Friday, March 6, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Executioner 42 - THE IRANIAN HIT by Stephen Mertz

 
Back in the '70s, The Executioner was one of my favorite series. Don Pendleton's prose was stylish and compelling. The plotting was tight, and the action came fast and furious. Mack Bolan was a new breed of pulp hero, more deadly than The Shadow, The Spider and all of his other predecessors combined. I read the first thirty-eight books (all but one by Pendleton himself) and liked them so much I read them again.
 
But after number 38, the magic died. Pendleton sold the series - including his own name - to a new publisher, and everything changed. Bolan's one-man war against the Mafia was over. He got a new name -John Phoenix- and was sanctioned by the government to fight terrorists and other threats to freedom around the world. I tried a couple of the new ones, but they didn't grab me, and I bid the series a fond farewell.
 
Then last year, after enjoying a few Steve Mertz books, I decided to hunt down his contributions to the series. And damn, I'm glad I did. Steve assisted Don Pendleton on some of the original books, and developed a great feel for the character. The Iranian Hit is the first (of twelve) that he wrote on his own, and it reads like the real thing.
 
This book was published in 1982. Here's yours truly 
hobnobbing with the author himself at the 1982 Bouchercon.
(Photo courtesy of Sir Arthur Conan Scott)
 
From the title, I figured Bolan would be kicking Iranian butt over in Iran. But nope, this one takes place in the suburbs of Washington D.C., and while a lot of the kicked butts belong to Iranians, an equal number are attached to his old playmates in the Mafia. A renegade Iranian general has snubbed his nose at the Ayatollah and set up his own criminal operation in the U.S. Now Khomeini has sent a hit squad after him, and while U.S. officials would like to see the general dead, they can't let the Iranians take him out on our soil. So who they gonna call? Mack Bolan, of course.
 
This one brought back a lot of memories, reminding me why the original series was so great. I'll be digging into the rest of the Mertz entries, which, for the records, are numbers 43, 48, 52, 62, 64, 67, 73, 76, 92, 94 and the unnumbered opus Dirty War.
 
Meanwhile, The Executioner has been rolling right along. It boggles the mind to realize the original series is now up to number 435, and there have been more than 300 additional adventures published as Stony Man, Super-Bolan and plain old Mack Bolan books. Does that make Bolan the busiest fictional character of all time? Is there any other hero who has starred in more than 700 novels? Maybe you can think of one, but I sure can't. And here's an even bigger question: Is there any living human who has read all 700+ books? Yikes!

13 comments:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Evan, The Executioner is still one of my favorite series though now I read the novels for fun. I find that they still hold up. That is a memorable picture with Don Pendleton.

George said...

I loved the early EXECUTIONER books, too. Thanks for providing the numbers of the books Steve Mertz wrote. I'll track down the one's I don't have. And you and Steve looked great back in 1982!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Evan, I just read George's comment and I'm sorry I mistook the author's picture for Don Pendleton.

Graham Powell said...

This was in fact the first Executioner novel that I ever read, and as I recall it's pretty good. More intrigue than usual, in addition to the standard butt-kicking.

Evan Lewis said...

It's true, PC, the guy in the photo is the 1982 edition of Steve Mertz. Don't know what the real Don Pendleton looked (or looks) like.

Richard said...

I haven't read any of these, but I admire your enthusiasm for the series, and it's cool that you have "discovered" these Mertz books in it.

Is Steve going to be at LCC?

James Reasoner said...

I first met Steve about that same time, at ArmadilloCon in Austin, after corresponding with him for several years. I've read all of his Executioner novels and enjoyed every one of them.

Cap'n Bob said...

What, no Alamo tribute today?

Years ago I bought the new Executioner books as they were published but never read a one. Maybe some of Steve's are in that group.

Steve Lewis said...

Some sad news I stumbled across today:

From http://www.mackbolan.com/

“Gold Eagle will be closed down in December 2015. All of the series belonging to Gold Eagle have been cancelled. Whether Mack Bolan will find a new home with a different publisher remains to be seen.”

Evan Lewis said...

Bolan is a cash cow. Other publishers must be chomping at the bit.

Brian Drake said...

Pendleton passed away in 1996, as I recall, and his wife has carreid the torch ever since. The original books are now available for Kindle and very handsomely designed. Even when Gold Eagle folds, we'll still be able to get a Mack Attack.

Linda Pendleton said...

Don Pendleton died in October 1995. As Brian Drake mentioned, the original series of 37 novels are now available as ebooks. You can see a photo of Don at my websites:
www.donpendleton.com
www.executionerseries.com

And yes, Stephen Mertz has written some very good Bolan books, along with his other works.

Anonymous said...

There certainly cannot be many series characters with more than 700 novels. I haven't counted, but I suspect that Nick Carter is one. The original Nick Carter Weekly ran for over 800 issues, and Nick has been popping up again and again ever since. The Perry Rhodan series has gone for over 1000 issues; I'm not sure how many protagonists the series covers.