Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Clock Is Ticking, And the Hands Are Dripping Blood

WHITE WASH was the third and last of the Mr. Jury novels to be published during the 1980s. All three, including .357 VIGILANTE and MAKE THEM PAY, were written by Lee Goldberg while he was a sophomore at UCLA. I've never understood why the series was called .357 Vigilante, when the character is only called Mr. Jury in the books.

Goldberg is today a very popular novelist and screenwriter (he has recently combined the two jobs with a series of MONK novelizations), but as a college sophomore, he had already demonstrated a knack for telling a crackling action story in a lean manner (as a disclosure, I should mention that Lee and I are Facebook friends and have shared a few friendly emails). Unfortunately, 1985's WHITE WASH is the least of the three .357 Vigilante novels and appears to have been a rush job.

Not only are the story and characters not flushed out as well as they could have been (we never learn anything about the killer except his name), but at 151 pages (with larger-than-normal type), WHITE WASH is much shorter than the earlier books. The concept is a good one, and the sex and violence levels are appropriately gruesome.

Brett Macklin, who stalked and killed infinitely deserving bad guys in the first two books as the street vigilante Mr. Jury, is about to be publicly exposed by Jessica Mordente, a horrified newspaper reporter who learned his secret. She gives him three days to get his affairs together before going to the cops, during which time Macklin must clear his name by finding a racist Mr. Jury copycat killer that targets black people.

The murderer is unsurprisingly in the employ of Anton Damon, a wealthy white supremacist who is the subject of an article Jessica is writing. Goldberg, writing as Ian Ludlow, also creates a murderous Los Angeles mayor in a subplot that doesn't play too well.

The book's highlights are its action sequences, which work very well, even though some of the villains' motivations seem weak. When Macklin is introduced in the first chapter while tinkering with his new gadget-equipped 1959 Cadillac, I turned the pages in great anticipation waiting for him to use that sucker (which he does in a bloody scene that could have come right out of an Executioner novel).

I was surprised to read the announcement on the back page of KILLSTORM, which would have been the fourth .357 Vigilante novel, to be released in January 1986. I didn't recall a fourth book existing, and I was right. Pinnacle went under before KILLSTORM could be published.

The good news is that you and I can read it now. Twenty-five years later, Goldberg has released all four .357 Vigilante novels, including the long-lost KILLSTORM, as Kindle originals. You can learn more about them and find links to their Amazon pages here. I don't have a Kindle, but I have an iPad, and once I acquire the Kindle app from Apple, I look forward to finally reading KILLSTORM. I think the new covers are dull and lack the character of Pinnacle's paperback covers, but according to Goldberg, they have improved his books' sales, so I can't argue too vigorously.

1 comment:

English Teacher X said...

yeah, he doesn't use a .357 in the last two books, either. . .