Excerpt for The Executioner, Don Pendleton Creates Mack Bolan, 50 Year Anniversary by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Executioner

Don Pendleton

Creates Mack Bolan

50 Year Anniversary


Linda Pendleton

Pendleton Artist


The Executioner, Don Pendleton Creates Mack Bolan, 50 Year Anniversary © Copyright 2019 by Linda Pendleton, All Rights Reserved.

Published by Pendleton Artists at Smashwords, February 2019

No part of this work herein may be reproduced, transmitted, stored, or used in any form or by any means graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, scanning, digitizing, taping, Web distribution, information networks, or information storage and retrieval systems, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act without the prior permission of the publisher, Linda Pendleton.

Cover Design by Judy Bullard, with Linda Pendleton.

Photos of Don Pendleton and Don and Linda Pendleton from ©Linda Pendleton Collection.

Pendleton Artists


Table of Contents


Chapter One: How it Came to Be

Chapter Two: The Birth of Mack Bolan

Chapter Three: Not Smooth Sailing

Chapter Four: Creation of the Executioner

Chapter Five: The Metaphysical Theme

Chapter Six: Violence and Profanity

Chapter Seven: Morality

Chapter Eight: The Critics

Chapter Nine: My Creative Writing Style

Chapter Ten: The Hollywood Dream

Chapter Eleven: A Return to Bolan

Chapter Twelve: 50 Years Later

Chapter Thirteen: The Elements of Success

Chapter Fourteen: Quotes and Comments

Chapter Fifteen: Original Executioner Books


In loving memory of Don Pendleton, my husband, my love, my inspiration—then, now, and forever.

~Linda Pendleton

Dedicated to the millions of Executioner fans worldwide; many who have been with Mack Bolan since the beginning, fifty years ago; and to the readers who have more recently joined Bolan's war against the Mafia. Thank you.

~Linda Pendleton

"Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in the circumstances confronting him."

~Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

"I am not their judge. I am their judgment.

I am their executioner."

~Mack Bolan, Don Pendleton

"Live Large!"
~Don Pendleton (1927-1995)
Mack Bolan theme, The Executioner Series


I loved being a part of Don Pendleton's creative world. I was asked shortly after we married if I felt cut off from Don when he was working on a novel. My answer was no. The life of a writer is often a lonely existence—just you, your keyboard, and the characters who roam around the mind—or it can also be what Don and I enjoyed, a sharing of the process.

We shared the creative world, even at the times he was working on one of his books, and me on my own, and especially when writing together. Each of us understood the creative process and looked forward to sharing the results of each day's creative endeavors. We often recognized the "faraway" look in the eyes as our fictional characters took over when our mind shifted into the creative mode. We respected that, and it was never an unwanted intrusion into our relationship. During our marriage, Don did not work the long, hard hours that he had worked in the days of writing his Executioner novels.

Don and I had so much fun when we adapted and scripted to comic the first Executioner novel, War Against the Mafia. I really enjoyed being able to work with Mack Bolan and Don was happy to return to Bolan's world. After Don passed away in October of 1995, I adapted and scripted the second Executioner, Death Squad. I know Don was looking over my shoulder and cheering me on.

Don's writing career meant the world to him and since he has been gone, it has been my wish and purpose to keep his legacy alive and his body of work out there for fans and new readers to enjoy. Don always loved meeting his fans and responding to fan mail. Even today, I hear from fans and often they tell me how inspired they have been by Don's writing and the Mack Bolan fictional character.

Most of what is in this book is transcribed comments from audio tapes Don recorded for his own use, his personal notes and writings, thoughts he shared with me, and ideas he shared in interviews.

When you read Don Pendleton you experience his multilayered reach for the reader's mind. It was Don's goal, his expressed hope, that when a reader finishes the last page and closes one of his books, not only will the reader feel entertained, but will be left with something to reflect upon, a new idea to ponder. The books become a meeting of the minds; the mind of the author with each and every mind of his millions of readers around the world.

