Bonner had been the first. The first to get an old Dodge motor running well enough to venture out into the world. He had traveled, cautiously at first, through the continent finding groups of survivors—not many but enough to convince him that his work was worth doing. Slowly he began linking the bands together, building a network, trading information for supplies. Others had joined him. Leather came riding out of the dawn one morning and said he had been all the way to New York. Gradually people had come to trust the Outriders, they were the closest thing to heroes the new world had.
Bonner's home base is Chicago, or what's left of it, and it sounds a bit like the Chicago of the 1920s; gangsters, whores, thieves, and liars are plentiful, and these shady qualities are often embodied in one individual. Bonner fits in very well. He's a classic anti-hero; 'goodness' (by the standards set by our cushy real lives) isn't necessary his default, but he falls on that side more often than not. Because of this, the confrontations are many in the Outrider books; they're pretty exciting overall, with lots of of good killing and murderous mayhem.
Bonner is accompanied by two mountainous brutes called "The Mean Brothers". They're a bloodthirsty pair, carrying the axe and shovel Bonner gives them. As the story goes along, they unleash truckloads of whup-ass on whomever needs it, and they seem to need quite a bit. They add a tremendous amount of colour to an already colourful series; every good futuristic adventure needs some kind of mutant-type characters, wot?
As far as what place the series holds in the overall literary universe, Vladimir Nabokov they are not; that's what I enjoy most about them. Now, this is going to sound unflattering, but to me, they're refreshingly not well written. They feel as if a typical Hell's Angels biker sat down and wrote a book that his buddies would like to read. The prose is pretty broad, with lots of machismo, and the characters are as crude and animated as those in a silent western film. It's quick, rough-around-the-edges stuff:
"Bonner placed his foot on Hatchet's stomach and yanked the deeply embedded knife from the man's body. He snatched off Hatchet's bandana, cleaned the blade, then slid it back into the holster resting on his hip. Two other knives rested there and the three black bone handles gleamed, as if smiling at the job done and waiting alertly for another chance to strike. The force behind Bonner's throw had been born of pure hate and, inwardly, he cursed himself for it. He could not afford to get worked up, not where Leatherman was concerned. He had to trust his instincts but keep anger out of things. Anger made you sloppy."
The Outrider is just one of many novels in the new apocalypse-pulp tradition. Among them are James Axler's Deathlands & Outlanders series (Axler is the pen-name of comic book writer/novelist Mark ellis), William Johnstone's Ashes series, The Warlord series, by Jason Frost (a house name for the writers Raymond Obstfeld and Rich Rainey), David Robbins' Endworld, The Traveler, by D. B. Drumm (another house name used for sci-fi writer John Shirley), and many others of greater or lesser degrees of notoriety. All of them have one thing in common; they follow a hardened character through a desperate struggle to survive a "world gone mad". In the present day, in which "doomsday preppers" are a genuine subculture, they have a built-in fan base.
I recommend them for good, rustic action-packed fun.