War Against the Mafia: The Executioner, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
The first book in the classic vigilante action series from a "writer who spawned a genre" (The New York Times).
Overseas, Mack Bolan was dubbed "Sgt. Mercy" for the compassion he showed the innocent. On the home front, they're calling him the Executioner for what he's doing to the guilty.
In the jungles of Southeast Asia, American sniper Mack Bolan honed his skills. After 12 years, with 95 confirmed hits, he returns home to Massachusetts. But it's not to reunite with his family, it's to bury them - victims in a mass murder/suicide. Even though Bolan's own father pulled the trigger, he knows the old man was no killer. He was driven to madness by Mafia thugs who have turned his idyllic hometown into a new kind of war zone.
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|Listening Length||5 hours and 59 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||21 July 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 74,640 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
523 in Military Thrillers (Audible Books & Originals)
1,222 in War & Military Fiction
2,258 in Crime Thrillers (Audible Books & Originals)
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But that is now. Back in 1968 when War Against the Mafia was published, he was a lone vigilante who was just starting his war. For long time I’ve been trying to track these early Executioner books, and now thanks to Kindle I can download them in few seconds.
War Against the Mafia is the very first Executioner book and it is here that we are introduced to Mack Bolan. The book opens in August 1968. Mack Bolan is a sniper serving in Vietnam. We are told that he is thirty years old and has been a career soldier since signing up at eighteen. Although not a special forces commando, he had to operate behind enemy lines fighting Vietcong on their own terms. As a result, he had become so good at his job that he might as well be a commando.
So here is Mack Bolan happily assassinating high ranking Vietcong officials, when he receives some very tragic news. Few months earlier, his father, a steelworker, had a stroke and had to spend some time in hospital. When he finally got out, he had medical bills to pay. Unable to do his old job due to poor health, he was moved by his employers to another position that was paying much less. Badly in need of money, he took a loan from a loan shark. When he fell behind his payments, very unpleasant characters started showing up and roughing him up. His daughter went to speak with the loan shark and they made her an offer she could not refuse. To pay them back, she agreed to work as a part-time prostitute.
When pops found out, he went ballistic (quite literally) and shot his whole family before turning the gun on himself. (One more argument for universal healthcare. When you get sick, you don’t have to borrow money from criminals and your daughter won’t have to sell herself.) The only survivor of the massacre is Bolan’s younger brother, who told Bolan the whole story when Bolan was allowed to return home on emergency leave.
Bolan decides to avenge his family. He first destroys the loan shark operation with the help of high-powered sniper rifle. He kills five men, but soon discovers that they were not an independent outfit but part of the Mafia. And so Bolan goes from waging war against five loan sharks to waging war against the whole of organization.
To get more information about Mafia’s operations, he tricks them into hiring him as an enforcer. (I thought that they accept only Italians.) For the next few days Bolan serves them loyally all the while familiarizing himself with various Mafia personalities and operations.
Then, one day, Bolan gets a warning from a friendly cop that the Mafia decided to put a contract on his head. The assassins show up soon after, but he quickly kills them and starts a full blown offensive against the whole organization. And because cops do not like vigilantes, Bolan is forced to wage a guerrilla warfare against Mafia all the while eluding the authorities. Along the way there are some twists and turns, some gunfights and lots of action before the final big battle between Bolan and the local godfather and his not-so-small army.
This, basically, is the plot. So what can I say about the book? I like it. Sure, it has weaknesses. For example, when Bolan joins the Mafia, they tell him that the word “Mafia” is never used. He is to say “the organization.” Fair enough; it makes sense. But then the word Mafia is used all the time. Even the gangsters use it when talking amongst themselves. (Yes, I know that it is a very minor detail, but it irked me for some reason.)
And what about the order to kill Bolan? Who gave it? And why? When Bolan offers his services to the Mafia, they do not trust him completely, but they take him in nonetheless. So what made them change their mind?
Also, at the end, when Bolan destroys the Mafia’s base, we do not find out what happened to the main bad guys. Bolan never sees them die and the police never confirm whether they are dead or not. We only find out what happens to Lou at the end. (There is a plot twist here that I didn’t see coming, but I won’t say more.)
The biggest issue I had was with Bolan’s psychology. Remember, this is the very first book in the Executioner series. This is the book where Bolan becomes the man who devotes his whole life to fighting and killing criminals. I was curious about how that happened. I am not talking about the events that led to it (the death of his family) because that is well described. I am talking about what goes on in Bolan’s head.
And what does go on in his head? Not much. When he learns about his family’s death, Bolan takes it very calmly. The fact that his own father had murdered Bolan’s mother (who was completely blameless) and his sister (who only wanted to help), tried and almost succeeded in murdering his brother (who too was blameless) and then turned the gun on himself causes no shock or psychological trauma. Yes, his father was pushed into it by the circumstances, but many people are harassed by criminals and yet they do not resort to murder-suicide. If your own father were to do that (assuming that your father is a good, decent man with no history of violence), would that not shatter you? Or at least make you question certain things?
To say that Bolan has no emotional reaction to his family’s death is wrong. He is angry, but in my opinion not angry enough. Any normal human being in this situation should be overwhelmed by pain and rage. But then, maybe Mack Bolan is not a normal human being.
But the book, despite these flaws, is good from the action point of view. Don Pendleton wrote the first thirty-something Executioner books. All Executioner books after that were written by a multitude of other writers. Some did good job at it, some did bad job, but after reading War Against the Mafia I believe that Pendleton was the best of them all. (At least out of the ones I have read. Since there are hundreds of Executioner books, I cannot read them all. I do have a life, after all.)
The action and the narrative flow smoothly and draw you in. It is interesting to read how Bolan learns how to fight in this new, unfamiliar terrain. After all, he was a regular soldier before and not an urban vigilante.
In modern Executioner books Bolan is often portrayed as some sort of terminator who can walk into the bad guys’ lair and wipe them out head on. Not so here. Yes, one against one, Bolan is superior to his enemies, but almost always he is heavily outnumbered. His training and combat experience give him an edge, yes, but that is not enough to simply walk into a room and casually shoot up all the bad guys. To win (or even just to survive) Bolan has to rely on cunning, tactical thinking, psychological warfare and superior weaponry. Even at the end, when he attacks the Mafia’s headquarters all by himself, he does so from long range with sniper and mortar fire.
He is vulnerable. He makes mistakes. He gets hurt once in a while. There are moments when he is unsure of himself and at a loss of what to do. I find that a hero who can (and does occasionally) fail and who does not always dominate the situation is far more appealing and interesting than some superman terminator type.
Oh, and there is also a lot of sex in the book. Some of it is described in graphic, lurid detail.
It’s not that I am a fan of erotica, or that I believe that Executioner books could benefit from more sex. (Although, coming to think of it, in some cases they could.) I was just surprised because modern Executioner books have zero sex. Even when Bolan meets women who are ready and willing, and even if the story is set up in such way that sex would be perfectly natural under the circumstances, absolutely nothing happens.
I guess that modern writers are prudish and picture Bolan as some kind of monk. But I guess that it goes back to the pervasive trend in modern culture where showing horrible violence and making it look like something fun and entertaining is okay, but erotic activity in any shape and form is taboo.
Of course, War Against the Mafia might be one of the best Executioner books I have read so far, but in the end it is just one more Executioner book. Do not expect it to be deep or intellectual. For what it is, it is a good book, but what it is, is a 1968 equivalent of one of those modern straight-to-DVD action movies..