Book Report: Panic in Philly by Don Pendleton (1973)

This year, I’ve read pulp novels from the Killmaster, the Enforcer, and Matt Helm series, so why not try one from the granddaddy, Don Pendleton’s The Executioner? It has the most books published about a single character, some 200 or 300 of them. So I found one at a book fair, cheap, and checked it out.

The other two series offered more depth. Sugar’s “The Enforcer” has weird sci-fi elements and Objectivist speeches; the Killmaster gets the chicks; and Matt Helm channels Dean Martin, whether intentionally or not. The Executioner just runs around and kills Mafia.

In this book, he goes to Philadelphia to take out a branch of the Family. He blows up a compound that used to be a bordello and then works his way into the home of the don. He kills a “specialist” that’s come to take care of the problem and then sets elements of the mob against each other while having a hand in, I dunno, 60 deaths? 70?

On a side note, The Executioner (one of the main inspirations for Marvel Comic’s The Punisher, by the way) was a Vietnam veteran. Many characters from the pulp of the era and television of the next decade involved Vietnam veteran characters who were not suicidal nutbars or whatnot; instead, they were tough, efficient crime fighters of one sort or another. Where are the veterans as honorable crimefighters these days in popular culture?

This book reads like a television script (and the book says they’re a major motion picture series coming!) with about that much depth of character (I know, it’s pulp, but this guy isn’t much more than a name holding various guns). I guess that’s what you get with a series written by dozens, but this is only #15, when Don Pendleton himself was writing them.

Of all the series I’ve sampled this year, this is the least likely for a return visit; that’s not to say that it’s bad pulp, but it’s the worst of the pulp I’ve read this year.

Books mentioned in this review:

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