This book is a celebration of fifty years since the birth of Mack Bolan. I honor Don with this look-back over the decades to the beginnings of a fictional character that has become an unforgettable character, a true hero in every sense of the word. Don's Mack Bolan has influenced and inspired millions of people and has transformed awareness, despite diverse international social and cultural backgrounds, and possibly in more ways than we know. We all need a hero. And for many, Mack Bolan is that man.

~Linda Pendleton

California, February 2019

Chapter One:

How It Came to Be

This is the story of two men, each extraordinary in their own way; one an American writer, the other, an American fictional character.

Don Pendleton was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 12, 1927, to Louis Thomas and Drucy (Valentine) Pendleton, and is a direct descendant of Philip and Isabella (Hurt) Pendleton, who came from Norwich, England, to settle in Virginia in 1674.

During World War II, five days before his fifteenth birthday, Don enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving as a Radioman First Class until November of 1947. He served in all of the war theatres, receiving various medals including the naval commendation medal, and Iwo Jima, 1945; helped set up the postwar air traffic control networks in the Pacific, (in a joint civil/military project). He received his GED certificate of high school equivalency while in the Navy in 1947. In 1952, in the midst of the Korean conflict, Don returned to active duty in the Navy for two years.

As an avid reader from his early youth, Don once wrote, "I have served many long and lonely years aboard ship in war zones, and the only thing that kept me sane during all that enforced loneliness was my access to a good library in which I read, literally, every book on the shelves, even textbooks, and which gave me access to other worlds no way open to me."

His skill as a radioman during World War II led him to the railroad after the war where he was employed as a telegrapher for Southern Pacific Railroad until 1957. For the next four years, he worked for the CAA/FAA as an air traffic control specialist. In 1961, his career turned toward aerospace engineering where he served in management positions during Martin-Marietta's Titan ICBM programs, and later as an engineering administrator in NASA's Apollo Moonshot program, and with the United States Air Force C-5 Galaxy program. His aerospace career took him to various locations across the country.

Don had stated early in his life that he was deeply interested in metaphysics and the mysteries of existence—the origin of man, the destiny of mankind. His formal education had ended at the age of fourteen, but his zest for learning and experiencing life was just beginning and led the way to several career fields until culminating in his career as an author. He wrote his first book at age thirty-three, and decided to write full time by the age of forty, and not an easy decision to leave a good career in aerospace while he and his first wife, Marjorie, were raising six children, Stephen, Gregory, Rodney, Melinda, Jennifer, and Derek.

It was during the late 1950s, after writing his first short story, when Don contacted a literary agent through a small advertisement in Writer's Digest, a magazine for writers. The literary agent, Vance Halloway was not in New York or Los Angeles, but had a post office box in Pearblossom, in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. Don had said, "The reason I selected him was the weird address. What could be weirder than a literary agent doing business from an office in Pearblossom, California?"

What I personally find so fascinating, is that this little-unincorporated community of Pearblossom on U.S. State Route 138, even today with a population of about 2,400 people, had such an attraction for me in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1950s, with my parents, we often would drive through Pearblossom on our way for a day trip to the desert for hiking or sight-seeing. I'd be so happy to reach Pearblossom each time. I think my family thought I was strange, as understand, there was nothing there, only a spot in the road, with an interesting name. How was I to know that the man I would one day marry started his writing career with a literary agent with a post office box in the middle of the California desert? Ah, the synchronicity of life.

Halloway sold the short story, what Don called a "sophisticated sexual humor thing," to Ace Magazine in 1957, and offered Don an agency contract. Other short story sales followed.

In 1959, Don was approached by Alexander Grasshoff, who was to later produce the Young Americans, with an unique idea for Don to write a novel from one of Grasshoff's films that was presently "in the can," and awaiting distribution. Unique, because it was the first or one of the first movie tie-in novels, which in today's film industry is common. The film, Boy on the Run, never got out of the can and Grasshoff kindly released his interest in the book Don had written. It was published as a detective novel, "Frame Up," in 1960 by a young fly-by-night publisher. The book was a failure and deservedly so, according to Don, but it helped to launch him into what he called the heady dream state of being a published novelist.

