Executioner 1 War Against the Mafia by Don Pendleton
This is the book that launched the Executioner series. Mack Bolan is a sniper in Vietnam when he learns his father has murdered his family and committed suicide. Only his younger brother has survived. He’s offered compassionate leave to come home where he discovers that his father went crazy because he was in debt to the mob and they had started prostituting Bolan’s sister. Bolan decides to get some straight-forward revenge as only a sniper who cut his teeth in Vietnam can.
Frankly, while I enjoyed the story, I was less impressed with the early Bolan than I expected to be. He starts out strong, but he plays a lot of games with the bad guys that I really didn’t think were necessary. Pendleton does a nice job with a homicide detective who figures out what’s going on and tries to steer Bolan out of what he views as a suicidal direction.
Overall, I think that anyone who has enjoyed an Executioner novel, or one of the later spinoffs like Stoney Man or the Super Bolans, should read this book. It’s nice to see how things began.
Caribbean Kill by Don Pendleton
Mack Bolan is killing mafiosos again in this 1972 novel from the Executioner series. If you’ve read any of these early books you know that there is not a lot of deep thought required to enjoy them. The plot is always roughly the same. Mack Bolan arrives in an area where the mafia is and starts killing them. At some point in the story, innocent people will become involved and Bolan will risk life and limb to get them out of danger. Finally, things will look really dark before the dawn when Bolan walks away the last man standing.
The only real difference in Caribbean Kill is that Bolan is flying into a trap—a trap he seems amazingly unprepared for since he clearly believed it would be there. The opening chapters were a lot of fun as Bolan evades the initial efforts of the mob to bring him down, but after that the story begins to soften around the edges and blur into fairly mindless action. If you like the high-action low-thought formula, you’ll enjoy this novel, but it’s not one of the more memorable ones.
276 Leviathan by Don Pendleton (Gerald Montgomery)
For several years around the turn of the millennium, I read a large number of Executioner novels and the associated books like Stony Man and Super Bolan and ended up getting rid of almost all of them when I moved. Leviathan was one of two that I kept and it is the only one whose individual plot I remembered. That’s because it was an absolutely awesome idea—Mack Bolan goes head-to-head against Cthulhu.
The plot actually holds together very well. On the one hand, there is the Cult of Cthulhu who thinks their time has come now that an avatar of that elder god has appeared in the oceans of the world. On the other hand, the CIA in its ongoing quest to separate itself from Congressional oversight by developing dark sources of funding has gone into business with the mob to manufacture drugs on an abandoned oil platform in the Atlantic Ocean. The CIA also sees this as an opportunity to rid itself of Mack Bolan who has been a serious thorn in their side. So they set a trap for Bolan and entice him and two covert government agents out to their platform where they turn on him and attempt to torture, interrogate and kill him. Unfortunately for them, Cthulhu is making its move at the same time.
This is a fascinating mixture of action adventure and horror with a U.S. submarine thrown in for good measure. If you like the Executioner or you like Cthulhu, you’ll want to read this book.
Executioner 271 Cyberhunt by Don Pendleton
I read The Executioner series pretty consistently for about four years. I enjoyed them. When I moved and needed to downsize a rather massive personal library, this book was one of only two of those volumes that I decided to keep. After having just reread it, I’m not sure why I held onto it.
On the positive side, it’s fast paced and very focused in its action. Once the shooting starts, the Executioner pretty much goes from battle to battle without much difficulty until the end of the book. On the negative side, there’s a supporting cast member, a female Mossad agent, who starts out looking quite competent, but falls into “hostage” mode two times during the novel. Two times seemed like overkill to me.
I suppose the most negative thing I could say about it is that it wasn’t memorable. Unlike the vast majority of books I reread, I didn’t remember anything specific about this novel. It was fun, but that’s all.