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Book Review: 187 When Courts Fail by Wade J. Halverson

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Vigilante books and movies have been around for a long, long time. And of course, vigilante movies are probably much more famous than vigilante books. Remember the Death Wish series of movies? They starred Charles Bronson as an uptown architect, who, when the legal system proved to be bankrupt, decided to dispense his own brand of justice.

Bronson bought a gun. Then he began walking the streets late at night, using himself as bait. Bad guys were drawn to him like steeling filings to a magnet. Bronson executed them with machine-like efficiency. Never mind the fact that Bronson’s character was just as guilty as the criminals he hunted. That wasn’t the point of the movies. The point of the movies was this: when the system fails, then someone has to step up and take care of business. Because if they don’t, then no one else will.

The person who fills the gap is the vigilante.

And that’s what Wade J. Halverson’s action-thriller is about – the concept of vigilantism. It’s called 187 When Courts Fail.

The bad guy in Halverson’s book is Felix Flowers. Felix Flowers vibes pure evil. Felix Flowers vibes predator. As the story opens, Flowers is in prison. Then he’s released. Almost immediately, Flowers oscillates his way through a heinous crime.

Only this time, Flowers picked the wrong guy to mess with. John Boyer is a billionaire, who believes in taking care of business – one way or the other. Boyer concludes the court system has failed. So he chooses an alternate route, one that isn’t on the map. He goes hyper-vigilante.

Boyer hooks up with Kane Silver and his brotherhood. Kane’s brotherhood specializes in righteous terminal mayhem. Taking care of business is Kane’s middle name. Boyer’s vigilantism exceeds all rational boundaries, going beyond the pale. Imagine Clint Eastwood — in his ultra-violent Magnum Force – joining up with the vigilante cops, and you’ll begin to understand the point of the compass Halverson’s story follows. Over-the-top doesn’t begin to describe it.

There are at least two ways to approach When Courts Fail, philosophically speaking. The first approach is to accept the story as nothing more than pure fiction, a story written for the purpose of entertainment. The other approach involves the presentation and adjudication of a radical answer to atrocious criminality, a form of criminality that Halverson defines as “terrorism.” Whether or not vigilantism is ever justified makes for interesting debate. Readers will have to decide for themselves precisely at what point right and wrong converge, thus producing a kind of moral Schrodinger’s Cat dilemma.

Stylistically, Halverson is the literary offspring of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Heinlein, with just a dash of Vince Flynn. A volatile combination that translates into full-spectrum, phase-locked, pulsating action from the word ‘go.’ Yet at the same time, a mystical spirituality pokes its head up every now and then, making Kane and his crew much more than mere thugs-for-hire. Kane is a sensitive human being, who attempts to navigate a moral passage through a modern world trapped in mediation, disillusion, and self-inflicted impotence.

All in all, When Courts Fail is another excellent book from Wade J. Halverson, who isn’t afraid of taking on delicate subject matter.

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About Randall Radic