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Death Wish by Brian Garfield

Death Wish (1972)

by Brian Garfield

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Well-known novel (made into a movie) about a conventional liberal lawyer whose wife is killed and daughter becomes mentally disabled after being beaten by muggers He eventually buys a pistol and begins shooting minor street criminals; at the end of the book, despite a close call, he is still doing it. The novel is told from his viewpoint (though not first person), so his motives are sympathetically explored, but it is not clear whether the writer intends the reader to agree with his decision. ( )
  antiquary | Aug 16, 2017 |
Much like First Blood (Rambo) released in the same year, the book has been overshadowed by the subsequent movie franchise. And much like First Blood, the literary version of the carachter is more nuanced , fragile and interesting. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
"There are times I’m convinced there’s nothing more to existence in this world than a black desert where blind people pick up rocks and grope around to kill one another.”

There's a reason why Garfield's novel of vigilante justice resonated so well with both the reading a film-going population of the seventies. The economic and sociopolitical struggles of that decade was woven deep into the very cultural existence at the time. Death Wish - with its lingering look at the emotional deterioration of the survivor of inner-city gang violence that eventually leads to violent assaults in a desperate attempt to achieve some sort of societal (if not cosmic) justice - managed to appeal not only to a segment of the population that wished to retaliate against increasing crime and disharmony with bloody retribution, but also to those who feared this kind of romanticized barbarism.

Garfield achieves this dual status by allowing the reader to remain empathetic to the plight of Paul Benjamin after his wife and daughter are attacked (and the wife killed) by drug addicted street thugs, but doesn't manufacture exterior excuses or rationalizations for his increasingly misanthropic worldview and behavior, enabling one to understand without condoning, or conversely, to cheer on Benjamin without losing sight of the disconnect with humanity caused by his actions. In other hands, Death Wish would be just another men's adventure novel (exactly what the film franchise became, ironically), but instead it is a journey into the depths of human desperation, obsession, and ultimately, personal retribution.

"We are all dressing for dinner in the jungle." ( )
  smichaelwilson | Dec 6, 2016 |
The book that inspired the film, this is a slim, thoughtful meditation on grief and loss and anger that leads to violence as the only rational response to a dangerous world. Whether it's a moral response is left ambiguous. This isn't sleazy or exploitative or even sanctimonious. Mostly it's just sad story about a man transformed into his opposite by a horrible loss. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
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Paul Benjamin, a successful accountant in New York City, is enjoying a three-martini lunch when his home is broken into by a gang of drug addicts. For just a handful of money, they savagely beat Paul's wife and daughter, leaving his wife dead and his daughter comatose. Grief-stricken and forced to reevaluate his views, Benjamin becomes disillusioned with society and plots his revenge on the perpetrators, whom the police are unable to bring to justice. Armed with a revolver and total disregard for his own safety, he sets out to even the score. Adapted by Wendell Mayes into the 1974 feature film starring Charles Bronson, Death?Wish ?is now a new major motion picture starring Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Camila Morrone and Kimberly Elise, written by Joe Carnahan and directed by Eli Roth.… (more)

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