A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider:

DON PENDLETON – The Executioner: War Against the Mafia!.   Pinnacle, paperback original, 1969.

DON PENDLETON The Executioner #1

   Sergeant Mack Bolan, the ideal sniper in Vietnam, is called home on compassionate leave when his father shoots the other members of the family and then takes his own life. Bolan learns that his father was in debt to a Mafia-controlled loan company and was unable to payoff the debt; as a result, in an attempt to save her father from the loan sharks’ reprisals, Bolan’s young sister, Cindy, had been forced into prostitution.

   After burying his family, Bolan decides to get revenge, having been perfectly trained to do so and being psychologically suited for the job. He begins simply, with a .444 Marlin lever-action rifle, but by the end of the book he is using flares and rockets, leveling houses as well as killing men. (The book’s apt subtitle, on the cover though not the title page, is “War Against the Mafia!”)

   Before his battle is well begun, Bolan realizes that he does not hate his enemy, that vengeance is not the issue, that there is nothing personal involved. It is simply the good guys against the bad guys, and he is the good guy. He isn’t interested in philosophical discussions of good and evil. The Mafia is the enemy, and he will destroy them or die in the attempt.

   When Don Pendleton created the Executioner, he probably didn’t know that he had altered the direction of paperback series fiction. His hero caught the imagination of so many readers that imitations soon flooded the stands (the Butcher, the Marksman, the Sharpshooter, the Assassin, etc.).

   But Mack Bolan was the first, and his simple, hard-boiled philosophy was carefully worked out as the books progressed. To read this series is to watch the development of a real American phenomenon.

   There have been some fifty books in the series to date, all bearing such titles as Miami Massacre (1970), New Orleans Knockout (1974), and Colorado Kill-Zone (1976).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.