Wednesday, January 14, 2009

War against the mafia


As most of you probably know, Mack Bolan is a character created by Don Pendleton in a seemingly never-ending series of books called The Executioner, and several other series that would follow.

Pendleton wrote thirty-eight books in the series, beginning with War Against the Mafia in 1969 and ending with Satan's Sabbath in 1980. Of course many dozens more books and several tie-in series have been written by various authors in the years since.

The point is, despite all of these books and despite my own entertainment proclivities, prior to this week, I'd not read any of them.

Not entirely for lack of interest. I remember not too long ago eying a bunch of them at a Half Price Books while selling things and considering grabbing a small group if I received enough from my buy. Apparently I did not receive enough. And certainly I'd eyed them at various points at K-Marts and 7-Elevens over the years.

But then last week I happened into a copy of "War Against the Mafia", that looks much like the one pictured - wear, tear and all - at another Half Price Books.

And?

It was a read. A perfectly quick, entertaining read.

I can't say I was entirely thrilled with the first half. The "origin" story, which is told in the prologue, doesn't completely work for me. I think Bolan's dad going nuts and killing his family is unnecessarily creepy, as is the element in which Bolan's sister prostitutes herself. The latter element especially as it will color a lot of later elements, such as, but not limited to, Bolan's later sexual escapades with prostitutes, in a way that I don't think was particularly intentional.

And as long as he's busy "infiltrating" the local mafia, I wasn't that interested, but once the "war" begins, it moves at a good clip... perhaps, in some places, too good a clip... and I was following it with a reasonable degree of excitement.

For whatever it's worth to those familiar, I couldn't help picturing the local police detective, Lt. Al Weatherbee, to look like Reginald Vel Johnson, which I don't think was Pendleton's intent, but I suspect the other choice was that I'd imagine him as looking like Mr. Weatherbee, and I'm guessing that's ever further off.

I'm surprised that no one has packaged the books as classics and found someone of note to write in introduction, as The Mike Hammer Collection. They're a little short and frivolous to get treatment like the Black Lizard reprints, which I sometimes think class some things up too much anyway.

So, I can't say I'm going to be hunting down copies of these, and certainly I won't be pursuing the later incarnations, but then I can't say I wouldn't grab up a cheap copy of Firebase Seattle if I ran into it.

5 comments:

Marty McKee said...

If you didn't like this one, you probably won't like the others, since they're all about the same. DEATH SQUAD is a bit different, in that Bolan assembles a team to help hit the Mafia. None are exactly literary classics, nor were they meant to be. I get a kick out of them, though the Penetrator books are better, I think.

Neil Sarver said...

I liked it ok. Maybe I just wanted to like it too much. But it probably wouldn't just be the Seattle book I'd grab if I happened into them at the bookstore, but then I probably won't be on the lookout so much either.

I'll take a look for the Penetrator books. Lord knows there are tons of these kinds of books you've reviewed that sounded cool that I haven't gotten around to following up on.

Neil Sarver said...

And as a sidenote, if someone put me in charge, I wouldn't cast Reginald Vel Johnson, although frankly he would work. I'd go with more of a Charles Napier type. That's my guess as to how I was supposed to imagine that character.

Keith said...

Great post. I've been reading some of these books myself. I'm enjoying them. Sure they aren't high art at all, but they are good escapist fun.

Neil Sarver said...

Thanks.

Yeah, I think reading for pure pleasure is disappearing and with it the market for selling things like this that one can hardly argue on merit, but somehow it feels better to live in the same world.

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