Sunday, December 16, 2007

Book Review: .357 Vigilante #2 - Make Them Pay, by Ian Ludlow

Make Them Pay is the first book in the series I've read, and I am now eagerly searching out the others, as this book definitely falls in the category of So Bad It's Good.

This short-lived series was apparently ghost written by Lee Goldberg and Lewis Perdue under the series pen name of Ian Ludlow. After lengthy consideration, I have come to the conclusion that this series was written completely tongue-in-cheek, and was meant to be a mockery of Vigilante Men's Action Series such as The Executioner and The Destroyer, with an obvious nod to the Death Wish/Dirty Harry influences as well. I base this theory on the fact that a) Both authors still make a living writing and would therefore hopefully have a better grasp of good and bad concepts, and b) There is no way that it should have taken two people to write this slim series of nonsensical scenes.

There is simply too much corniness to fully cover. Brett Macklin, our heroic vigilante, is a professional pilot with his own air charter company. His father was apparently killed in the first novel by some street hooligans, and since he wiped them out he's been itching to get back into the vengeance business. He's given the opportunity right away when he investigates a supposed child pornographer for the Chief of Police that condones vigilante justice, and in the process botches a tail bad enough to be identified. The next morning his beautiful nurse girlfriend, after a night of smothering each other's naked bodies with ice cream and screwing on the kitchen counter, is blown up in a car bomb meant for him.

But even with a newly dead loved one to seek vengeance over, Brett is still weary of becoming Judge, Jury, and Executioner. Two out of three isn't bad though, and he settles for having an outside party oversee his Vigilante Prosecution, the position of .357 Judge filled by a bitter ex-judge who now acts as the TV Host/Arbiter on a bizarre show that is a cross between People's Court and Let's Make a Deal. Having trivialized the concept of due process beyond comprehension, our favorite vigilante is now free to seek justice/vengeance without guilt or plot complication.

Even so, Macklin still manages to find time between getting his girlfriend killed and killing the bad guys to endanger the lives of other friends and loved ones, bed a hot reporter who is convinced that he is Mr. Jury (the press is apparently better at naming action novel series than the publishers themselves), and dispatch the numerous perpetrators of other crimes that happen to occur in his path.

The punchlines delivered by Mr. Jury whenever he exacts justice on a criminal are so over-the-top ludicrous, they are my ultimate proof that the entire series is a joke. Example: he notices an armed robbery taking progress in a convenience store, quickly grabs a steel level from the construction site next door, and just before caving in the criminal's skull delivers the line "You're unbalanced, buddy." I'm sorry, there is no way you can write that line without total contempt for the intended audience. And they get worse, trust me.

There is a moment near the end of the novel, as the evil child pornography producers are dragging our trussed up hero onto a mock dungeon set, when Brett Macklin looks around at the fake stone walls and mediocre reproduction of a torture rack and mutters "You have got to be kidding me." Brett, its like you read my mind.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

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