Showing posts with label Vigilante (The). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vigilante (The). Show all posts

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Vigilante #06 - Washington, D.C.: This Gun for Justice

'The Vigilante' series was written by Robert Lory and released by the popular men's action adventure publisher Pinnacle. This six-book run began in 1975 with Joe Madden's descent into vigilance after witnessing his fiance's brutal murder on a New York City subway car. Each book's release constitutes one week in Madden's life since the slaying occurred, but also pinpoints one geographical city where Madden performs consulting work for an engineering firm. The daytime career simply gives him a clever outlet to become a night vigilante ridding the streets of crime. His forages include New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit and now, for this final installment, the nation's capital. 

After the prior novel's events in Detroit, Madden's face has appeared in drawings throughout Syndicate networks. His disposal of corruption has created some fractions within the mob and they want him eliminated. “Washington, D.C.: This Gun for Justice” looks as if it will continue that thread, evident in the book's intriguing opening pages. By circling back to events that started the series, the murder of Madden's fiance, the author revisits some familiar faces from New York City. Madden has finally tracked down a face he originally saw in police photos after the murder. Tracing his stolen credit card, Madden violently kills one of the original murderers, Willy Jefferson. That's 54 kills in 5 weeks for those keeping score at home. After contemplating the whereabouts of the final two killers, Madden eases back into his daytime role by accepting an assignment in D.C. He is to testify before Congress on illegal practices by big corporations. None of that matters as it's a convenient way to have Madden kills wrongdoers in a new town.

With an engaging opening, I was hopeful this book would have ends meet and wrap up this story-line in a rousing, bullet-ridden finale. Instead, the author inserts a 140-page shit pile of religious zealots running a small stretch of street in a D.C. suburb. As a 70s and 80s action enthusiast, I've had my fair share of evil preachers in fiction. This one involves the stereotypical Reverend Moses and his Church of the Divine Gift. The party in the front promises a new day of spiritual euphoria for its cult congregation, but the rear action has suitcases of heroin and cash being streamlined into black mobsters wanting a piece of the white majority's mob. 

Unfortunately, Santiago spends pages upon pages in senseless dialogue between Reverend Moses and his pulpit posse. It's unusual, as most of the dialogue and action in these books are traditionally spent with Madden. That's not the case with this entry and the end result left me exhausted and disappointed. 

There was so much left to unpack with this series, from the original detective who assisted Madden in the first book to tracking down the remaining NYC killers. The whole Mob hitman angle never reached fruition nor did Madden's full evolution from grieving fiance to ruthless vigilante. There was a lot left unsaid, but due to declining sales (and horrific artwork) this series was canceled. I'd like to provide closure for myself and think that detective Leo Delancy has put the map-dot pieces together and realized that Madden's vengeance has led to 60+ kills across the country. The book's final page does reveal that DeLancy is onto Madden. My fantasy conclusion has DeLancy meet Madden at the airport, arrest him and that is the logical conclusion. However...we'll never know Madden's fate. Six books, six weeks, six cities and approximately 900 pages later...still no closure.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Vigilante #05 - Detroit: Dead End Delivery

Despite the off-putting artwork, 'The Vigilante' series is surprisingly engaging. Debuting for men's action publisher Pinnacle, the series began its six-book journey in 1975 under the direction of paperback promoter Lyle Kenyon Engle and writer Robert Lory. The series' through story is everyman Joe Madden avenging his wife's murder over the course of six-weeks. Following the geographical format of long running series like 'The Executioner', 'The Butcher' and 'The Penetrator', each novel presents a new city to host Madden's vigilance. This fifth novel, “Detroit: Dead End Delivery”, was published in 1976 and is only the second series installment to feature a painted cover.

Madden, a structural engineer by day, utilizes his consulting firm as a useful cover. As a frequent flier, Madden's newest assignment is an awards show in Detroit to accept a career accolade. But the Motor City has a lot more to offer, evident in Madden's social engineering on a back-alley where the novel's traditional opening chapter pits the “The Vigilante” against a criminal duo.

Later, Madden meets with an old friend named Hart and a private detective, Voll. Hart works for Regius Developments, an innovative manufacturer designing a new concept in automotive engines. Hart explains to Madden that the company has experienced an inside theft of two-thirds of their development. Hiring the P.I. Voll, the two suspect that an executive named Elliott Tander is behind the theft. However, the suspicion seems slightly misplaced; Tanner is married to the company's majority owner. What's the motive?

The Vigilante certainly doesn't place its limelight on executive, white-collar crime. Within 100-pages, “Detroit: Dead End Delivery” gains genre traction when Madden discovers the crime-ring. From hired killers to gambling debts, Madden stumbles into a powerful Detroit Syndicate that may have ties to his prior wet-work in Chicago and New York.

