Book Report: California Roll by Roger L. Simon (1985, 2001)

As some of you know, I bought four of Roger L. Simon’s Moses Wine novels The Big Fix, Peking Duck, The Lost Coast, and this book) for $5 a throw at a remaindered book store in November, 2004. Oh, how the world has changed since then. Roger L. Simon is now an Internet mogul. Byron Preiss, the man behind the company that reissued the novels, has died and the iBooks has gone belly up. And I’m in no danger of becoming a Moses Wine fan.

This book deals with Moses Wine, ca. 1985, joining a computer company patterned after Apple as its director of security. Wine is given cryptic instructions by the Wiz (not Woz, get it?) that Wine’s not only to handle security, but to look into…something. It’s corporate espionage and it requires a trip to Japan (much like Peking Duck requires a trip to China). We get the obligatory action in Japan, wherein the first person narrator who’s never been to Japan and doesn’t know much about the country provides some excellent expository information. In the end, of course, it’s the government agent gone rogue that’s killing everyone. Except for the Russians, who are killing people too. Or someone.

Here are some quick bullet points that capture what bothers me about this book and the series:

  • Moses Wine has been on the cover of Rolling Stone. When a private detective becomes a celebrity, I don’t really relate to the character much. See also Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole.
  • The voice of the first time visitor to Japan laying on the expository information and Japanese terms rankles me. It’s the sound of an author who wants to show he’s done his research.
  • Although I didn’t work at a computer company in the 1980s, I’ve done my time in the 1990s and the 2000s. I found the characterization of the culture at Tulip facile.
  • The introductions by the author were a bit much. I guess that’s what they wanted with the reissues, but I found it self-indulgent.
  • Moses Wine reminds me less of Lew Archer and more of Dirk Gently, with drug use and nonchalant sex.

There you have it. I made it through the four books I read, and don’t plan to seek out the remaining in the series.

Books mentioned in this review: