Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Executioner #02 - Death Squad

This 1969 sequel to War Against the Mafia doesn't have the same feel as it's predecessor. Author Don Pendleton captured a gritty revenge vibe in the series debut, a novel that most would consider the essential building block for modern men's action adventure. This second book attempts to recreate that high intensity affair with a rather lackluster story that fails to connect with the reader for a variety of reasons. 

Protagonist Mack Bolan is fresh from the fight against the Mafia and decides to take the war to the West Coast. It's still open season on Bolan and the police as well as the Mafia all want him. While it's never really clear why Bolan chose L.A. or even why he made this specific portion of the Mafia a target, he winds up with his former battlefield buddy named George Zitka in an early firefight, the first of a few scattered across sixteen chapters. 

Zitka and Bolan devise a plan to recruit some of their former military pals to take the war to the next level. Pendleton does a brief description of each recruit with a small backstory. All of this is a very small piece of the book and I felt Pendleton could have made this longer and more descriptive. It is this lack of connection that makes the reader very confused on characters' names, how they relate to Bolan and overall a complete lack of interest in whether they live or die. 

After this recruitment phase the book plunges downhill very rapidly. Without having a backstory to pursue, the reader is thrust into a ton of radio talk between the "death squad" members as well as police. At one point we are introduced to a detective named Lyons who serves as an ally for Bolan. This relationship is really one of the few interesting portions of the story. As Bolan targets two L.A. mobsters, with no real point or winning plan of attack, the end result is just a whole lot of surveillance and talking. There is a short shootout in the middle and the end has a botched attack on a surf-side mansion that kills off nearly all of Bolan's crew. 

Pendleton really takes some liberties here and kills off a team that is supposedly bad-ass after surviving heavy combat in 'Nam. This climax battle doesn't even do much in delivering stiff competition for Bolan, yet almost his entire team is killed off. Not good.

Again, this is really a disappointing sequel and from what I understand the next book, Battle Mask, points the series back in the right direction. Fans of The Executioner probably still hold the book in high regards when compared to post-Pendleton or Golden Eagle stuff. Me, I doubt I'll ever pick this up again.

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