Don Pendleton; Author of ‘Executioner’ Novels


Don Pendleton, who created an action adventure icon with his series about Mack Bolan, the self-styled “Executioner,” has died. He was 67.

Pendleton, whose 38 books about the crusading hero have sold more than 25 million copies around the world, died Monday in his home in Sedona, Ariz., of a heart attack.

Using his own name and the pseudonyms Stephan Gregory and Dan Britain, the prolific author wrote more than 100 books. About 200 million copies are in print, translated into 25 languages. He also wrote poetry, essays, short stories and screenplays.


Pendleton first wrote about Vietnam veteran Bolan in 1969, with “The Executioner: War Against the Mafia.” The character and the series became the prototype for more than 40 action heroes and spawned a genre of popular fiction that has been called the male reader’s equivalent of the woman’s romance novel.

The Bolan character was serialized in magazines and comic books and was franchised by Pendleton in 1980 to Worldwide Library of Toronto, which continues to spin out books.

Pendleton always insisted he had nothing that grand in mind when he first conjured up Bolan. He said he was simply writing a novel.

“I just thought it was time for some kind of statement to be made to the effect [that] no matter how civilized we are, and how great our ideals are, we still do live in a basically savage world, and we need champions who will protect us and defend us,” the former West Covina author told The Times in 1988.

“My idea was not a psychopath, not people who want to go out and slay and see blood flow,” he said, disputing claims that action adventure books glamorize violence. “My idea of a hero is someone who would really rather be doing almost anything but that, but takes it up as a calling, a service, hating it all the while. Now this is a hero, a truly courageous person. Someone who loves the thrill of going out there and smearing blood is a psychopath.”

A lifelong student of the metaphysical, Pendleton later wrote a series of six mystery novels about a psychic detective he named Ashton Ford and another series of six mysteries about a private detective called Joe Copp.


Pendleton had recently produced a nonfiction book with his wife, Linda, titled “To Dance with Angels,” about life after death.

Born Donald Eugene Pendleton in Little Rock, Ark., the future writer dropped out of school to go to sea at the age of 14. He later served in the Navy during World War II, then worked as a telegrapher, an air traffic controller and a manager for an aerospace engineering company.

He wrote his first book when he was 33 and didn’t turn to full-time writing until he was 40.

In addition to his wife, Pendleton is survived by six children from his former marriage to Marjorie Williamson: Stephen of Porterville, Calif.; Gregory of Madison, Ind.; Rodney of Ellettsville, Ind.; Derek of Covina; Melinda Margulies of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Jennifer Dalto of Rialto. Also, two stepchildren, Cynthia Bixby of Riverside and Eric Stephens of Chino, a sister and 24 grandchildren.