Lee Goldberg originally published The Jury Series in 1985 as .357 Vigilante under the pseudonym Ian Ludlow, while he was in college. The 2009 edition consists of not only the first three novels in the series – Judgment, Adjourned, and Payback – it also includes Guilty, which was never in print before.
It’s not safe in Los Angeles. People are being senselessly killed … like the aging lady in the midst of a middle-age crisis, like a Chinese restaurateur, and like a long-time beat patrolman.
When LAPD patrolman James Douglas “JD” Macklin is set aflame by members of the Bounty Hunters gang, his son Brett Macklin, owner of Blue Yonder Airways, wants justice done. He wants the killers caught and punished.
Unfortunately, the gang members are set free when one of their members’ mother lies and the charges are dismissed. Brett takes matters into his own hands. Dubbed “The Jury” by the news media, Brett eliminates the gang, plus others involved in the murder, including Mayor Breen and evangelist Elias Simon.
Then, Brett goes quiet. Until the new mayor, Jed Stocker, resurrects The Jury, forcing Brett to help him quell gang violence.
If Brett Macklin thought his days as The Jury vigilante were over, he was badly mistaken. Mayor Stocker “recruits” him to bring down a child pornographer named Wesley Saputo, teaming Bret with his old friend, Sgt. Ron Shaw.
His involvement becomes not just a moral issue, it also becomes personal when his lover, Cheshire Davis (a nurse friend of his partner Mort Suderson’s sister) is killed when his Cadillac disintegrates in a fiery explosion.
But Brett has terms, insisting that a third party be brought in to evaluate evidence and determine the guilt of the intended targets. In other words, he needs someone to validate the killings and “pass sentence” on the targets.
Meanwhile, Jessica Mordente, a Los Angeles Times reporter, is hot on his trail, certain that she’s identified him as The Jury. Things get complicated as they become lovers.
Someone is posing as Mr. Jury, going on a killing spree, and LA Times reporter Jessica has been sitting on proof that Brett is the vigilante, mostly because she’s become his lover.
Now, however, she’s threatening to expose him, horrified that Mr. Jury has killed a 25-year-old black boy. It doesn’t get any easier either; Mayor Jed Stocker also is mad at him.
Mayor Stocker and Brett come up with a system that would allow former judge Harlan Fitz to pass judgment on suspects, based on evidence presented before him in secret. If Judge Fitz gives his nod, Brett can consider that his authorization.
It turns out that the fake Mr. Jury has been hired by Anton Damon, leader of white supremacy group White Wash, who’s just out of prison after serving time for butchering a black family of three. He’s being protected and financed by 83-year-old arch-conservative industrialist Justin Threllkiss.
Brett exacts justice, of course, in a story full of action descriptions and rather light on story and subtlety. If nothing else, author Goldberg succeeds in making me hate Jessie Mordente. Well, maybe “dislike intensely” is a better term. No, “hate” does the job just fine.
The octogenarian bigot, Justin Threllkiss, just won’t give up. He hates Brett Macklin. So much so that he hires an international assassin to get rid of him.
That aside, the first thing we learn in Guilty is how to kill pigeons with Alka-Seltzer. The second thing is that Brett’s pilot and mechanic, Mort Suderman, shouldn’t have had that tongue operation after all. And the third thing is that Brett’s girlfriend, LA Times reporter Jessie Mordente shouldn’t have gone under deep cover to expose the Transformational Awareness Life Church as a sex-slave-production factory.
None of the above really has anything directly to do with the plot, but they are peripheral events that slowly turn Brett into a real loner by taking away his friends, his lovers and his family.
Guilty has some gratuitous sex in it – scenes that we need to take with a simmering fright in our minds because we know it’s all just temporary pleasure. It’s all going to turn bad in the end. There’s a lot of violence as well, highly descriptive violence with body parts flying through the air.
But what the hell, Goldberg was just a college kid at the time, and we all know how college kids think. I mean, that’s how I thought when I was in college.
Compared to his later works that I’ve read, Goldberg is a lot more sexually descriptive in this series, perhaps because he was a collegian when he wrote the stories. He probably should have been more careful with his homophones. He’s got quite a bit of wrong word choices (i.e., Its/it’s, their/there).
The Jury Series isn’t what I consider special. It was okay, but nothing I’d recommend, unless you want to get an idea of Lee Goldberg’s mind-set when he was younger.
CreateSpace (Paperback, $14.99)