This is an enjoyable sixth installment that sets the stage for the series finale in Washington D.C. Madden's self-reflection begins to gravitate from anger and grief to remorse. In one poignant scene, Madden is approached by an attractive woman who asks about his career. His guilt-ridden, somber response conveys the character's blackest emotions: “I Destroy”.

After five-weeks and 42 kills (4 of which were female), the series finale, “Washington D.C.: This Gun for Justice,” is shaping up to be an explosive finish. Coming soon...

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Vigilante #04 - Chicago: Knock, Knock, Your're Dead

'The Vigilante' installment “Knock, Knock, You're Dead” is the fourth book of Robert Lory's action series. It was released in 1976 by Pinnacle and is the first of the series to feature a painted cover. Thankfully, Lyle Kenyon Engel disposed of the silly photography and model from the first trio of books, moving to painted covers for the second half of this six-book series. 

Surprisingly, “Knock, Knock,...” is positioned just three weeks from the horrendous subway assault on protagonist Joseph Madden. New readers will quickly understand that Madden is The Vigilante, avenging the murder of his wife by visiting various locales and thwarting crime with a .38 revolver. The excuse for the travel? Madden works for a security firm and provides consulting to clients nationwide. Thus, the first week was hot lead in NY, followed by death and destruction in LA and San Fran and now, this third week, a consulting trip to Chicago for a new client. It's a massive body count but the author manages to hold on to some semblance of Madden's vulnerability and weakness. Honestly, he's just an average guy that blunders his way through gun fights.

This novel is fairly elementary – stop some baddies from blowing up a building. It's a thin plot, hampered by sketchy details that just leads to Madden versus the bomber. There's a few fights, some investigative work and then the inevitable gun fight. Our vigilante upgrades to a Mauser .32 pistol, effectively demonstrated in a comparison scene where Madden must choose between the revolver's performance stability and the Mauser's bullet capacity. This was a nice change of pace and adds to the series' evolution of a “rookie” Madden ascending through the ranks of vigilante classes (there is such a thing in this genre!).

Unlike the first two novels, “Knock, Knock,...” continues to include more and more sex. Like other genre offerings of this era, the women are simply sexual fodder. Here, Madden decides he “will have” a beautiful waitress. The two flirt and eventually Madden stomps in and finds that the waitress is simply waiting all day at the coffee maker for Madden to bed her down. In another scene, Madden punishes a crime queen by bringing her to orgasm multiple times (the horror!). It's cheesy, ridiculous...but I keep reading them. I'm already scoping out books five and six on my bookshelf.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Vigilante #03 - San Francisco: Kill or be Killed

“San Francisco: Kill or be Killed” (1976) is the third entry in 'The Vigilante' series by V.J. Santiago (really Robert Lory). What's interesting about this series is that each book is one week in the life of protagonist Joseph Madden. The debut, “New York: An Eye for an Eye”, was an emotional origin story that had Madden watching in horror as his wife was brutally murdered on a subway train. Later, attacked and left with a facial scar, the book focused on his recovery stage and the mental restraints lifting to become a nighttime vigilante. The close proximity Madden is to normalcy is astounding, but like a pulp character, he turns into a crime-fighter at night. It's this Jeckyl/Hyde sort of formula that propels the character and story. Otherwise, it's just a guy with a revolver shooting rapists. 

After a second week of coping/avenging in book two's “Los Angeles: Detour to a Funeral”, this third novel begins week three. It's awe-inspiring that Madden has killed 23 bad guys in just two weeks. Western singer Corb Lund's gloomy lyric, “Work that shovel with vigor grave digger and dig grave digger dig” comes to mind when describing Madden's robust killing spree. While the author concentrates on Madden's night life, it also describes in detail his real job of engineering at a large firm. It's this assignment that brings him to San Francisco to interview an Asian prospect for his employer, which ultimately is just a reason to give this story an Asian spin by placing it in Chinatown.

The story-line here is that a group of ruffians are forcing merchants and shop keepers to pony up cash for the old protection racket. The gang is called the Scarlet Fist and Madden goes to work identifying the culprit, who the next target is and reestablishing a friendship with his old Army buddy from the Korean War. Where this book's mood and narrative changes in contrast with the first two novels Lots of sex. In fact, there is shockingly an 8 ½ page section dedicated to Madden's pleasure with two massage therapists and their sexy boss Marie. But it doesn't stop there, continuing on with several different interludes to attend to Madden's desires (in which he also brings Marie to ecstasy seven times in one 20-minute romp!). I think these scenes, while not necessary, added a little more dynamic to this rather cold and calculating killer. The end result is another quality entry in this series. 

