Showing posts with label .357 Vigilante. Show all posts
Showing posts with label .357 Vigilante. Show all posts

Thursday, May 17, 2018

.357 Vigilante #02 - Make Them Pay

Writing good vigilante fiction isn’t just about telling an interesting story. The author has to make the reader identify with the vigilante. He also has to sell us on the need for vigilante action. Lee Goldberg understood those requirements when he wrote the second book in his .357 Vigilante series, “Make Them Pay”. And though he was still a college student at the time, he did a fine job with this.

In fact, I liked it better than the debut book, “.357 Vigilante”, which went overboard on superhuman action exploits in its final chapters. This time around, our hero is more down to Earth, a little more vulnerable, and prone to making a mistake now and then. In fact, he’s dangerously close to being mellow.

A kiddie porn racket is operating in Los Angeles, using kidnapped children who are put before the cameras, raped to death and then discarded around town. The mayor has so little faith in his own criminal justice system that he puts a discreet call out to “Mr. Jury,” the vigilante who took down a bunch of bad guys in the previous book. Our vigilante hero agrees to take on the case, and you pretty much know how things will go from there. But the journey is satisfying, partly because he’s also got to keep a sexy but suspicious reporter from finding out about his hobby. After all, even in the world of men’s action/adventure fiction, a vigilante can go to prison for killing low-life shitbags if he’s not careful.

As in the first book, “Make Them Pay” is dotted with welcome 1980s cultural references, and while there’s less suspense and general intensity than before, I appreciated its more relaxed tone. The emotional anguish of the first book is pretty much over with now. 

For example, one day Mr. Jury is boinking his girlfriend (using chocolate ice cream as an innovative lubricant). The next day she gets obliterated in a car bomb, and three days later he’s boinking the sexy reporter. Whether this sort of thing is a step in the right or wrong direction is up to the reader. Personally, I didn’t mind. (Full disclosure: I read this while dealing with the flu, so I was glad for the lightweight approach.)

Friday, February 9, 2018

.357 Vigilante #01 - .357 Vigilante

There’s a lot to like in the eponymous-titled debut of the '.357 Vigilante' series (Lee Goldberg as Ian Ludlow), and the story drew me in pretty quickly. A cop in Los Angeles is cornered by a street gang which burns him to death. The guilty parties beat the rap and walk out of the courtroom smirking, and the cop’s grieving son goes into vigilante mode to bring them down, one by one.

All of this material is very good. The author moves the story along and makes it seem fresher than it really is. Published in 1985, it was written two or three years earlier, and I enjoyed the scattered pop-culture references which brought the story’s setting to life (how often do you see a novel that mentions X and Oingo Boingo?). The hero’s confrontations with the surly gang members are taut and exciting, and each take-down is bloodier and more difficult than the last. Meanwhile, the police are rapidly figuring out the mysterious vigilante’s identity and they’re closing in. To them, he’s just another murderer.

And then, in the final quarter of the novel, it all goes south. Our hero, Brett Macklin, has been presented as an ordinary guy, pushed by grief and anger into taking the law into his own hands. The story really worked for me on that level, but just as Macklin completes his task, we learn that a ridiculously unlikely conspiracy has been going on. An evil televangelist and a crooked politician have been using street gangs to kill people and Macklin has gotten too close to the truth. He needs to be eliminated, which leads to an epic showdown including explosions, torture, narrow escapes, Macklin hanging from the underside of an elevator car and a helicopter, a high-speed chase through Hollywood and a death by wood-chipper. 

In other words, suddenly we’re in a silly ‘80s Mack Bolan adventure and our Everyman hero is no longer an ordinary guy with normal limitations and vulnerabilities. That’s where the novel lost me. 

Yes, the book had some flaws even before this point. It was a little long and wordy for such a simple plot and the author (still a college student at the time) was often trying too hard to turn a colorful phrase. But until that left turn, the story was compelling and believable. 

You hate to see your team blow a lead and lose the game in the final quarter, and that’s how I felt about “.357 Vigilante”.