A Mack Bolan novel from 1991, Phantom Force is the sort of book that you’d kind of feel would come out of a rushed adventure assembly line. Written by Rich Rainey, it tells the story of the Executioner fighting an evil Japanese cult.
It’s a 51% book through and through. I was not surprised in the least to feel this, for it’s what I expected it to be. No doubt it would accomplish its purpose for the person seeking a small, safe literary diversion. It’s just that even in the context of the cheap thriller, this sort of thing can be done so much better. I inevitably thought of Jerry Ahern’s The Yakusa Tattoo when I read this, and that book’s gonzo excess compared to the rote box-checking of this one could not be more different. You can probably judge for yourself which one would be more memorable.
At this point in time, the pulpy, rapid-fire “men’s adventure” genre was imploding even faster and even more thoroughly than the technothriller. The biggest reason was simple economics-these kind of slim throwaway books were just too low margin in a market already starting to decline and consolidate. The second-biggest was that visual media was now quite able to provide violent, trashy entertainment in a much more suitable form. But a lack of quality cannot be overlooked.
I know this from personal experience. Even when younger and hungry for cheap thrillers, the output of the collapsing Gold Eagle line never appealed to me. I’ve read a few of them since then, but never to the degrees I’ve gone for other lines. And Phantom Force doesn’t seem that much different.
Of course, it’s another comment on the book’s value when writing about the context is more interesting to me than writing about the story itself.