Mack Maloney’s Wingman Series: Backstory

When many folks think of World War III fiction, the classic titles of the genre generally come to mind at once, like Red Storm Rising, Team Yankee and Third World War. But it’s worth remembering that the WWIII genre is deep and offers a wide variety of titles to suit a variety of tastes. There are wonderfully good WWIII works of fiction and there are absolute stinkers. Everything else falls in place somewhere between these bookends. The series of books I’m going to talk about today aren’t classified as WWIII Fiction in the traditional sense, but the war and its aftermath have a major impact on the development of the main characters and the plot.

Mack Maloney’s Wingman series is well known. The first book was released in 1987, a few years before the Cold War ended. It was marketed as a Men’s action-adventure novel and subsequent titles followed down the same path. In short, Men’s action-adventure novels are the male equivalent to the grocery store romance novels marketed to women. Only instead of a plot revolving around a lonely woman finding love and lust with a young Peruvian horse-trainer in the stables, the Wingman series centers on a superhero-like American fighter pilot named Hawker Hunter (yes, after the real-world aircraft) who shoots down 100 Soviet MiGs in one engagement, has a hot French girlfriend, enjoys random sexual encounters with other gorgeous women and basically gets drunk whenever he’s not in the cockpit.

Maloney is not Shakespeare, or Tom Clancy for that matter. He’s a capable writer though, so long as you do not expect realistic, technically accurate portrayals of massive battles or the men and women who fight them. But if you’re looking for books packed with action and wanton debauchery, look no farther than the Wingman series.

Book #1 starts with our hero Hawk Hunter encamped atop a mountain in New Hampshire, two years into a self-imposed exile following the end of World War III and the defeat of the United States. He catches sight of a small plane carrying a banner that says ‘HUNTER-REPORT TO OTIS-JONES.’ He realizes this message is directed at him, originating from his former commanding officer, General Seth Jones. Uncertain exactly what conditions are like in the world beyond his peaceful mountain camp, Hunter packs up as heads for Otis AFB on Cape Cod where Jones is waiting. The next few chapters lay out the backstories of Jones and Hunter, as well as the circumstances leading the two men to that point.

Two years or so earlier, World War III broke out in Europe with a massive Soviet CBW attack against major European cities, followed by an invasion of Western Europe. A bloody land and air war followed, culminating in a massive battle that stops the Russians dead in their tracks before they can reach the Rhine. Victory is fleeting for NATO and the United States though. It turns out the Vice President of the United States is a Russian mole. On orders from Moscow, his henchmen assassinate the President and Cabinet, making him the new leader. He deactivates America’s SDI defenses (yep, in the book we have Star Wars!) in time for Russia to launch a massive counterforce nuclear attack that takes out the land-based ICBM force and SAC bomber bases in the Midwest. Next, a ceasefire is agreed upon, one that tilts heavily in favor of the now victorious USSR. The terms of the agreement were nothing short of unconditional American surrender and the dissolution of the United States as a sovereign nation-state.

All military equipment in the US and Europe was ordered destroyed. All forms of communication in the US were ordered shut down. No television, no radio, no newspapers. Keep in mind, the internet was in its infancy back then, so it did not play a role in the plot. The former US was balkanized, divided into a number of separate nation-states or free territories. Flying the US flag, and even saying the former name of the country out loud were crimes punishable by death.

Before their reunion at Otis, the last time Hunter had seen Jones was at Rota, Spain where their fighter wing had been stationed. Jones was being taken away in handcuffs by Finnish peacekeepers, pressed into service by the Soviet Union since the majority of the Soviet military had been destroyed. With the war over, Hunter made his way across Spain and France and then across the English Channel north into Scotland and the US submarine base at Faslane. He met up with a US Marine battalion and together they hitch a ride across the Atlantic back to North America on the USS John F Kennedy. The carrier docks in New York City, which has been devastated by fighting between gangs and the National Guards of New York and New Jersey. The Marines and Hunter go their separate ways, the soldiers led by Captain ‘Bull’ Dozer’ head south to Fort Meade, Maryland and Hunter goes north to his cabin in New Hampshire where he spends two years in solitude before Jones is able to track him down.

