Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Justice In The Barrel Of A Gun

The .357 Vigilante series came late to Pinnacle's string of men's adventure series, the first book being published in 1985. This is one of the few from this genre that I actually read when it first came out. Strangely, even though I haven't ridden myself of too many books over the years, .357 VIGILANTE seems to be one of them, as my original copy doesn't appear to be here anymore. However, a recent eBay auction netted me all three in the series at a favorably low price.

Author Ian Ludlow is actually Lee Goldberg, who may be better known as a television writer who has worked pretty consistently since the 1980s on mystery series like SPENSER: FOR HIRE, THE COSBY MYSTERIES, DIAGNOSIS: MURDER, BAYWATCH, MARTIAL LAW, SEAQUEST DSV, BURKE'S LAW and MONK. He also keeps busy today writing tie-in novels based on some of those shows, but early in his career, he was cranking out these .357 Vigilante actioners.

The plot is not exactly original. Brett Macklin is a helicopter pilot and classic car renovator who goes into bloodthirsty action when his cop father is burned alive by Los Angeles street punks. The killers are set free on a bogus technicality, spurring the previously non-violent Macklin to hunt them with his dad's old .357 Magnum.

However, the story is more complicated than that, as more bodies begin falling in L.A., all of them belonging to Officer Macklin's friends. Not only does this political conspiracy involving a gubernatorial race place Brett's life in jeopardy, but he must also resist the efforts of his best friend, a police detective assigned to capture the vigilante killer, dubbed by the press "Mr. Jury."

Judging from Goldberg's TV credits, you can guess the type of story he delivers here. It's straightforward and clean without subtext, symbolism or suspense. Some of the dialogue could easily come out of David Hasselhoff's mouth, it's puerile enough. The book's also a bit long at 214 pages. But it's a good, brisk read with plenty of action and pop culture references to make it a slicked-up, dumbed-down PG-13 version of the Executioner.


English Teacher X said...

Yes, I remember reading an interview with him in a college mag -- one of those things you got free at the bookshop -- discussing his writing of the books. It was apparently a job passed on to him by his undergrad writing teacher, who was also an author of thrillers, and he got course credit for it.

On his website he mentions that he wrote them just before Pinnacle went belly-up, and he never saw a dime in royalties from them.

Great covers, right up there with the "Hawker" books. . .

Lee Goldberg said...

English Teacher X is right. I wrote the books when I was a sophomore at UCLA (the article you recall reading was "Hot Sexy & Gory Violence: How one college student pays his tuition" from the magazine Newsweek On Campus). The professor was novelist Lewis Perdue, who is perhaps best known now for his lawuit against Dan Brown for plagerism.

While it's true that I never saw any royalties, I optioned the movie rights to New World Pictures, which is how I became a screenwriter. So I guess I owe .357 VIGILANTE for my career in TV and in books.


Pork Chop Sandwich said...

Bit late to the party, but I remember this series fondly-ish from my misspent tweens. Loved those trips to Waldenbooks to pick out a "Men's Adventure" book or two, depending on how much lunch money I'd cadged that week. Casca, Outrider, Able Team, Vallejo - covered Tarzan reissues, aah, the memories...
I grabbed this one mainly because I was OBSESSED with '59 Cadillacs at the time. An Armored Caddy with machine guns under the hood? That almost qualifies as wank material. Also made a butt load more sense than the Last Ranger's ma-deuce Harley.
Really enjoying the blog.