Monday, May 16, 2011

The Jury Series #1: Judgment - Lee Goldberg

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.


Randy Johnson said...

I have the three original paperbacks and the e-book of the fourth. They are good.

Jack Badelaire said...

I read the first book and yeah, very solid 80's action fare.

If you really want to mess with your own head a little, read Brian Garfield's Death Wish and then Judgment immediately afterward. Moving forward a decade and switching coasts makes for a BIG change...

Lee Goldberg said...

Thanks for the kind words, James. It's hard for me to believe that it's been nearly thirty years since I wrote those books. Some of the writing makes me cringe...and some of it is certainly dated..but mostly I'm amused by it. What's really strange is that sometimes a sentence or a scene will bring back memories I haven't had in, well, thirty years. I can remember where I was when I wrote certain portions...or what was happening in my life at the time. The books are a time capsule for me in many ways. But I'm thrilled to learn that they are still entertaining to read for others.


James Reasoner said...

I feel the same way when I look at those Mike Shayne stories I wrote more than thirty years ago. It's almost like someone else wrote them. I used to read interviews with pulp writers where they made similar comments and could never understand how somebody would feel that way about their stories. Now I know what they meant.