All things considered, the backstory is compelling, to say the least. The fact a Third World War played so prominently should make readers of the WWIII genre at least curious enough to check out Book #1. Wingman is my guilty literary pleasure. In fact, one time I was nearly caught reading a Wingman book by Joyce Carol Oates in Firestone Library. Thank God she was distracted long enough for me to toss my tablet back in my laptop bag. I doubt she would’ve been pleased with my book choice. 😊

Between now and Memorial Day, I plan on devoting an occasional post (every 2 weeks at the most) to the Wingman universe. I’ll discuss the good…..Freedom vs Communism, fast combat jets, hot women and lots of whiskey, and as the bad, such as the alien space bats, supernatural turn the series took half way in. As well as the…..well, interesting tid bits like an Iowa Class battleship crewed by modern day Vikings.


32 Replies to “Mack Maloney’s Wingman Series: Backstory”

  1. OK, I remember another pulp series – a secret american unit that had something like mech warrior suits. Book one they had to travel across the US post-nuclear war to retrieve the president from his bunker. Their soviet counterparts were in DC as part of an invasion. Big battle on the mall, they were then pursued across the midwest after departing DC. Anyone remember the name of this series? The depiction of nuclear war results was so graphic I had to stop after the second book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t think of it, but I’ll look around. If anyone has an idea, please speak up. Maybe another Mack Maloney series?


    2. That was CADS, I think — computer assisted “something” suits.

      I remember the hero in the series — the commanders of the CADS — got a few women too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This series saw me through high school and early college. I think the third book is the one where the tug boats pull the USS Saratoga through the Mediterranean to stop the Russians from destroying the Suez Canal right? Amazing stuff from what I remember until they time travelled to the alternate world war 2 universe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair enough. I loved the book as a pre-teen when I first read #1. When I read the whole series later, it was lacking. But once in a while I still like to take the books out for fun. Women, fast jets and whiskey. Oh, and an F-16 that carries dozens of Sidewinders 😉


    1. Oh, I just looked those books up…and bought the first one. This certainly looks like a great guilty pleasure 🙂


  3. I remember the series and read a few of them.

    If I recall correctly, he told the story of an F-111 that flew home from a mission and landed on autopilot, because the pilot was dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah that was from Book 1. Then a couple chapters later, his COs F-111 brings him back dead after nuking Baltimore. God, what crazy plots those books had


  4. OK, how has this escaped my reading list? 100 Migs in one mission – impressive ammo conservation and fast refueling for sure!
    Sara towed by tugs, what was the speed across the bow for launch? OK, I’ll get back in my box… might have to give them a peek

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’re good for a fun read, just as long as you can suspend reality for a few hours. Yep, 100 MiGs vs a single F-16 and Sara being towed across the Med. Not to mention a C-5 outfitted as a gunship from hell. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What surprised me most of all about Maloney – having only read a chunk of the first book, mind you – is he’s technically a solid writer. His imagery, sentence structure, is very solid. So unlike the Bolan series which was very prosaic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Going back and reading his works now, as an adult and not a teenager, I’d have to agree. Solid writer all around and he used it to his advantage


  6. I remember reading one of the books in the series at 17 or so and getting insanely angry at all the technical errors and fairy-tales in it. I didn’t realize at the time that the author was basically just having a fun free-for-all. In retrospect, the series setting and backstory is very intriguing.

    On the topic of WWIII series, have you ever read any of the Guardians?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, but I’ve been hearing good stuff about that series and am going to start one up soon.
      I’m with you on Wingman. Maloney was just enjoying himself and the errors were part of the territory. But yes, the backstory and setting are very intriguing. Even today


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