Maybe the time was right (Mack Bolan was a Vietnam war hero), or maybe it was the subject (one man against the mob). Maybe it was the graphic violence and the sex. Surely it couldn't have been the cover, which isn't exactly a powerful illustration. Whatever it was, the book struck a chord, and was followed by hundreds of sequels that continue to appear today.
The book didn't just launch dozens of imitators, though. It launched a publishing company. The cover, as you can see, says "Pinnacle Books," but the copyright page says Bee-Line Books. Bee-Line was a softcore house for which Pendleton had written in the past, and when the publisher wanted to start another line, Pendleton showed him an outline for The Executioner. You know the rest.
It's fun to look at this book now and to read it again and wonder what happened to the audience for this kind of thing. Did it move to the books on the bestseller lists? To DVDs? Computers? I suspect that some of the audience must have been the same readers who picked up the hundreds of titles of the "men's adventure magazines" that also no long exist. Take a look at one of those. Look at the large pages crammed with tiny print and long paragraphs. Many thousands of those sold on newsstands all over the country. No more. Look at The Executioner. Pages dense with print and long paragraphs. Probably wouldn't sell now, at least not without some heavy editing. I have no idea what this means. I'm just saying it and remembering a different time and a forgotten book.