Day of Mourning

Author: Stephen Mertz
Publisher: Worldwide: Gold Eagle
Based on characters created by Don Pendleton
Published: February 1984
Book No: 62

Despite the cover image I have posted above, the Australian editions of Day of Morning (and Dead Man Running) did not feature the red foil stamping on the name Mack Bolan – and as such simply appeared as just another in the long running Executioner series. In fact, the two Executioner books, Day of Mourning and Dead Man Running, plus the Mack Bolan book Terminal Velocity formed a trilogy, which shook up the Bolan universe – and helped ditch the Colonel John Phoenix persona that Bolan had adopted since The New War.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, let me do my clumsy best to try to explain. Let’s start at the beginning. First there was The Executioner series written by Don Pendleton and that incarnation of Bolan operated outside the law, and for thirty-eight books his enemy were the Mafia. However, from book 39 in the series – The New War – after Pendleton sold the rights to his creation, Bolan had been awarded a Presidential pardon, given plastic surgery, and rechristened ‘John Phoenix’. Bolan/Phoenix operates as a soldier against terrorism, codenamed Striker or sometimes Stony Man – as his counter-terrorism team operates out of a disguised farmhouse HQ in the Stony Man mountains.

So, you got that? Mack Bolan is John Phoenix and he fights terrorists. Good. Next thing you’ve got to understand is, when World Wide / Gold Eagle took over The Executioner series, they expanded the Bolan universe. Put simply; more books. Not only was there The Executioner series – where The Day of Mourning and Dead Man Running books come from, but there was also a Mack Bolan series, and this dear reader is where Terminal Velocity comes in. It is not a part of The Executioner series, but dovetails between the two stories. I have not tracked down a copy of Terminal Velocity yet, but I feel I know what happens due to the references to it in other stories. (At the time of writing, there seems to be only one copy available on eBay and postage is a killer). But I digress.

The thing is, the three books in the trilogy presented a key episode, or series of episodes in the Bolan timeline – and this was highlighted to readers through the use of red foil stamped on the covers. But as I said at the top, Australian editions did have the foil, and the books looked the same as others in the series. Not that that would have bothered devoted readers, but the ‘every-now-and-again’ readers wouldn’t know Arthur from Martha, and would make their purchase based on the cover image.

And let’s face it, the cover art for Day of Mourning (while it very much reflects the story), doesn’t promise ridiculously large amounts of gun play. Also, and I haven’t started outlining the plot yet, but the cover is really one giant ‘spoiler’. I mean it features Mack Bolan cradling a dead woman in his arms. How do you think the story ends?

Now these aren’t criticisms. Just some simple observations, after all, you should never judge a book by its cover.

The story starts with Mack Bolan and Jack Grimaldi in a Harrier jet over the Atlantic Ocean. Hovering above the water, Bolan, clad in special deep sea scuba gear, steps off and dives into the ocean below. Apparently they ship has gone down carrying a nuclear device. Already down below, a team of mercenaries is trying to retrieve the device. Immediately Bolan is thrust into an underwater speargun fight. This is not new territory for Mack Bolan. However, the fact that communications with the Stony Man Farm HQ have broken down, has him concerned.

After the mission, upon his return to Stony Man HQ with Grimaldi, it is revealed that the centre had been attacked and communications knocked out. Bolan’s years of experience suggest that this was just a ‘soft probe’ to test the centre’s defences, as well as creating an amount of havoc. Bolan suspects that the real assault is yet to come.

With very little information to go on, Bolan hits the streets of Washington D.C. in an attempt to shake free some information on those who were behind the attack. It’s only that Bolan ‘shakes’ a bit more vigorously than most, and it’s not long until the corpses start stacking up.

I am, of course, being deliberately vague and simple in my descriptions here. There is more to the story than just a simple shoot ’em up, and the novel has some political plot threads that play through the story (and are resolved in Dead Man Running).

Despite being the opening book in a trilogy, it still can be read as a standalone piece – however, I would suggest at the end, most readers would be eagre to find out what happens next – and find out who the Mr. Bigs are.

By now, regular visitors to this site, don’t need me saying that The Executioner books are fast-paced, blood and guts thrillers, that aren’t great literature, but are thoroughly entertaining in their way. And there, I’ve said it again. But as one of the core books in the series, I guess Day of Mourning is one of the series flagships, and if you are in any way a fan of Mack Bolan it is essential reading.

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Day of Mourning

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