Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante

As I argue in The Dying City this was a fantasy universe with critical consequences for the real world. Normalizing the vigilante was one key contingency of Spillane’s bestselling writing. Hammer was by no means the first, he’s preceded in time and succeeded in fame by Batman among others, but he did demonstrate that the vigilante no longer had to hide behind a mask or escape into a cave. He could operate in public, carry a private detective’s shield and a licensed gun and kill suspected criminals because “I like to shoot those dirty bastards.” In my book I connect Hammer with his filmic counterparts in 1970s New York, in particular Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) of Death Wish, and their unfortunate 1980s analogues like Bernard Goetz, the so-called subway vigilante, or the teenage terrorists of Howard Beach, Queens. Continue Reading Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante