Saturday, January 16, 2010

Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction: An Encyclopedia from Able Team to Z-Comm -- Bradley Mengel

I couldn't resist buying this book. I was a bit taken aback by the price, but then I saw that the Kindle edition was a lot less. So it became my first purchase of any Kindle book. (Others I've picked up for free.) It's exactly what it says on the cover there to the left: an encyclopedia of "serial vigilante" novels a sub-genre that began with The Executioner series.

So why couldn't I resist? Well, I have shelves full of serial vigilante novels, so why not find out something about the people who wrote them? And for that matter, since I've never read most of them, why not find out something about the series characters themselves? This book has most of the information I was looking for, from Able Team to Z-Comm, and I find it fascinating reading. I'm still working my way through it, but so far it's great stuff.

I have a couple of things to warn you about. First, the author offers no opinions about quality. He reports on the books and gives a good overview of the series, but there's no way to distinguish the better ones. You might not think there are none that are worth your time, but you'd be wrong. The Destroyer series, for one, has some wonderful books in it. Black Samurai is a cut above most others, and then there's the M.I.A. Hunter. You wouldn't know that by reading Serial Vigilantes, however. Second, I was hoping that I could find out who wrote all the books. The series originator is given, and there's often good material about that person. At the end of each section, there's a list of all the books in the series. So far, so good. The bad news is that while in some cases the author of each book is identified, in others, only some authors are named for specific books. And in other cases, no author is given at all. (The M.I.A. Hunter series being a prime example.)

Those quibbles aside, I recommend this to anybody who's interested in the serial vigilante novels that were so popular at one time. Now I wish someone would find out what happened to the audience for those books. Did it move on to reading other stuff? James Patterson, maybe, or Dan Brown? Or did it quit reading and start playing video games and watching DVDs? Inquiring minds want to know.


  1. Anonymous11:01 AM

    I bought a copy of this, too, after seeing it featured at Bookgasm. Looking forward to reading it.

  2. Am I the only one who thinks the guy on the cover looks like Joe Flaherty in his SCTV days?

  3. Wow, $45. That's a LOT. It looks interesting, but I can't afford that. Whew.

  4. Now I wish someone would find out what happened to the audience for those books. Did it move on to reading other stuff?

    I graduated middle school.

  5. I also bought a Kindle copy after reading the Bookgasm review... mostly to see what the author had to say about my own contributions to the genre... but I am really enjoying it. Bill's review pretty much sums up my feelings about it so far, too, but I have a ways to go before finishing it.


  6. Stephen B11:10 PM

    I came across this I think from a Doc Savage page or something posted by Rick Klaw. I love reading ABOUT books from noir and pulps - though it will send me scurrying after many long months of other books to find...

  7. I hope at some point I will be able to get this book as I'd like to see what he wrote about my late husband Don Pendleton's Executioner series and spin offs.

  8. Well, Don Pendleton was the guy who started it all, so his books are referred to often.