The goofy highlights of 4 A-Team novels PLUS: Tender A-Team YouTube tributes


Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

A-Team novelizations Small But Deadly Wars; When You Comin’ Back, Range Rider?; Old Scores to Settle; and Ten Percent of Trouble

Author: Charles Heath
Date: 1984
Publisher: Dell
The Covers Promise: Someone actually got paid to adapt A-Team episodes into novels.
Representative Quote: “Before the officers could react, the three members of the A-Team dropped down from the rafters like over-ripe fruit, landing amid their foes with a flurry of fists.”

Like their grandparents visiting Branson, Missouri, thirtyish American men find that reminiscing about old things once popular can make you feel better about the way life is working out. One old thing is The A-Team, that allegorical TV cartoon in which an old guy, a Battlestar pilot, Jim Carrey, and a Muppet monster solved mysteries in a van while fleeing an angry military colonel who represented America’s hurt feelings about Vietnam. (This helped us heal from the war historians call The Plan That Never Came Together.)

80’s boys thought the show was better than boners and fireworks. Now it is a movie starring what’s-his-name and Not Mr. T, and it has the tagline “There is No Plan B,” which reminds us all that ladies knocked up by the A-Team are shit out of luck.

But way back when Stephen J. Cannell and company based books on it, too. Your Crap Archivist happened upon four of them just last week at the Salvation Army in Hadley, Massachusetts, which marks some new breakthrough in viral marketing. Highlights follow after a couple observations.

Observation One: Most A-Team novelizations cover two episodes of the show. This means that ninety pages in, a plan comes together and a villainous gang is defeated. Then another villainous gang shows up, and, with fits and starts, a second plan manages to come together, too.

Observation Two: Basing a series of men’s adventure novels on a children’s TV show seriously cuts into the sex, violence and profanity common to the genre. One villain uses the phrase “colder than a witch’s mitt.” Another makes threats like “I will gag you with your own socks.”

Observation Three: A-Team fans post emotional tributes to the show and its characters on You Tube. This one commemorates the A-Team’s courageous service in Vietnam.

Anyway, let’s break the books down:

Villains Faced by A-Team: building contractor Carl Denham; horse-murdering cattleman Bus Carter, who occasionally says “dagnabit”; Cuban gang leader Salvador, who with his “ethnic dregs” takes Ecuadoran nuns and orphans hostage for some reason; motorcycle gang leader Jenko, who also pimps out small children; LA cop and murderer-for-hire Stark; Gen. Kao, a Vietnamese war criminal; Lt. Tommy Angel, the heroin-dealing Mafia prince and bakery owner who once betrayed the A-Team in a POW camp; “The Lung Chin,” a Chinatown street gang; the entire US military as led by Colonels Decker and Lynch

Names A-Team Members Call These Villains: slime, slob, goon, bicep brain, scuzzball, dirtball, mangy outlaw, member of “Horses Butts of America,” cockroach, creep, hot dog, lizard breath (x2), turkey (x3), sucker (x 28), “fool” and “crazy fool” (x infinity)

Most Perfect Example of A-Team Tough Talk: “‘I think he called you a dirtball, Jenko,’ Hannibal told him. ‘Dirtball, scumball — some kinda oddball at any rate.'”

The Irrepressible B.A. Baracus On . . .
Flying: “I ain’t goin’ near anything with wings, with or without Murdock. Murdock, man. That guy’s a certified fruitcake!”
Woman Doctors:
“Ain’t no lady sawbone’s gonna work on me.”
Frequent Stops While Driving:
“I say we knock it off with the stop and go! I’m tired of feelin’ like I’m in a mikshake machine.”
The Prospect of a Blood Transfusion From Murdock:
“Get that fool out of here! Better to give me red Kool-Aid than his juice, man!”
The Possibility That an Adventure Might Test His Mettle:
“My mettle don’t need testing, sucker!”

Methods Used by “Howling Mad” Murdock to Escape the VA Hospital Mental Ward: feigns a TB outbreak; breaks out with help of “magnificent” and non-existent palomino named Thunder, prompting BA to exclaim, “You better not be talkin’ to no invisible animal, sucker!”; barks at and bites nurse as some sort of were-dog until Face, pretending to be with animal control, escorts him to freedom; just runs.

List of Disguises Worn by A-Team Members, Abridged: Mr. Lee, a “fortune cookie yoyo” and proprietor of a Chinese laundry; Ecuadoran liquor delivery man; nuns; exterminators from Drop Dead Pest Control; “Lt. Herve Esterhaus” with the Armed Robbery Task Force; Delgado of Delgado’s House of Laundry; flower delivery boy (“some crazed aberration of the FTD mascot”); sales rep for “Hobbit House Toys”; Hollywood Boulevard wino; the Creature From the Black Lagoon; hot-dog vendor; window washer who sings along to “the latest megahit from Elvis Costello.”

Methods With Which Villains are Actually Defeated, Despite all the Harmless Gunplay: battered by amusement park rides; golf ball to skull; stuck in pit of tar; chucked overboard; “bopped” on head with rifle-butt; tied up in toilet paper; hit with records thrown like Frisbees; truck flipped by dynamite “like a flapjack on the morning griddle”; wrecking-balled; forklifted in limousine; heads smashed together with “a sound like mating coconuts”; intimidated by shotgun and Uzi baked into loafs of bread; defeated by old-man Hannibal’s karate kicks, which best the leader of Chinatown’s Lung Chin gang “at his own game.”

Evidence These Books Take Place in the Eighties: a secretary “whirl[s] away on a Rubik’s cube”; a villain sings a BeeGees hit while seducing a model who “had more in common with Dolly Parton and Bo Derek“; “Peck seemed more conspicuous in his new outfit, the way John Travolta fans did when they swapped their disco duds for the look of urban cowboys”; the clerk in a Western wear shop says, “‘I bet Tom Selleck would look good in a uniform. I bet he would look good in anything . . . or without anything.”

Evidence These Books Take Place in Some Bizarre Alternate Eighties: the very idea of a “megahit from Elvis Costello”

Moment When Snake Swallows Tail and Universes Blink From Existence: During a chase at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, a tourist asks Hannibal, “Aren’t you George Peppard?”

Unforgettable Descriptions:

  • “Murdock was overcome with joy, though, and he flung himself through the air, ending up in B.A.’s arms, looking like a liberal nun who’d just married a Black Panther and was waiting to be carried across the threshold of their new home.”
  • Lung Chin bodyguards are described as “strapping hulks who looked like disgruntled runners up in [the] Mr. Olympia competition who had just found out that the winner was a feminist transsexual.”
  • Motorcycle gang members “wearing the regalia of alienation – stained denim, chains and leather” are “each a bundle of bad news straddling a customized Harley that roared down the road with its mufflers giving off a sound like flatulence ushered forth from the very bowels of hell.”

Sentences That Become Filthy When Taken Out of Context:

  • “As Hannibal and Peck moved aside to give B.A. room, Peck mused, ‘Too bad I didn’t bring my special grease.'”
  • “‘I hear you bark again, and I’m gonna feed you some bones with a lot of meat on ’em.'”
  • “B.A. was in the middle, and whenever he shifted in his seat, Murdock and Peck felt as if they were both going to squirt out onto the asphalt from the pressure.”

Sadly, the best YouTube tributes are unembeddable. But don’t miss this one set to “I’ll be There For You,” or this doozy set to Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” or, most incredibly, this ultimate commemoration of their Vietnam service, which I’ll let its creator describe: “The song I used is Das Schweigen by Lacrimosa. I think it applies because their situation as fugitives is similar to that of the Jews during World War Two ”

[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.]