Death Wish (novel)

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Death Wish
Death Wish novel.jpg
First edition
AuthorBrian Garfield
CountryUnited States
PublisherDavid McKay
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Followed byDeath Sentence 

Death Wish is a 1972 novel by Brian Garfield.[1] A sequel novel, Death Sentence, was published in 1975.


Paul Benjamin is a CPA in New York and lifelong liberal. However, his staid life is overturned when his daughter, Carol, and wife, 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 a right-wing extremist, 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.


  • Paul Benjamin – The protagonist of the story, Paul begins to slowly turn to vigilantism right after his family was brutally mugged.
  • Esther BenjaminDeceased wife of Paul Benjamin, little is known about her except that she met Paul back in high school, she and her daughter are attacked offscreen from the book.
  • Carol Benjamin Tobey – Paul and Esther's 23-year-old daughter and wife of lawyer Jack Tobey. After the beating from the muggers, her mental state deteriorates.
  • Jack Tobey – Paul's son-in-law, works as a lawyer.
  • Sam Kreutzer – Paul's best friend, he 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 meets and sleeps with one night in Tucson. The next day after she leaves Paul, he purchases a gun.

Film adaptations[edit]

A feature film based on the novel was made in 1974, starring Charles Bronson in the lead role as Paul Benjamin (the surname being changed to Kersey and profession being an architect) and directed by Michael Winner.[2][3] A remake, starring Bruce Willis in the lead role (also named "Kersey" and profession being changed to surgeon) and directed by Eli Roth, was released in 2018.

1975 sequel novel[edit]

Garfield was so disappointed in the 1974 film adaption that he was inspired to write the book sequel Death Sentence the following year.[4][5]


  1. ^ "16 Lively Facts About Death Wish". 14 April 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Death Wish - British Board of Film Classification". Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  3. ^ Talbot, Paul (9 February 2006). "Bronsonýs Loose!: The Making of the Death Wish Films". iUniverse. Retrieved 6 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Lawrence, John Shelton; Jewett, Robert (6 August 2017). "The Myth of the American Superhero". Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. Retrieved 6 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Historian: Interview with Brian Garfield". Retrieved 6 August 2017.