Re: RARA-AVIS: The Executioner

From: Scott Owen (
Date: 13 Feb 2002

The Executioner originated the wave (that amazingly still continues today) of what I like to call "men's action series." Pendleton and Pinnacle (his publisher) took the Matt Helm/James Bond formula, replaced cold war villians with home-grown Mafia heavies, added a liberal dollop of gratuitous violence, and in a brilliant marketing ploy, put numbers on the cover. In no time at all, the drugstore bookracks (remember those) were filled with with countless knock-offs and rip-offs.

The few Executioners I've read have been as advertised: solid, competant commercial adventure fiction. Nothing to get excited about perhaps, but may be worth reading before donating to the thrift store. Unfortunately, few of the other series I've sampled live up to Pendleton's high standards. Try reading the Butcher (Avallone's contirbution to the form, I believe) and marvel at characters which aren't even two dimensional. And this is far from the worst; I am keenly anticipating reading The Hitman, reputed to be as bad as it got.

Luckily, the '70s action sub-genre has more to offer for fans of non-alternative mystery fiction than the Executioner. Jonathan Messman's The Revenger was a well-done, if brief series faithful to the Executioner mold that may have surpassed the original. As Bill mentioned elsewhere, Mike Barry's (aka Barry Malzberg's) Lone Wolf series is pretty berserk; the writing may be crude, but are the books! Sadly, Ralph Dennis's Hardman series was packaged as a men's action series, numbers and all. It's actually a series of pretty good '70s hardboiled detective novels distressingly short on the wholesale slaughts fans of real action fiction expect every chapter.

But my favorite (and pretty much everyone else I've ever talked to) is Sapir and Murphy's Destroyer series. I think it says something about a sub-genre when the best books are satires of the sub-genre. The Destroyer himself is refreshingly free of Messiahanic impulses, his mentor acts like a Jewish grandmother, and his adventures are loaded with satire. Goodthing there was no shortage of bad guys getting disemboweled otherwise they would have never sold. And while the satire may be heavy handed, it's also quite funny and frequently pointed (check out Bay City Blast and its ersatz Executioner,
"The Eraser"). The NY Times wasn't off-base when they lauded the series for winnining fans "among the literate."


The best series is The Destroyer

>From: "Graham Powell" <>
>Back a few years ago, when I was younger and less "mature" in my tastes, I
>used to read the series THE EXECUTIONER religiously. Anybody have any
>thoughts about this series? I haven't read it in a long time, but I
>understand Dennis Lynds did a couple of books (or his wife? or
>collaborating?). I would place this series as an outgrowth of the
>originals and "men's adventure" series, and in a way a descendant of the
>Matt Helm books, although they started only 10 or 12 years later. Anybody
>else have any thoughts about these books?
>Hardboiled and Noir

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