Back in the mid-Eighties, I was working in a used bookstore, and I used to see copies of a book called .357 VIGILANTE, by an author I’d never heard of named Ian Ludlow. I could tell it was a men’s adventure novel, a genre that wasn’t nearly as robust then as it had been ten years earlier. I read a lot of those books, but for some reason I don’t think I ever even picked up a copy of .357 VIGILANTE and flipped through it, let alone read it.
This is a classic case of not knowing what I was missing.
Now, of course, we know that “Ian Ludlow” was actually a college student named Lee Goldberg, who went on to become a top-notch novelist, screenwriter, and producer. He’s also a friend of mine and co-creator of THE DEAD MAN e-book series, for which I’ve written one of the books. So this isn’t exactly an unbiased review, but you know I don’t tell you something is good unless I really think it is.
The .357 VIGILANTE series ran for three books, all published by Pinnacle (in its original incarnation, not the Pinnacle line that’s now published by Kensington). There was a fourth book in the series that was never published at the time. However, Lee has brought back all four novels as e-books, which can be fought separately or all together under the title THE JURY SERIES. I just read the first one, now titled JUDGMENT, and it’s a fine novel.
You know right away that this is a little different from the usual men’s adventure novel because of the protagonist, Brett Macklin. Most of the men’s adventure heroes had military or law enforcement backgrounds. Brett is an aeronautical engineer who has become a pilot and owns a flying service that does a lot of work with movie companies, providing helicopters for aerial filming. Brett’s father is a beat cop in Los Angeles, though, and it’s his brutal murder in an apparently senseless thrill killing that starts Brett on the road to becoming a vigilante. The killers, members of a gang called the Bounty Hunters, escape justice in the courts, so Brett sets out to deliver some justice of his own, calling himself Mr. Jury.
Again, though, Brett is no superhuman men’s adventure hero. He screws up, he gets hurt, he’s lucky not to get killed several times, but eventually he uncovers an even bigger plot that puts a lot of people in danger.
This is a really entertaining thrill ride of a story with plenty of sex, violence, humor, social commentary, and great action scenes. When I think about what I was writing when I was in college . . . well, there’s really no comparison. JUDGMENT is the work of someone who was a solid pro, right from the first page.
I have the other three books in the series and will be getting to them soon. If you’ve been reading and enjoying the DEAD MAN books or Lee’s other novels and haven’t tried THE JURY SERIES yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. Highly recommended.