Not too long after, his agent told him there was a market for "sexy" paperbacks, so Don sold several spicy (for that time period), private eye novels, and science fiction novels, originally written under Stephan Gregory and Dan Britain pen names.

Don continued writing and began offering bigger books in 1967-68. When publishing opportunities and publisher's money began to grow, Don decided it was time to find a literary agent who received the normal 10%, instead of 50%. Vance Halloway decided on a different path and they could not come to an agreement. Don moved on without Halloway, but he always credited the guy for getting him started in his career.

Often Don's evenings following a full workday, were spent at the kitchen table with his typewriter, typing paper, and carbon paper. Don was the fastest typist I've ever known, and he always said his Navy telegrapher skills accounted for that. He said he would type his stories and send them off to the high-desert post office box and patiently wait with hopes of receiving a letter and check before long. But soon, his aspiration turned to full-time writing after having published a number of paperbacks: science fiction, futuristic, mysteries.

After leaving his engineering career, it was a struggle to support his family. He signed on as a senior editor for a metaphysical magazine and with that job, came a place to live in Lakemont, Georgia.

Don had also begun to think about a fictional character who could reflect some of his own metaphysical ideas, and as a writer, he could examine the social unrest that was happening in our country.

The year 1968 has been called one of the most tumultuous years in our country's history. It was a time of anger, grief, civil unrest and protests on streets all over America; love, peace, and flower power on the psychedelic streets of Haight-Ashbury and Berkeley; and the horrors of the Vietnam War.

It was marked by the capture of our Navy Intelligence vessel the USS Pueblo and its crew by North Korea; anti-Vietnam War protests; shocking assassinations, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April of that year, and two months later, Senator and presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, while grief and disbelief had barely healed from the earlier assassination of President John F. Kennedy; violence and race riots in our cities; and the long and troubling iniquities of the Mafia and organized crime—a battle that Robert F. Kennedy had taken up while serving as U.S. Attorney General under his brother's administration.

It was during that summer of 1968, when Mack Bolan, The Executioner, was conceived in the mind of forty-year-old Don Pendleton.

"Duty Kill," as he called his first Executioner manuscript synopsis, was written out of Don Pendleton's desire to express his discomfort with the reaction of many Americans to our soldiers who were dying for our country in the jungles of Vietnam and those coming home to outrageous verbal and physical abuse. So Mack Bolan became Don's symbolic statement. He also became every soldier's voice. Don created a heroic character in Bolan, a true hero who was dedicated to justice. The enemy that Bolan had to fight was no longer on the battlefields of Vietnam but right here on American soil, and that enemy was the Mafia.

Within his Mack Bolan stories are strong values, with an underlying theme of a higher morality that Bolan follows. More than once Don said about the Executioner novels, "My biggest job throughout writing the series was to keep faith with Bolan–that what he is doing is right. I wanted an enemy beyond redemption–an enemy that all civilized procedures had failed to put down. The Mafia was ready-made. They embodied all the evils of mankind."

Don's synopsis for the first Executioner book, "Duty Killer" is seventeen typewritten pages. I have to say that in reading it if I was an agent or a publisher, I'd grab it up immediately, and when you read it, you may agree. It's typed on good bond paper and has held up well over all these years.

The synopsis covers the Prologue, which is nearly word for word as the Prologue is in the published book, with additional information on Bolan's family and an exchange of family letters. The synopsis gives a detailed premise of the story; dialogue of Mack Bolan with his young brother in the hospital as Johnny tells him of the shooting by their father; and additional entries in Bolan's journal, a journal which becomes a signature piece in his series; dialogue among characters, including Valentina Querente; Leo Turin; and the Mafia.

