That's what I was asking myself for the first 200 pages of Night Kill, the 124th installment featuring The Executioner. For those who aren't familiar with it, The Executioner series of Mack Bolan novels is the grandpappy of the mens adventure genre, debuting in 1969 with War Against the Mafia and still going today (Sleeping Dragons: Executioner #419 [!] was released earlier this month). While the first 38 books in the series – authored or co-authored by series creator Don Pendleton – dealt with Bolan's one-man vendetta against organized crime, the former vigilante now works as an agent of the government and deals with all manner of terrorists, creeps, thugs and low-lifes.
Including the occasional gang of murderous Satan worshippers.
Yep, I plucked this Bolan adventure from the list of 700 or so potential reads – that includes Executioner novels as well as Super Bolan installments and spin-offs like Able Team and Stony Man – because it dovetailed nicely with October's Halloween theme here at the blog. (Kudos to fellow Horrordad, ER contributor, good pal and Man of Action David Zuzelo for the tip!)
After dismantling a warehouse of arms bound for Northern Ireland in the prologue, Bolan gets roped into tagging along with Amos Carr, an ex-cop following a trail of dead bodies he's sure are tied into cult killings by Devil-worshipping members of the Chingon, Black Cross or Children of the Flame.
Turns out the ritualistic murders have been following the heavy metal band Armageddon as they tour the country in support of their latest LP, 'Souls for Slaughter', and Carr is convinced there's a connection between the band and the mutilated bodies of nubile young gals along the tour route. With three sold out shows in Denver, Carr convinces Bolan (using the nom de Bolan of "Mike Blanski") to tag along and get to the bottom of things. Of course, it doesn't hurt that one of Carr's allies is a comely witch named Cassandra Poole, described as "tall and dark, with glossy hair that grazed her buttocks".
Written by Mike Newton – a Bolan series veteran who worked with Pendleton on the final Mafia story arc that culminated with Satan's Sabbath: Executioner #38 – Night Kill feels a bit more like an Amos Carr novel than a Bolan/Blanski book, which is not necessarily a bad thing. While my fondness for the series and character grows with each read, the Executioner novels usually lack the wit of a series like the Warren Murphy/Richard Sapir-penned Destroyer books and occasionally border on being too serious for the subject at hand.
Night Kill solves that problem by pushing Bolan into the shadows as Newton deftly juggles a solid cast of characters and multiple storylines involving everything from a conniving preacher filling his coffers by riding the coattails of the heavy metal murders to the messed up members of Armageddon and their Satanic handlers. Though Mack pops up to crack the skulls of some kiddie porn producers to elicit information, he's barely involved in the post-prologue "action" for the first couple hundred pages. A motel room meeting here, a diner breakfast there, and a quick trip to attend an Armageddon concert mark most of the Bolan/Blanski sightings in the early going.
Naturally, once things start to get heavy The Executioner straps on his gear, springs into action and wrings more info out of the Satanic shitheads in two-and-a-half pages than Carr or any of the local gendarme figured out in the first 200+.
I dug the way Newton weaved real-life events into the storyline – the Manson killings and Son of Sam shootings are tied into the cult's litany of atrocities – and the book zips along as you might expect from a genre vet with 250-plus works of fiction under his belt. And the author is still going strong. A quick glance at his website shows that this December's Bolan installment (entitled Hard Targets) is penned by Newton and he's contracted to write more Executioner installments through next year and into 2015!
A fun detour before I wade into Wednesday's Wrath: Executioner #35, Night Kill isn't just a solid Bolan book, it's a well-executed page-turner recommended for any fan of adventure/detective fiction. – Dan Taylor
Night Kill is available from Amazon along with hundreds of other Executioner titles.