Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Power Play

I plowed through Don Pendleton's WASHINGTON I.O.U. in a single sitting one late night, which isn't difficult with Pendleton's easy style and rapid pacing. It isn't exactly the most unusual story you'll ever read. Fact of the matter is the Executioner novels all have basically the same plot, but Pendleton's attention to character makes them work. Unlike most other men's adventure series of the 1970s, the Executioner books manage to whip together intriguing supporting characters who may not appear on many pages, but are colorful enough to make a slight impact. They open Mack Bolan's world a bit, adding texture to the typically bombastic shootouts and explosions.

Book thirteen in the Pinnacle series, first published in 1972, brings Bolan to the nation's capital, where he sticks his nose into a blackmail plot involving many prominent politicians, at least one of whom is on the White House staff. The mysterious new boss is codenamed Lupo ("Wolf"), and nobody, not even beautiful Claudia Vitale, the Washington socialite coerced into sleeping with married VIPs in front of cameras, knows who he is. Which is where the Executioner comes in.

I really like the way WASHINGTON I.O.U. ends—a pulpy climax involving a secret tunnel, a twist involving a previously "good" character, and the unmasking of the mysterious Lupo. Obviously, the action scenes are tight, and it's interesting to note the way the Bolan character has begun affecting the underworld. Even (especially?) people who have never met Bolan are aware of his reputation as a sort of Mafia bogeyman. I'm sure his reputation, maybe even more than his actual skills as a killing machine, will continue to play a big factor in his war against the Mafia.

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