Thursday, August 30, 2007

Death Wish, by Brian Garfield

(hb; 1972: prequel to Death Sentence)

From the inside flap:

"Paul Benjamin... lives in a roomy old apartment on New York's upper West Side. He's an accountant who has lived in the city all of his life. His daughter is married and he is comfortably settled with his wife in their old apartment, in the middle of the city and its all its problems -- pollution, drugs, cost of living and, particularly crime in the streets. Like most New Yorkers, Paul is concerned about the crime rate, but he has never been afraid.

"Not until one day when crime crosses his own threshold. Suddenly, Paul and his family are the people you read about in the newspapers, victims of a vicious, unprovoked attack. For a few days, even a week, what happened to Paul is of concern to everybody in New York: newspaper readers, the neighborhood, the police. But then another story takes its place and Paul has to pick up his life again, go to work, pay his taxes, and refrain from screaming in public places. But Paul can no longer do this; the world, the city has now become a private battleground on which he is fighting for his life. A battle calls for a gun. He gets one. And he starts to use it."


Stark, grimy and full of despair, Death Wish tracks Paul as he goes from being a concerned liberal to a gun-toting urban avenger, over the course of a few months. The plot is largely action-driven and tied to Paul's grief (which rarely veers from simmering rage) -- that is to say, this angry tale rings true, with a sublime "open" ending; it's not just some vigilante fantasy, it's a provocative, focused work.

Followed by Death Sentence.

The film version was released stateside on July 24, 1974.

Charles Bronson played Paul Kersey (the movie equivalent of Paul Benjamin). Vincent Gardenia played Frank Ochoa. Jeff Goldlbum played "Freak #1".

Michael Winner, who also directed Bronson in five other films, directed this, from a script by Wendell Mayes.

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