Re: RARA-AVIS: The Executioner

From: Ray Skirsky (
Date: 13 Feb 2002

At 12:52 PM 2/13/2002 -0800, you wrote:

These '70s men's action series are something I collect and read, though not for good literature, just for grins.

>The few Executioners I've read have been as advertised: solid, competant
>commercial adventure fiction.

I liked the first three Executioners, and the NYC-Chicago-Vegas story-arc a few books later (#7-9, I believe), and then the Boston one. Once he gets the RV Warwagon they go downhill fast. I own the first 140--single lot on eBay--and a smattering of the later ones, but when I read them in order I got to the mid-50s and lost heart.

> 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.

Stuart Jason was a pen name of Avallone? I didn't know that.

>And this is far from the worst; I am keenly anticipating reading The
>Hitman, reputed to be as bad as it got.

I own a couple of the Hitman, but haven't read them yet.

It's hard to believe that any writing could be worse than the Death Merchant. I read the first two as a teen, and on eBay recently got the first 70 in a lot really cheap. The first was okay, the second not as good, but they soon degenerated into writing so bad that it can be wonderful, in small doses. I think Bill Pronzini used quite a few Death Merchant excerpts in his Gun in Cheek series. I finally petered out at #8. Then picked up one of the later ones and found that the quality continued to decline, as hard as that is to believe.

>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;

I've read a Revenger, they're pretty good. Another good one--based on a single issue--is The Marksman. I didn't know Mazberg wrote Lone Wolf. Do you have any more such gems up your sleeve?

>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."

While I agree with your high estimate of the Destroyer, up until Sapir dies, anyway, I think the best-written and best-conceived of all the series was Alan Caillou's "Private Army of Colonel Tobin." These were straight military action novels about a mercenary army for hire and it's missions in various parts of the world. The plots were realistic--except for the first one--and the military technology used was only a slight improvement on the existing technology. No laser guns or radios that communicate through miles of rock. In the fourth book is an introduction that gives a very trenchant description of the problems of gunboat diplomacy, and why we--the west--are so hated by some of our former colonials--economic or political. The series was short, only seven books: Dead Sea Submarine, Terror in Rio, Congo War Cry, Afghan Assault, Swamp War, Death Charge, and The Garonsky Missile. The last one is the hardest to find. The Swamp War takes place in the Everglades, but they're more the Everglades of popular myth--"Watch out for that mud, 'taint got no bottom."--than the real 'glades. I was a swamp-tromper in my youth.


# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 13 Feb 2002 EST