Literature / First Blood

A thriller novel by David Morrell, published in 1972.

A disturbed vagrant named Rambo walks into the town of Madison, Kentucky, and is soon driven off by Sheriff Teasle, who wants keep the place clean from potential troublemakers. But Rambo keeps coming back, and Teasle has him arrested. Rambo manages to escape from him, killing one of his deputies in the process. This sets off a manhunt, where Teasle learns that he isn't up against any normal fugitive, but a Green Beret who thrives in survival and killing the enemy.

A film adaptation starring Sylvester Stallone was released in 1982, and its more sympathetic portrayal of Rambo paved the way for a popular action movie franchise.

This novel has examples of:

  • Abandoned Mine: Just as Rambo is about to finish off Sheriff Teasle in the woods, he becomes too weak due to his broken ribs and loses consciousness. When he wakes up, he finds himself in an old mine, and uses it as hideout while the Nationald Guard searches for him.
  • Abusive Parents: Rambo's father drank heavily and beat his son, going so far one night as to try to kill him.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: One of Teasle's deputies is so frightened from a sudden ambush from Rambo that he soils his pants.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Rambo escapes from the jail, steals a motorbike and heads towards the woods all while being naked.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: Before he's going to put Rambo into a cell, Sheriff Teasle tries to have his long hair cut and beard shaved with a razor. This freaks Rambo out and he wrenches the blade from Teasle's hands, and slices open Deputy Galt's stomach when he goes for his gun, spilling his guts out.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: Rambo comes across a father and son duo in the woods, and guesses correctly that they have a still hidden in the area. He convinces them give him clothes and a rifle so that he'll move on and lead his pursuers away from them.
  • It's Personal: At first Sheriff Teasle chases Rambo in the name of duty for killing one of his men. Once Rambo severely wounds Orval, who was Teasle's foster father after he was orphaned, Teasle wants to hunt Rambo down for vengeance. His personal hunt is then cut short when Rambo kills all his men, and he has to crawl his way back to civilization, where he has to remain in the sidelines because of his injuries.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Invoked, but ultimately averted when Rambo, who's resting and spying on his pursuers standing on a cliff, aims his rifle at Sherif Teasle and humours himself with a thought about shooting him through his throat just as he's in a middle of a sentence. He then decides against it, wanting to give him hell before finishing him off.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The book suddenly gets quite surreal towards the end as both Rambo and Teasle get close to death and appear to have some kind of psychic connection.
  • Mercy Kill: After Orval notices that Rambo gutshot one of his dogs, he finishes the suffering thing off by shooting it, since the search party is thirty miles away from any help.
  • Moe Greene Special: Rambo shoots Deputy Shingleton in the head, and when he still lives, finishes him off by shooting him in the eye.
  • Murder by Mistake: Sheriff Teasle's father died during a hunting trip, where a newbie mistook him for a deer and shot him.
  • Run for the Border: Running from the law, Rambo initially decides to head toward the warm beaches of Mexico. But his anger gets better of him, and he tries to finish off Teasle and his men.
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Rambo's time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam left him greatly disturbed, and a danger to anyone whom he thinks pushes him too far.
  • Slashed Throat: Sheriff Teasle leaves two of his remaining deputies for a while to go look for Rambo by himself. When he returns to them, one of the men is missing and the other lies in the mud with his throat cut.