On Mack Bolan

So with the release of Blood Vortex, the Harlequin/Gold Eagle era of Mack Bolan concluded. After reviewing that book, I have a couple more thoughts.

The first is that there simply wasn’t much attention paid to it outside the existing fandom. Nader Elhefnawy has commented that in 2015, the rest of Gold Eagle, a once-big imprint, getting folded attracted literally no comment. Likewise for the end of Mack Bolan, and I can add to that by saying the responses to my Blood Vortex review amounted to “Wait they were still making Mack Bolans?” This isn’t surprising, as the series was an irrelevant shell for years and years.

What I find more interesting is how every Mack Bolan movie project has fallen through. Some of this could just be bad luck, but it implies that, for all the success of the books (at a time before visual media could match its visceral qualities), the character was, unlike his inspiration The Punisher, never truly that marketable.

Now for the biggest surprise I had when reading the later, non-Pendleton Bolans. What I’d expected was for the multiple authors to result in the books being extremely erratic in quality, ie comic books. Yet what I found, albeit based on a small sample size, was strangely the opposite. There was a bit of difference in quality, but there was a lot more similarity.

Whatever the author, the Gold Eagle Bolans I’ve read all have had the same issues with a consistency I haven’t seen among cheap thrillers made by different writers in different settings. Nearly all of them would go into ridiculous detail on the character weapons, but would make gigantic mistakes about anything vehicle-based or bigger that one glance at a Wikipedia page could have corrected. All of them felt filled with obvious padding in spite of their short-to-very-short length. All of them had, to one degree or another, stilted and clunky prose. And all of them were jumbled and had huge issues with their plots (even by cheap thriller standards).

I don’t know the reasons why this was the cause. Whether it was the editors pushing it, the authors just getting into a routine (especially given the undoubtedly tight release schedule), or something else, I don’t know. But it was there, and it was one of the things that made me less eager to read them.

It’s strange. The Executioner (which was originally intended as a one-off!) ended up with so many books and so many more it clearly influenced, including a popular Marvel character. Yet so much of it was also disposable throwaway literature, cheap even by the standards of cheap thrillers.

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