At the time of Don wrote his Synopsis for the first novel, he indicated Mack Bolan would move from his desire for revenge and to gradually evolve into an idealistic cause. He also mentioned additional stories. The first Executioner novel became War Against the Mafia, and when it was published it was the first book of the new Pinnacle imprint. The Pinnacle logo was created expressly to publish the first Executioner, and Don would remain their only author for more than a year.

Chapter Two:

The Birth of Mack Bolan

Here is Don Pendleton's Prologue and Synopsis for Duty Killer, written in the summer of 1968.

The courage we desire and prize

is not the courage to die decently,

but to live manfully.

-Thomas Carlyle

God will not look you over for

medals, degrees or diplomas, but

for scars.

-Elbert Hubbard

You say that a good cause

will even sanctify war!

I tell you, it is the good war

that sanctifies every cause!

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Mack Bolan was not born to kill, as many of his comrades and superiors secretly believed. He was not a mechanically functioning killer-robot, as his sniper-team partners openly proclaimed. He was not even a cold-blooded and ruthless exterminator, as one leftist news correspondent tagged him. Mack was simply a man who could command himself. He was the personification of that ideal advanced by the army psychologist who screened and evaluated sniper-team candidates: “A good sniper has to be a man who can kill methodically, unemotionally, and personally. Personally because it’s an entirely different ball game when you can see even the color of your victim’s eyes through the magnification of a sniper-scope, when you can see the look of surprise and fear when he realizes he's been shot. Most any good soldier can be a successful sniper once—it’s the second or third time around, when the memories of personal killing are edged into the conscience, that the ‘soldiers’ are separated from the ‘exterminators.’ Killing in this manner is closely akin to murder in the conscience of many men. Of course, we do not want mad-dogs in this program, either. What we want, quite simply, is a man who can distinguish between murder and duty, and realize that a duty-killing is not an act of murder. A man who is also cool and calm when his own life is in danger completes the picture of our sniper ideal.”

Sergeant Mack Bolan was obviously such a man. A weapons specialist and skilled armorer, he also held marksman awards in every personal-weapon category. The sarge did not keep a personal record of his “kills,” but the official accounting shows a verified total of 32 high-ranking officers of the North Vietnamese Regulars, including General Ngo An; 46 Viet Cong guerrilla leaders, and 17 VC village officials. This account of a typical sniping mission was recorded in a report filed by Sergeant Bolan's spotter, Corporal T. L. Minnegas, covering their final mission together:

Team arrived vicinity of Station B at 0435 hours. Pvt. Thomas and Pvt. Yancey reconned and reported back all clear at 0450 hours. Station B manned at 0500 hours and equipment set up. At 0630 hours village began to stir. VC recon party arrived at 0642 and checked out village. At 0650 Tra Huong and escort arrived outside chief’s house. Chief and unknown male came out to greet Huong party. Targets confirmed with Sgt Bolan and RVNM guide. Sgt Bolan’s first round got Tra Huong (through the neck). Round two was through right temple of village chief, round three through back of Col. Huong’s aide (unidentified). Departed Station B at approx. 0652 hours, all objectives accomplished. Arrived Base Camp 0940 hours. No casualties Sniper Team Able."

Vietnam represented a new type of warfare for the American soldier. Many grim "specialties" were developed there by American youth. And perhaps none more grim nor more specialized than the one personified in Sergeant Mack Bolan. Bolan had been a career soldier. At age 30 he was a 12-year veteran and on his second Vietnam tour. Then fate stepped in to send Sgt. Bolan home—and to a different kind of war.

On August 12, 1968, he was summoned to his base camp chaplain's office, where a solemn Red Cross aide broke the news that Bolan's parents and a younger sister had met violent death, his 14-year-old brother gravely wounded. Bolan was airlifted home on an emergency leave to handle funeral arrangements and to see to the care of his minor orphaned brother. It was a sad and traumatic homecoming for this professional soldier.

