Monday, February 21, 2022

QUICK SHOTS: Vigilante #4: Knock, Knock You're Dead by V.J. (Robert Lory) Santiago

So, it's the 70's and someone kills your wife, whatta ya do? Go a vigilante rampage, of course. In the wake of the one-two-punch that was Don Pendleton' The Executioner and Brian Garfield's "Death Wish" the paperback racks had plenty of vigilantes to pick from. They ranged from a wilder pulpier version like The Penetrator with dart guns and trips to space or down-beat and grimy tales of The Sharpshooter or The Revenger. Every publisher was giving them a shot (pun intended) and even Pinnacle, the home of Mack Bolan at the time, threw more revenge at you with six-book series: The Vigilante by V.J. Santiago. Santiago was actually Robert Lory who's mostly known these days as the author of the groovy Dracula Returns books. He also wrote a number (of the better) tales in the John Eagle, Expeditor books as well as some Sci-Fi that looks pretty sweet. 

"Knock, Knock You're Dead" is the fourth book in the series and it stars Joe Madden who (in the timeline of the books) just THREE WEEKS ago lost his wife and began his quest for vengeance. I have read the first in the series "An Eye for an Eye" which acts has his Death-Wish-Origin-Story (and enjoyed it) where it all starts, but I guess I didn't know or remember that the series runs together that tightly, almost like Mike Barry's Lone Wolf or Gilbert Ralston's Dakoata books where they a more like one long epic novel, as opposed to serialized adventures. 

It's interesting in the differences of approach to various series. I would think that a less "serial approach" would be better. That way any of the books is a jumping off point for a reader. But the "long novel" form can make for a richer reading experience, following someone in short order as they go do Men's Adventuring. Well, either way I guess it got me to buy the rest of 'em to fill in the gaps, so its effective. 

This entry takes Madden to Chicago (each book's got a different locale) where he is using his job as an engineer to look over security in a bank (huh?) and running into some 70s-type terrorists who are bombing buildings in the city. I don't remember Madden being quite this nutzo in the first volume, so there must a sliding-scale going on here in terms of his vigilante actions. It makes sense, no sane person goes around blasting away punks. Either way Madden is all-about the murder now. He's practically chomping at the bit to take out the baddies and inflict pain on those he deems worthy of it, it's not exactly pleasant at times, venturing into the sexual arena, so fair warning. I do like how he's not a professional killer or anything. He was in Korea and is fairly smart, being an engineer, but that's it. Not a spy or a cop or even a Green Beret. He doesn't have access to an arsenal of weapons; his two guns: a snub-nose .38 Colt and a .32 Mauser HSc, come for dead enemies or purchased from low-level mob guys along with the bullets. It's a nice little touch of realism in the wild-ass antics of this book. There's plenty of shootin and bombin' though along with waitress/prostitutes, conniving businessmen, career opportunities in the mafia, and various tough-guy antics. The book is pretty sleazy but it being a Pinnacle it's not quite a sleazy as say a Manor book or a Belmont Tower. 

I really dug the lean writing style Lory puts to use here. Some of his other work, I'm looking at you Dracula is a bit more "stuffed" being like 20-30 pages too full for an adventure paperback of the time. The Vigilante books stand up and run to the finish. This one is a little needlessly complicated, but nothing too bad. I look forward to taking on the rest of the novels in the series, I'll probably start from #2 and go on in order from now on, though. It's not 100% necessary to read it #1 through #6, it's pretty easy to pick up what happened in the other books (it's a Men's Adventure novel, so you know, mayhem), you won't be too lost if you pick up a middle entry. Like all the Men's Adventure paperbacks, these are slowly rising in prices. I picked up the few I already had for next to nothing, a buck or two max. Now they are running closer to 10 to 15 a piece and these ones have never been reprinted (yet) so you'll have to track the paper copies down if you want to give them a try. 

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