Taking cues from the Pulp Action boxing heroes of Robert E Howard, Justin Throngard blends genres with an 80’s action ascetic and tosses his hero deep into the bowels of a corrupt prison system. Murray Bench is an up and coming prize-fighter when he runs afoul of a local crime boss and ends up in prison. The son of a murdered cop and a man of principle and honor, Murray is forced to fight by a corrupt warden capitalizing on his celebrity inmate. But Irvine Graves isn’t done with him just yet. Events continue to elevate the stakes for our hero and he is forced to fight in the ring and in the prison yard itself to survive. He has few allies and a growing list of enemies. Can he overcome the odds, or will he be just another victim to the system?
Throngard’s action set pieces come to life as he describes the violence, the pain, and the consequences for every advantage lost. Murray Bench is a “die hard” style hero, a man who won’t just quit or sell out his friends when the going is tough. He takes a beating throughout the novel and he pays for his principles, but he encourages and inspires the friends he meets along the way. But at the core of the story is a consistent theme of taking responsibility for your actions. Throngard tackles some tough issues on the philosophy of law enforcement, incarceration, and how one pays their debt to society. It’s that theme that ties the book together and drives the actions and motivations of both heroes and villains. While the action stands out with some brutal fights, my favorite moments were the quieter discussions on how a the law is maintained. Corruption, honor, loyalty both deserved and undeserved, and the consequences for actions are all on display here and Throngard’s characters struggle with the answers just as deeply as they struggle with the dangers of a life in prison.
The first in a planned series (entitled: The Phoenix and the Ranger), The Golden Right is currently available in both paperback and kindle formats through Amazon. Justin Throngard is also host to one of my favorite podcasts, “Stinker Madness”. His love of action movies and b-grade genre film runs deep.
8 out of 10, a high recommend for quick pulp action lovers.