Reliving nostalgia or flogging dead horse?



Recently, I was interested in reliving the excitement I used to feel when reading action/adventure books from my youth. Back in day, the tales of Mack Bolan, Able Team, Phoenix Force, and the Soldiers of Barabbas were something that I used to look forward and devour voraciously. Over the years, I moved away from those books and into other author’s works like James Axler, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, John Ringo, David Weber, and Lee Child to name a few.

That brings us to the subject of this post. A friend of the family gave me a somewhat recent, circa 2002, book from the publisher of the previous listed titles. I hadn’t read anything from them in years but had kept track of how the publisher had combined almost all the separate books into a series now titled Stony Man. This is in reference to the location that the organization used as their headquarters, the Stony Mountains of Virginia, and to the main character, Mack Bolan, who had previously been described as a hard core, stone cold, total badass.


Don Pendleton, the original author of Mack Bolan, The Executioner, died in 1995. Prior to his death, his MC, Bolan, had moved from waging war against the mafia to waging war against terrorists. The first 38 books were all about Bolan and his war against the mob. Book 39 started the war on terror and introduced the location of Stony Man Farm, the new HQ for Bolan and all the other characters. With the other teams of equally hard core badass characters engaged in that same conflict, it made sense to combine them into one novel, hence the creation of the Stony Man series. The Executioner remains a standalone series but that character makes ‘guest’ appearances in the Stony Man series.

the executioner

When Pendleton died, the publisher continued the stories with ghost writers. Therein lies the problem. I’m not saying that these writers aren’t good; I’m just saying that in my opinion, the writing has gone downhill.

This is not new, the use of ghost writers. A very similar procedure happened in the last few years prior to Tom Clancy’s death. Clancy or his publisher would put out a book with Clancy’s name in large print at the top of the cover and below that in smaller print there would be a listing of ‘With fill in the blank author name’ somewhere near the bottom. What that ended up being was the other author writing the book and riding Clancy’s popularity. The last few books that were put out before Clancy’s death were bad. Not just bad but borderline awful. As someone who has read his work up to that point I spent most of my time mentally asking myself wtf? The level of detail that Clancy had established in his earlier books was clearly missing.

In a very big way.

Procedures and operating methodology were off, incorrect or just plain confusing. Clancy prided himself on his research and accuracy. When the other author’s name appeared on his books all that disappeared.

Getting back to the Stony Man books.

These too were once accurate and rife with details.

Now? Totally missing.

Scenes described with a character flipping the safety off a Glock. Not going to happen as the Glock family of handguns doesn’t have a conventional safety. Or scenes where a character with his handgun holstered, somehow manages to rack the slide.

That I’d truly like to witness.

In one slam bang action scene, a character armed with an ‘Ingram submachine gun’ basically a MAC-10 or 11, takes out a sniper on a rooftop from across the street while at street level firing up with a weapon that is better suited for small rooms, like a closet or phone booth, and taking that sniper out. Yeah. That’s pure Hollywood fiction carrying over into the written media. In that same sequence, that same character grabs a fallen hostile’s AK-47, flips it to full auto and within that same sentence there is a mention of conserving ammo. A serious WTF right there. Flip the selector switch to full auto because you’re concerned about the amount of ammo you have. Take a pause and think about that. The character is concerned about limited ammo on hand so the correct course of action would be to put that weapon on full auto rock and roll.

Makes perfect sense. Hollywood does in almost every film they make that contains weapons use.

I fully realize that fiction books are escapism and read for enjoyment. But, and I’ve said this several times in the past, when an author is going to use real world items those items need to be described and used accurately. Especially if the character or characters are supposed to be elite, edge of the spear, high-speed operators.

And please stop using the word ‘suddenly’ to describe a change in action.

Maybe what I’m seeing in these ‘new’ novels like Stony Man is just me applying what I’ve learned over the years. Whomever Gold Eagle Publishing has in the basement churning out these books is just going through the motions. They get a steady paycheck, limited to no recognition and all they have to do is pump out an action novel. A low grade, B-movie level action novel with a serious lack of due diligence research.

Sadly, that wasn’t always the case.

I pulled out some of the Able Team collection that I had in storage and there is no comparison in the writing style.


The Able Team standalone series from the late 80-early 90s has no one changing clips. They’re dropping spent mags. No one is firing a MAC-10 or Ingram M-10 at a range that is ineffectual and dropping targets. The character’s, at least back then, were using their weapons correctly, the tactics were sound and they knew what they were doing. They didn’t walk into a hot zone with an empty weapon. They racked the slide of their semi-automatic handgun before they entered the hot zone and not when they were still holstered. Note I mention semi-automatic as there are very few automatic handguns and those that fall into that category are usually classed as submachine guns.

Am I flogging a dead horse by attempting to relive nostalgia from my youth? Maybe I am. I guess it’s true. You can’t go home again.


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