What’s the difference?

In reality, less than one might think.

In general, I think, the “Action Adventure” genre, as exemplified (and coined) by Don Pendleton’s Executioner series, which spawned multiple spinoffs and inspired others (there is actually a flashback in SOBs #3, Butchers of Eden, in which Col. Barrabas remembers a night fighting back to back in Vietnam with Sgt. Mack Bolan), has generally been looked down upon as cheap, poorly-done “pulp,” with even less merit than comic books.  “Techno-thrillers,” ostensibly started by Tom Clancy with The Hunt for Red October, are considered better quality and more realistic, though still sneered at by the literati (I had a high-school English teacher speak dismissively of Clancy as “pop-lit.”).

While the quality of the Gold Eagle (and Pinnacle before them) books was often wildly variable, I would argue that Action Adventure and the “Techno-Thriller” are the exact same genre.  Techno-Thrillers do tend to focus more on the “system,” i.e., the protagonists are usually active duty military and/or members of the intelligence community (and politicians, as well).  The stories usually classed as “Action Adventure” tend to star more of a rogues gallery of spies, mercenaries, soldiers, and vigilantes.  As I’ve found in my own work, using mercs tends to open up story possibilities, as the author–and the protagonist–can have fewer rules and less oversight to worry about.

While many have long sneered at the quality of the shorter, quicker-paced paperbacks of The Executioner or Phoenix Force, the length of the story and the prestige of the publisher/author have little to do with the realism or quality of the story within.  While the Action Adventure paperbacks had to keep a higher pace (I believe Gold Eagle had pretty stringent word-count limits), and therefore had less space for musing on the background, just what I’ve read of the SOBs series so far has shown a surprising level of insight into the geopolitics of the time they were written.  From the tribal mess of Africa to the repercussions of the Iranian Revolution, to the ethnic and sectarian divisions of Sri Lanka, real-world situations inform the action, and the situations are (at least in some cases) no more outlandish than Tom Clancy having the US mil defeat the People’s Liberation Army soundly in less than 96 hours through the Power Of Technology.

The mainstream Techno-Thrillers can also be pretty bad on the realism front.  One of the Clancy’s Ghost stories ended up tossed across the room when the former SEAL, ostensibly working as a paramilitary operations officer for the CIA, who had already gone into a PTSD fugue (forgetting where he was and what he was doing because he was sad about losing a buddy in action) during a firefight, no less than three times, proceeded to leap through the air, firing a suppressed Glock in each hand, with friendlies downrange.

When boiled down, the Techno-Thriller and the Action Adventure novel have more in common than they do differences.  The Action Adventure novel just generally has to be shorter and faster, but it can be just as realistic as its often more bloated cousin (or just as unrealistic, as the case may be).

Action Adventure vs Techno-Thriller
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Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Works by Peter include: The American Praetorians Series Task Force Desperate (October 2012) - ebook , paperback and audiobook Hunting in the Shadows (June 2013) - ebook and paperback Alone and Unafraid (August 2014) - ebook and paperback The Devil You Don't Know (June 2015) - ebook and paperback Lex Talionis (June 2017) - ebook and paperback The Jed Horn Series A Silver Cross and a Winchester (October 2013) - ebook and paperback Nightmares (January 2015)- ebook and paperback The Walker on the Hills (December 2015) - ebook and paperback Older and Fouler Things (September 2017) - ebook and paperback The Brannigan's Blackhearts Series/Universe Kill Yuan (Spring 2016) - ebook and paperback Fury in the Gulf (November 2017) - ebook and paperback Burmese Crossfire (January 2018) - ebook and paperback Enemy Unidentified (March 2018) - ebook and paperback Frozen Conflict (May 2018) - ebook and paperback High Desert Vengeance (August 2018) - ebook and paperback Doctors of Death (December 2018) - ebook and paperback The Unity Wars Series (P.L. Nealen) The Fall of Valdek (July 2018) - ebook and paperback The Defense of Provenia (August 2018) - ebook and paperback The Alliance Rises (September 2018) - ebook and paperback Short Stories Rock Meet Hard Place (Part I) - Baen Books Blog Non-Fiction Operation Redwings: The Rescue Story Behind Lone Survivor (December 2013) - ebook only The ISIS Solution: How Unconventional Thinking and Special Operations Can Eliminate Radical Islam (SOFREP) (November 2014) - ebook only

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