Sunday, March 1, 2009

40th Anniversary of Don Pendleton's The Executioner: Mack Bolan Series, Part Three

In Part Three of The Birth of Don Pendleton’s The Executioner: Mack Bolan Series of Novels 40 Years Ago, we are looking at Don Pendleton's Creative Writing Style. You may want to read Part One and Part Two before this one. He taped this originally in 1973 and mentions his lawsuit with his publisher, Pinnacle Books, who at the time was trying to claim the Executioner series as their own. Don won the lawsuit and his copyrights were returned to him.

Don Pendleton’s Creative Writing Style of The Executioner SeriesNow a word or two regarding the creative style used in these books. I was asked in an interview recently [about 1973] if I thought this particular formula had reached its logical end. My response to that question was that I simply don’t use a formula so I couldn’t answer the question. Because the Executioner was a trend setter, there are now a lot of imitating series which have become a sort of normal thing in the trade–a lot of publishers developed trending series, that’s all. There is actually no formula involved primarily because of the creative style used by me. My old publisher, Pinnacle, in the present litigation that we’re in [1973], one of his claims is that the Executioner is a House Series, that it was created by Pinnacle and that the character, plot, the situation, what he calls the concept, was given to me to develop. This is ridiculous. I couldn’t begin to work along anything like that. He tried to use the synopsis that I submitted to him of the original book, the first book, to show the differences between the synopsis and the completed book as evidence that they had exerted a great influence in the nature of changes and revisions as evidence that I was working under their direction. But here again, the difference between the original format of story idea and the final version of the work was the inevitable result of the way I work. A synopsis is nothing more than the skeleton of a story idea that establishes mood and thematic movement in somewhat the nature of a motion picture story treatment. It’s not a plot outline which details specific story elements to show how these elements interact to produce a story. I don’t even use the outline method for story development at any time. My method constitutes an evolution of theme and movement through character into a story which is not even conceptualized until it is told. And the characters are seldom more than un-dimensioned shadows until they are confronted with the story elements. That is to say the story does not exist. It does not exist even in the author’s mind until they [the characters] are confronted with the story elements. That is to say that the story does not exist even in the author’s mind until the book has been written.

Now using this method, it is the telling of the story that actually develops the characters and produces the various elements of style, plot, suspense, even the action. In this particular instance, the Executioner books, the story idea which first became expressed in the synopsis was nothing more than a vague thematic treatment concerning a combat trained and highly capable young man with a strong sense of duty who is confronted with a terribly unjust human situation which just may be within his abilities to correct. He accepts the challenge, this call to duty, with clearly no chance, no chance whatsoever, for his own survival, unless, now unless, he can rise to a level of human excellence and greatness, and this rise of the hero, his efforts to maintain that almost impossible level of excellence, are the story elements that provide suspense and action in the unraveling of the story.

Working within such a framework, naturally the author himself is in continual crisis as he attempts to unfold a story which has not even been formulated. The fragments of plot and scene which were necessarily perceived to synopsize the proposed work for a perspective publisher–in my case, anyway, are always abandoned or at least greatly altered as the story unfoldment picks up momentum and begins to propel itself. So it is because of this that Pinnacle’s allegations that they are directing my work and calling the shots and everything, are so ridiculous. Not only has my work never been directed by other persons, it has never been fully directed by myself. There is just no way under the sun that anyone, anyone, could direct my work. Any attempts to do so would be absolutely antithetical–antithetical to the creativity which has produced the Executioner.

I don’t take full credit for the success of the books because I constantly amaze myself with the things that come out in the completed manuscript because I never know where I’m going when I start, where I’m headed. I simply begin with a tense situation and put the guy in jeopardy and allow his own character, his own established modus operandi, his quest for excellence, for justice, to tell the story, to get him out of the trouble, and hell, I never know what is going to happen in the books until I get to the very final shot of the story. So this is about as close as I can come to a description of the creative style of this author, Don Pendleton.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

© Copyright Don Pendleton, Linda Pendleton.

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