On August 22nd, eight days following the interment of Bolan's dead relatives, five officials of a loan company were gunned down on the street outside the company office in Pittsburgh, Bolan's town. The following is an account of the incident by an eye witness, a news vendor whose stand was located on the corner where the shooting occurred:

"These five guys come outta the loan company, it was about closin' time. Two of 'em was arguing about something, and this one was carryin' a satchel. They was standin' beside this car, parked there at the curb in front of the office. One of 'em walked out inna street, goin' around to get in the driver's side, I guess. Alla sudden he stopped right in his tracks and kinda jerked around, his head snappin' back toward me. I saw his eyes, wide and surprised-like. I saw the blood spurtin' outta his neck. I saw all this before I heard the first shot. It came from up high, up the street someplace. It boomed, sort of rolled down between the buildings, you know, like a echo, like a big elephant-gun or somethin'. I couldn't really tell where it came from. It all happened so fast, I mean faster'n I can tell it. These guys on the sidewalk was standin' there froze and gawkin' at this guy inna street. Then one of 'em—his hands jerked up to his head just as his head sorta seemed to explode, I saw pieces flyin'. The other guys was startin' to scramble. One dived for the car. The other two was tryin' to get back inside, inside the loan company. These shots was just rollin' off, like they was four or five guys up there open' up. There was five shots, I know that, exactly five shots, five big booms, and when they stopped, there was five dead guys strewn about there, I mean dead as hell. An' every one of 'em got it someplace above the shoulders. Gory, man gory."

A plainclothes policeman, in an off-the-record remark to a newsman, said of the killings, "I can't get too excited about a gang killing, and that's what this is, of course. We've known for a long time that this outfit (the loan company) is controlled by the Mafia. It's worse than any loan shark operation I've ever seen. We just never could get anything to take into court. You don't see me spilling any tears when they start knocking each other off. So long as innocent bystanders don't get hurt."

The officer was correct in one respect and wrong in another. This attack did indeed signal the beginning of a war on organized crime, but one side of the conflict was strictly a one man campaign. Duty Killer Mack Bolan had found a new battleground and a new cause, and had declared war on the best organized crime syndicate in the world. Exterminator Bolan was taking on the Mafia.


The Synopsis of Duty Killer

Duty Killer is the story of 30-year-old MACK BOLAN, combat infantryman and ace Vietnam sniper, whose family is indirectly destroyed by the sinister influence the Mafia. Bolan learns of the violent deaths of his father, mother, and young sister while still on duty in Vietnam. He is rushed home to handle burial arrangements and to provide for the care of his orphaned brother, 14-year-old JOHNNY BOLAN. The kid brother, seriously wounded in the same tragedy, tells Mack that his father, harassed and intimidated by loan sharks, had learned that the Bolan girl, lovely 17-year-old Cindy, had been pressed into prostitution by muscle men for the loan sharks, having been convinced it was the only way to save her father's life. The elder Bolan then went berserk and took his own life after shooting his wife and daughter and wounding young Johnny.

This tragedy establishes the premise for Mack's declaration of war against the forces of organized crime in this country, after being told by police officials of the virtual impossibility of securing criminal indictments against the well organized and well protected mob.

Because of responsibilities to his orphaned brother, Mack is rotated to home duty and assigned as an ROTC instructor in his high school in Pittsburgh, his home town. From this innocuous base, he wages his one man war against the evils of organized crime—and his war is fought in the only terms he has come to understand: utter extinction of the enemy, a war of attrition.

The story is given an almost documentary effect with the free use of third-person exposition through changing viewpoints, isolated vignettes, and first person quotations from Mack Bolan's personal diary. Mack's implacable if coldly unemotional pursuit of Mafia ganglords and henchmen follows a twisted trail into big business, politics, and thugdom, with the primary action of the story centering around the skillfully plotted executions of various personalities on Bolan's growing list of vermin marked for extinction.

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