Thursday, December 09, 2010

Mack Bolan: The Executioner

It’s always nice once in a while to go back to fiction you read in your teenage years—a devil-may-care period when you read all kinds of stuff.

A few days ago, I picked up three first-edition mint copies of Don Pendleton’s The Executioner from a roadside vendor for Rs 20 a piece (44 cents each), and stepped back in time. As a collegian, I read nearly all the 37 novels written by Pendleton whose legendary fictional character Mack Bolan fought against evil, from mafia to terrorism, all over the world. In 1980, Pendleton sold his rights to The Executioner to Gold Eagle Worldwide, a division of Harlequin Books.

One of the titles I bought was #150 Death Load, one of over 600 novels written by ghostwriters but credited to Pendleton (though the work is attributed to the actual authors on the copyright page). In this novel Mack Bolan, the super-soldier who is working on his own, is hired by the intelligence division of the US Department of State to rescue a former spy-turned-activist, Katherine May, from the clutches of the dreaded Khmer Rouge in the jungles of Cambodia. Her father is a rich and influential businessman with deep ties in the American government. In the end Bolan, a veteran of the Vietnam War, brings her back but not without experiencing the political intrigues and chilling encounters in the region where the Vietnamese, the Thai and the Chinese are fighting for dominance.

Bolan rarely flinches when he shoots, and he shoots to kill, in cold blood. Like that other fictional spy Nick Carter, the Killmaster, who is Agent N3 of AXE, a US intelligence agency; it doesn’t exist, of course. Big man Bolan’s lethal intent and action are evident from his numerous kills, many of which are executed as an expert sniper. For all his cold-bloodedness, Bolan has a heart and often goes out of his way to help innocent civilians. He is also called the Warrior, perhaps, an allusion to his just and principled approach.

Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan is to America, what Ian Fleming’s James Bond is to Britain, minus much of the glitz, gadgets and glamour associated with the man with a license to kill. As long as one-man armies like Bolan and Bond are around, our world is safe.

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