First Blood, by David Morrell:
When morose and haunted Vietnam veteran John Rambo walks into Madison, Kentucky, all he wants is something to eat before he moves on. That is until Sheriff Will Teasle takes one look and an instant dislike to him. Teasle is the one looking for trouble, not Rambo, and is himself a veteran of the Korean war. Teasle is also further embittered because his marriage is ending. He writes Rambo off as “just another drifter”, underestimating him from the start as he sets about kicking him out of town. He pushes Rambo too far, but Rambo can push back even harder, turning the ensuing jailbreak and manhunt into his own personal war.
First published in 1972, the movie adaptation came a decade later and was deservedly one of the hits of the year that hasn’t dated since its release – the mark of a truly great movie. It remains one of Sylvester Stallone’s best roles. Although both versions follow much the same sequence of events, there are distinct differences between novel and movie, notably the endings and Rambo in the book is a difficult man to sympathise with. Indeed, Rambo and Teasle seem to be as stubborn as each other.
The cave sequence is well described, particularly Rambo’s wade through the section with the bats.
One of the best manhunt stories ever written about a clash of wills between two cynical men who won’t back down whatever the cost.
As fast action, pursuit thrillers go, they don’t come much better than this.