Next stop is Chicago...because all vigilante series' visit the Windy City at least once.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Vigilante #02 - Los Angeles: Detour to a Funeral

Robert Lory's 'Vigilante' series continues with 1975's “Los Angeles: Detour to a Funeral”. This book is set just one week after the events that transpired in the series debut, “New York: An Eye for an Eye”. In that story, protagonist Joe Madden watches helplessly as his wife is assaulted and killed on a late night subway ride. Madden, an ordinary guy, takes to the streets with a kitchen knife to kill low-grade street thugs. That book's end had his employer, a mid-level engineering firm, sending him to the West Coast for another project. Now, Madden takes to L.A.'s night-life in this entertaining follow-up.

The beginning of the book has Madden just finishing up some odds and ends in New York's East Village. He comes to the aid of an older man, disposing of two thugs with the business end of his .38 revolver. In one of the series' many philosophical moments, the rescued man challenges Madden's technique by declaring the thugs were young men that didn't deserve killing. This mirrors some of Madden's own self-doubts in the prior book, magnifying his dismissal of morality in pursuit of instant gratification.

Madden's exploits in Los Angeles are nonsensical, but an unnecessary requirement to introduce a plot. With no logistical planning, Madden simply strolls the back streets looking for any wrongdoers. It's literally the bully-buffet, running the gambit from thieves to pimps. Soon, Madden runs across an abused prostitute and attempts to connect with her. After instigating a reunion between the girl and her parents, Madden targets the brothel and the establishment's madam – an overly obese woman with the obligatory name of Big Mama. The book is ultimately just Madden targeting Big Mama, rescuing whores and stopping an acid rock artist from spreading heroin. 

While certainly elementary and far removed from the more gritty, well-established titles like 'The Executioner', 'Death Merchant' and 'The Butcher', Lory's 'Vigilante' is a likable hero that connects well with the average reader. Fans of the genre can see the rough edges of genre specific boundaries, but it's narrative, as tragic and as flawed as it is, makes for a really enjoyable read. I can't say enough good things about this series thus far. 

Next stop, San Francisco.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Vigilante #01 - New York: An Eye for an Eye

This novel, “New York: An Eye for an Eye”, is the debut of a six-volume series entitled ‘Vigilante’. The house name is V.J. Santiago, but it’s written by Robert Lory of ‘John Eagle Expeditor’ fame. It’s a Pinnacle book, and was released in 1975 with easily one of the worst covers of the genre. It’s made painfully abysmal by the promise that it’s “More ruthless than The Executioner and more vengeful than Death Wish!”. Luckily, the book’s pretentious (boisterous) claims are overshadowed by quality writing and an engaging story. Surprisingly, this one is a solid representation of what makes this “revenge” sub-genre so compelling.

The book’s prologue quickly introduces us to a very violent East Seventy-Seventh Street in New York. A young woman named Janet is raped and killed across the street from our protagonist Joe Madden. It’s an eerie precursor of the horror awaiting Madden and his young wife Sara. Lory takes some time introducing us to Madden and building the obligatory relationship not only with his wife Sara, but the reader as well. We go through a hectic day in the life of Madden – business meetings, projects, deadlines in the hustle and bustle engineering field. The two leave a social engagement late and find themselves robbed and viciously assaulted on a vacant subway car. The result leaves Madden hospitalized and his young wife dead.

Lory crafts a progressive, well-developed novel around grief. It’s a portrait study of Madden’s mental state, painting the metamorphosis from shock to grief, heartbreak to hopelessness and ultimately anguish to vengeance. The author blankets each chapter in bleak realism, enveloping the reader in the downward spiral of this man. While “vigilante” is certainly a descriptive term, most of the book is the poignant sea of sorrow. Within the first week of the attack, Madden starts to create a campaign for vengeance. The author builds in a little know-how by explaining that Madden has killed before. He served in the Korean War and provides a little background on a memorable battle. Beyond this, the character knows nothing about crusading or righting the wrongs of lower-class America. He enters battle with a makeshift kitchen knife housed with tape inside of a cardboard sheath. His targets are of the low-life variety – muggers, purse-snatchers, etc. - but he averages a kill a night. Later, he pushes the envelope and keeps an assailant’s .38 revolver and uses it in a climactic killing of a trio of rapists.

The series could be misconstrued as a clone of the vigilante spawn of 1968. At least for this novel, that certainly isn’t the case. While probably not as relevant as an Elmore Leonard or Brian Garfield, the book is every bit as engaging as Messmann’s ‘Revenger’. While this “revenge the death” study in human behavior is captivating, the hardcore fans could shrug off it’s overutilized plot. I’d approach the book as more of a portrait of loss instead of the gritty, men’s action adventure that it professes to be.