I bought this book, a 2000 paperback reprint of the 1973 novel, for five bucks during my book buying spree in Springfield this weekend (wherein I bought 26 new books for myself, which I cannot fit onto my swamped to read bookshelf and must stack on the floor). Mr. Simon, I want you to know that I bought it at an 80% off store, not a used book store, so I hope you’ll get your pennies at the end of the quarter from the purchase. Unlike other bloggers whose books I have bought used.
Well, the quality of the book drops from the cover, wherein Ross MacDonald lauds it, to the introduction, where an apparently hashish-enhanced Richard Dreyfuss, that guy who co-starred with Mike the Dog in Down and Out in Beverly Hills (and, I guess, The Big Fix movie, which would make him keenly insightful into American detective fiction). Dreyfuss gushes about the sixties, man, and how Moses Wine is all that and a big bowl.
The book certainly pays homage to Ross MacDonald and Raymond Chandler. The setting is a light version of Ross MacDonald’s California, not the romanticized landscape of Chandler. The main character is well-read and intelligent man, albeit one who indulges where Philip Marlowe would abstain. Sure, Marlowe drank, but tells a naked Carmen Sternwood to put her clothes on and go home. Wine? He smokes all the dope and hash profferred and takes the freebie from the prostitute. So the main character is likeable enough, but not someone whom I’d want to emulate. So he falls underneath Marlowe, Spenser, and others in the genre. I’m sure Moses Wine is a good role model if you want to be a self-indulgent adolescult (or however you would spell it phonetically to get the proper ess sound out of the sc) like some baby boomers, particularly those I would imagine in California. But not for this stoic-worshipping hard-boiled reader.
The plot, in a timely enough fashion, revolves around a barking moonbat whose support could derail a Democrat candidate’s chances in the primary, and a cabal of rich shadowy figures have their own reasons for it. Moses Wine has to delve, rather easily, into leftist political groups and individuals to find out why. Here’s a hint: It involves Satanism and gambling, but no overt Republicans, although holding companies and corporations play a role.
It’s also quite the period piece; as I was reading it, I was imagining it in the fashion of Altman’s The Long Goodbye which came out the same year.
I did have a little trouble keeping up with the characters and their roles when I was reading a chapter a night, but it eventually cleared into a climax which would have ended differently undoubtedly if Moses Wine carried a gun–which he doesn’t, of course.
But I enjoyed it, thankfully, since I bought the rest of the Moses Wine series except for Wild Turkey for five dollars a throw this weekend. Because he’s a blogger, see, and I hope someday he’ll repay the favor.