William Crawford's first notable work was the infamous 'The Executioner' installment “Sicilian Slaughter”. By 1973, and after 15 successful series entries, Don Pendleton and his publisher Pinnacle had some discord regarding the future of Mack Bolan. Under fire, Pinnacle chose William Crawford (writing as Jim Peterson) as Pendleton's replacement for “Sicilian Slaughter”. The book took some liberties with the character, enraged fans, and thankfully Pendleton and Pinnacle negotiated to have Pendleton continue the series through the 38th installment.
But Pinnacle wasn't finished with Crawford.
Hoping to capitalize on the success of men's vigilante-styled fiction, like Bolan, Pinnacle hooked their cash-wagon to Crawford for a new series called 'Stryker'. Crawford, fresh off the “Sicilian Slaughter”, had just released a western-turd to Zebra entitled “Ranger Kirk” (under the clever pseudonym W.C. Rawford). Pinnacle, feeling confident that Stryker would be profitable, had Crawford write four books in the series - “Stryker”, “Cop Kill”, “Drug Run” and “Deadly Alliance” - between 1973-1975. The series was an utter failure. My research doesn't cite any specific cause for lackluster sales, but my suspicion is that William Crawford's disjointed writing style bewildered fans of men's action-adventure.
My first and only experience with the series is the debut, “Stryker”. The book's back cover has an Editor's Note promising that Styrker is the toughest guy you'll ever read about. It goes on to state, with conviction, that “this is the raw, unpolished realism of the street, where law meets crime and the stronger man (not necessarily the better man) wins.” On the book's front cover, Pinnacle assures readers that this is a revenge story about a brutal cop who's experienced the death of his wife and the blinding of his child by criminals.
It's easy to take the revenge story-line and run with it. The late 60s, 70s and 80s pop-culture was fueled on the revenge headline: “Family Murdered, Man Takes Action!” But Crawford buries the story in endless introductions to a host of characters that have no real purpose. Within the book's first 120-pages, there's so many characters and backstories that the central theme is disoriented. By the 120th page, Stryker's family is still alive and the whole narrative is bogged down by arrangements, criminal infrastructure and a dog-tired necessity to explain everyone in the room. Where's this whole vengeance thing?
The centerpiece, as lost as it is, is two bank robbers working for a mob kingpin named Sam. The two men, while not screwing each other, work a heist and hit list for Sam across the country. After Sam tangles with a bribery charge filed by Stryker's partner Chino, the two hit men are employed to kill both Sam and Chino. Only those two guys get killed off rather nonchalantly (after we read pages and pages of character backstory), and Sam employs another assassin to do the job. Eventually Stryker's family is killed (shamefully I was ecstatic when the moment finally arrived!), but the narrative then settles into a court case instead of the two-fisted, sawed-off shotgun violence I was anticipating.
William Crawford may shine in some other form of literary work. Within the confines of men's action-adventure, he's a dud. I have no intention of reading any more of the Stryker books. I've suffered so you don't have to. “Stryker” should be stricken from the record.
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