So I mentioned last month that the Death Wish franchise is actually based off of books. Death Sentence is the second book in the series, but because we just looked at the movie of the same name, it’s fresh on our minds. The name is of course, pretty much where the similarities end.
Written by Brian Garfield, the author of the original Death Wish book. He was unhappy with the way the original movie ended, so he wrote his own sequel a year later. In many ways, it seems like he’s trying to work out his own second amendment issues in these novels and more than once, you get a whiff of cognitive dissonance here.
While technically a follow up to the novel, in many ways it reads a spin-off to the film. In either way, it’s well done. This feels less like a sequel and more like a second chapter, or third act. Indeed, it almost immediately feels like what I always expected a Death Wish story to be.
After the events in New York, Paul has moved to Chicago, but it hasn’t stopped his vigilante urges. Both the cops and the criminal element soon notice that the Vigilante has moved and the manhunt begins. Along the way, Paul falls in love again but soon realizes he must choose between being the vigilante or having a life with this woman. And even while the street crime rate drops, things are complicated further when copycat killers begin to emerge.
This is a fascinating read, with greater detail about the Vigilatne’s methods. We explore how he acquires guns, hides then and stalks. We get greater insight to the politics in the police department and how they want to handle it, and in general, both pro and anti gun sentiments are handled well (though Garfield makes his leanings clear).
It’s a harder book to find these days. Death Wish was reprinted in time for the remake, but this book didn’t get the same treatment (I managed to snag a kindle version using a gift card from a costume contest last year). It’s actually the superior of the two Death Wish Novels and worth hunting down.
Did anyone else here realize that the original Charles Bronson film was based off a novel? I sure didn’t. But the good news is that the release of the remake has also led to the novel getting reprinted in hardcover, and that makes it mercifully simple to find. Not so much with it’s sequel “Death Sentence”, but I’m working on that one.
I was surprised as to how much of the basic plot from the Death Wish novel made it into the film. It’s in many ways the same story, so what I really want to highlight are the differences.
We see a great deal more of the son-in-law in the book. He’s a bit of a weasel but he’s there to serve as a sounding board. He embodies the liberal archetype this book sets as the standard, even as Paul swings ever so slightly to the right. The assault on the wife and daughter are never described in detail. The film is far more lurid in it’s portrayal – the book goes out of it’s way to insist there was no rape. I kind of appreciate that. Still, we get a LOT more of Paul’s inner monologue as he begins his descent into violence. His violence is more random, and there’s just as much of it as we see in the movie. The ending is very different. Unresolved but very interesting.
Reading this, I can see where the film gets it’s social messaging from. It’s very heavy handed here, and while the film seems balanced, the author of the novel has definitely chosen a side on the left wing – which is odd because his hero is on the opposite end of his philosophy, causing an interesting cognitive dissonance.
Like the film, it moves slow. Most of the book is about getting over the tragedy of Paul losing his wife and daughter, and the madness of feeling alone. It absolutely draws you in and compels you. By the time we hit that last quarter of the novel where the shooting starts, it feels almost like we’ve got a completely different book in our hands.
I’m conflicted as to what is superior – the film or the book. The intellectual and literary snob in me wants to say the book, and yet the film is comfort food – not only is it familiar, there’s things it just does better. Do yourself a favor and check both the original film and this novel out from the Library so you can compare and contrast for yourself.