Monday, June 01, 2009

"Early Fire" by Stephen Mertz

This is a review that I originally wrote about a year ago, but I've been re-reading some of the old original The Executioner stories and so I decided to dust this one off. It was written by one of the original writers, one of the first after Pendleton stopped writing the books, and also one of the better writers.

"Early Fire" is a novella length Mack Bolan story that appeared in the back of Bolan spinoff Able Team #10: Royal Flush. It spans the last 40 pages of the book and is sub-titled: Deep background on Able Team's mentor, featuring Mack Bolan in Vietnam. It is a prequel to The Executioner action series created by Don Pendleton and it illuminates Bolan's beginnings as a soldier in Vietnam.

The story opens with the executioner returning from a mission with Sniper Team Able—the gents who would later populate the Able Team books and later still the Stony Man novels. When Bolan walks into camp he is immediately summoned by his commanding officer Colonel Crawford. His new assignment: Protect the beautiful, fiery and antagonistic reporter Jill Desmond who wants "to find out the truth about this war…[and] not the white-washed official version…" It doesn't take long for Desmond to find a heap of trouble and it takes everything Bolan has to remove her from harm's way.

"Early Fire" represents everything good about The Executioner series—the writing is quick, the action intense, the prose stark and hard, and the characterization heroic and strong. Bolan is an archetypal hero—he is larger than life, wholesome, competent, clever, and confident to the extreme. A hero's hero really; the type of guy we all want to be.

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