Death Wish

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For the series, see Death Wish (film series). For the psychological condition, see Death drive. For other uses, see Death Wish (disambiguation).
Death Wish
Death Wish novel.jpg
First edition
Author Brian Garfield
Country United States
Language English
Genre Crime
Thriller novel
Publisher David McKay
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0-679-50299-8
Followed by Death Sentence

Death Wish is a 1972 novel by Brian Garfield.


Paul Benjamin is a CPA in New York and lifelong liberal. However, his staid life is overturned when his daughter, Carol, and spouse, Esther, are attacked by muggers. His wife does not survive the attack, and his traumatized daughter is left in a vegetative state. Forced to reevaluate his views, Benjamin becomes paranoid and eager for vengeance. While on a business trip in Arizona, he buys a revolver and brings it back to New York. Benjamin shoots a mugger who accosts him. Benjamin continues to take justice into his own hands, drawing would-be muggers into traps by using himself as the bait. In one case, he rents a car, pulls it over to the side of the road, and writes an "Out of Gas" sign on the vehicle. He then hides, waiting for someone to steal the car. When some lawbreakers do so, he shoots them.

It is only within the last fifty pages of the first novel that Benjamin slays his first victim. The second novel, Death Sentence, states that Benjamin murdered seventeen people over five weeks.

Film adaptation[edit]

Main article: Death Wish (film)

In 1974, a film based on the novel was made, starring Charles Bronson and directed by Michael Winner.


  • Paul Benjamin- The protagonist of the story, Paul begins to slowly turn to vigilantism right after his family was brutally mugged. Note: In the film version that character's last name was changed to Kersey and works as an architect, unlike the book.
  • Esther Benjamin- Deceased wife of Paul Benjamin, little is known about her except that she met Paul back in high school, she and her daughter were attacked offscreen from the book, unlike the movie where the scene is detailed.
  • Carol Benjamin Tobey- Paul and Esther's twenty-three-year-old daughter and wife of lawyer Jack Tobey, after the beating from the muggers, her mental state deteriorates throughout the book.
  • Jack Tobey- Paul's son-in-law, works as a lawyer.
  • Sam Kreutzer- Paul's best friend, he clearly does what he can to help Paul after the event that took his family and his life.
  • Adele Kreutzer- Wife of Sam Kreutzer.
  • Henry Ives- Paul's boss.
  • Bill Dundee- One of Paul's co-workers.
  • George Eng- One of Paul's co-workers.
  • John Childress- one of Paul's co-workers.
  • Lieutenant Malcolm Briggs- Detective who is under investigation on the home invasion of Paul's family.
  • Inspector Frank Ochoa- Detective who is on the "Vigilante case" investigation.
  • Officer Joe Charles- Officer who was the first at aid and response of Paul's daughter and wife after they were mugged.
  • Ira Nermserman- One of Paul's clients who owns a big industry.
  • Thomas Leroy Marston- The first mugger Paul kills.
  • Ames Jainchill- One of Paul's clients that he visits in Tucson, Arizona to get away from New York a few weeks.
  • Shirley Mackenzie- A short-lived girlfriend that Paul met and slept with one night in Tucson, it would be the next day after she left Paul, that he purchases a gun.

Sequel Novel[edit]