Joseph Gilmore's biggest contribution to the men's action-adventure genre is the 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' series. Beginning with “Strike of the Hawk”, Gilmore authored eight series installments from 1980 through 1985. According to Glorious Trash, Gilmore also wrote “Operation Nazi – USA” under the name James Gilman. My only experience with the author is his 1973 vigilante-styled paperback “Vendetta”, published by Pinnacle. The novel was re-printed in 1976 with the pictured cover art.
New York patrolman Alex Braley is on a mission to knock off key players in the illegal drug distribution game. While most 70s vigilante novels begin with the protagonist's loved ones being murdered, Gilmore takes an abstract approach. Instead, there's a brief explanation that one year ago Gilmore's wife got hooked on drugs and died from a poisonous batch. There's not a single individual or crime ring to avenge, so Braley starts with the top drug distributors and works his way down. Thus, the book begins with Braley hogtying a higher echelon gang leader before delivering the brutal kill shot to the cranium.
Like Robert Lory's 'Vigilante' series, Braley conducts himself like a straight-laced citizen to his friends, peers and co-workers while secretly planning mob hits. He utilizes a local book shop to purchase mystery and crime novels. In one hilarious scene the store owner condemns the 'Perry Mason' novels and proclaims that Mickey Spillane and Don Pendleton are far superior. Braley normalizes his everyman persona. He plays golf and racquetball, and as the narrative becomes a bit more dynamic, Braley even delivers a West Coast hit while portraying to co-workers that he was on a much-needed vacation in Bermuda. That's ballsy.
During the the Los Angeles killing, Braley falls in love with a single mom. This relationship begins clouding Braley's vigilante mentality. While delivering fatal blows to the Syndicate, it is Braley's love interest that starts to align his fake persona with reality. Soon, the NYPD begins sniffing Braley's trail to determine if he is the mob assassin. Gilmore takes the action from the West Coast, into Seattle, New York, Vermont and even Europe in a grand globe-trotting pursuit.
But is any of it really original or engaging?
Not particularly. In fact, this is like Pendleton's Bolan without the originality. As the pages turned, I was reminded again on how good Don Pendleton's 'The Executioner' novels are and the direct, albeit phony, comparison Gilmore makes to that innovative series. “Vendetta” isn't a terrible novel. Depending on how many 70s men's action-adventure novels you read in a year, this novel may perform better than expected. For me, I'm averaging 10-12 books per month and understand there are far better novels of this variety.
“Vendetta” is cookie-cutter, middle of the road fiction. Take it or leave it.
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