Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Stone: M.I.A. Hunter by Stephen Mertz, 1985

Stone: M.I.A. Hunter by American thriller writer Stephen Mertz is book one in the adrenaline-soaked Mark Stone: MIA Hunter series comprising seventeen novels. The series was created and plotted by Mertz, who wrote the novels in collaboration with Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Newton and Bill Crider. Mertz and Newton have also written several of the action-packed Mack Bolan: The Executioner books created by Don Pendleton.

My Kindle edition is a reprint of the first M.I.A. Hunter with an additional title Leave No Man Behind and September 2017 as the publication date. As the series name suggests, M.I.A. Hunter refers to Mark Stone, a tough-as-they-come former Green Beret whose post-Vietnam War mission is to find American POWs forgotten by the government and declared either as MIA or KIA, and bring them home. He knows he can’t get them all out, but he’s determined to save as many as he can.

Stone does his MIA hunting in the jungles of Vietnam and Laos, and elsewhere, with his two trusted and battle-hardened friends, the six-foot-four Texan Hog Wiley and former British commando Terrance Loughlin. They rarely question Stone and his actions, even if it means going into hell and fighting their way out of it. They’re in it together. While Stone works for the CIA, in an unofficial capacity, he often operates on his own under Stone Investigative Consultants, a private-eye outfit in Los Angeles.

M.I.A. Hunter begins in the steaming Laotian jungle. Stone and his men, backed by Laotian anti-communist guerrillas, rescue a US navy pilot and other POWs held captive by the Viet Cong since the war ended. When they finally make it through over a hundred miles of enemy territory, their pickup chopper throws up a surprise: CIA man Alan Coleman with a twisted agenda. He detests Stone and places him and his friends under arrest for violating US law; in other words, for making the spooks look bad.

Back in L.A., Stone quickly overcomes his legal hurdle with the help of Carol Jenner, his lady-friend who works for the Defence Department in Washington, and a smart lawyer. Out on bail, Stone helps the widow of a close friend who served with him in Vietnam rescue her teenage son from a Mexican-run drug cartel and set him on the right path. And just when he’s looking for some MIA action, a badly wounded stranger turns up in his garage and gives him a shocking news before he dies–Rosalyn James, an army nurse and the love of his life who was believed dead in a medevac operation in Vietnam, is still alive. For nearly fourteen years, she has been the prisoner and mistress of a brutal and torture-loving drug lord, known only as General, in his mountain fortress on the Laos-China border.

Stone goes back with Hog Wiley and Terrance Loughlin, in what could well be the most important MIA rescue mission of his life.

Stone: M.I.A. Hunter is filled with edge-of-the-seat action that never ceases from start to finish. Mark Stone and his men use an array of weapons and hand-to-hand combat skills to kill their enemies with deadly precision and little more than a scratch. They’re almost invincible, even in the face of overwhelming odds, but that is only to be expected of such vigilante-type of novels where the good guys seldom get hurt and are the silent heroes long after the battle is won. They’re men of honour, integrity and sacrifice. I suspect many readers like it that way, as do I, because it appeals to our sense of justice. Someone's got to uphold it, even if it's in fiction and films.

Stephen Mertz does not disappoint in telling the story of the audacious MIA hunter and the forgotten war heroes he brings back from the dead. I will be reading more books in the series.


  1. It certainly sounds like an action-packed story, Prashant. It also sounds as though there's a solid plot, too. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Margot, the book is fast-paced and entertaining, and in many ways reminiscent of films involving MIA rescue missions, notably Rambo: First Blood Part II and Chuck Norris' Missing in Action franchise.

  2. Another author I haven't tried yet, though I intend to.

    1. Col, this was my first M.I.A. Hunter book by Stephen Mertz, though I still have to read his standalone novels. I have read and enjoyed his Mack Bolan novels, though.