This is a worthy book well deserving of its place in literature. But one warning: Do not read the author's introduction explaining the history of the book until after you've read the book. The intro contains spoilers.

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