Wednesday, 18 August 2004

Men's Action Novel Series of the Seventies Part 2

Even though it was the first of the series of men's action-adventure novels of the Seventies, I can't say I was ever a big fan of The Executioner. "The Executioner" of the title was Mack Bolan. Bolan was serving in Vietnam when his family was wiped out by the Mafia. Bolan was given an emergency leave to return to United States, whereupon he began his one man war against the Mob. Bolan would travel from city to city, always leaving piles of Mafioso corpses in his wake. An ex-Green Beret, combat specialist, and expert sniper, Bolan was well equipped to fight the Mafia.

A former aerospace engineer, Don Pendleton, created Mack Bolan, largely in reaction to the treatment soldiers returning from Vietnam received once home. Published in 1969, the first book, War Against the Mafia, met with huge success. The following novels chronicling The Executioner's war on the Mob were equally successful. Imitators sprung up immediately in an attempt to capitalise on The Executioner series' success. It is arguable that The Executioner series presaged many of the movies with revenge themes of the Seventies, such as Death Wish, Gordon's War, and Walking Tall. Even a comic book character was inspired by The Executioner. Marvel Comics' Punisher was also a Vietnam vet whose family was killed by the Mob and who declared a one man war against them in return.

From 1969 to 1980, Pendleton wrote 38 Executioner novels. By this time Pendleton was not in good health and wanted to give up the grind of writing the series. This coincided with Pendleton's long time, Andrew Ettinger, leaving Pinnacle Books for Harlequin Enterprises. The romance publisher wanted to start its own action-adventure line (eventually named "Gold Eagle"). As a result, Ettinger approached Pendleton and his agency, the Scott Meredith Agency, on Harlequin's behalf. In the end Harlequin obtained the rights to use Pendleton's characters and continue The Executioner series. Published under the Gold Eagle imprint, Harlequin gave Bolan a whole new set of opponents: terrorists, drug traffickers, anarchists, and other international threats. They also featured the name "Mack Bolan" prominently on the new series of novels and downplayed the title, The Executioner. Harlequin would also spin off new series from The Executioner. The Able Team series featured three of Bolan's friends who fought domestic terrorism. The Phoenix Force series focused on a group who fought international terrorism. In some respects, just as the first series of Executioner novels presaged the revenge films of the Seventies, this new series of Exceuctioner novels presaged such paramilitary films as the "Rambo" movies, Missing in Action, and its sequels. I have to admit, I was even less of a fan of the Harlequin Executioner series and its spin offs than I was the original. Regardless, Executioner books are still published to this day.

As I said above, The Executioner series inspired a number of imitators. Among the most successful of these was The Butcher. The Butcher was Bucher (no first name was ever given), the former head of the East Coast Syndicate. When he quit, the Syndicate put a price on his head of $250,000. He was then hired by a secret government operation known as White Hat to help fight the Syndicate's activities. Like The Executioner series, The Butcher series included copious amounts of violence. Unlike The Executioner, however, the plots in The Butcher were of a more Bondian scale. Bucher thwarted a plot by the Syndicate to explode bombs across the United States, rescued a scientist who had developed a gas which causes madness, and stopped a Mob take over of the movie industry.

Well, I suppose that is enough for now of the action-adventure novel series of the Seventies. With any luck, I'll conclude my discussion tomorrow with a look at The Death Merchant and The Destroyer.

Good night all!

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