Monday, August 22, 2011

The Big Fix by Roger L. Simon (1973): Playing Clue Solitaire

The '60s are over, and unlikely private detective Moses Wine knows it. He's a Jewish divorced father of two young sons who likes to get high and tries to forget those radical days, because in '70s California, that could get you dead. Or worse - not voted into office. Then Lila Shea, the former lover Wine hasn't seen in half a decade, turns up at his door asking him for help with the the presidential campaign of Senator Miles Hawthorne. The self-exiled Abbie Hoffman-esque Howard Eppis has been endorsing the campaign with a series of flyers linking him to Mao and Lenin - positively of course - and the campaign calls on Wine to track him down and get Eppis to stop. Hawthorne might be progressive, but he's not crazy. So the wonderfully named private dick Wine hits the scorching streets of East L.A. looking for answers... and soon, for who killed Lila Shea.

Roger L. Simon has written several novels with Wine over the years in which his detective seems to be mapping out a chart of contemporary history. I spent months looking for a copy of The Big Fix in bookstores and had no luck till I was browsing in a Hollywood bookstore. I wasn't blown away by The Big Fix or anything, found it good in places and confusing in others; even, at times, unbelievably violent, in the sense that characters seemed more brutal than I found credible. If anything, I recommend the delightful 1978 film version with Richard Dreyfuss, who's perfectly cast as Wine, trying to hang onto ideals long since forgotten by everybody but him, it seems (too bad he didn't play the character again). It cuts down on some of the book's more outre plot (satanic cults) and captures a laid-back LA of the time filled with uptight political wranglers, as well as Wine's tough-comic-cynical nature and his concerns for the impact his odd lifestyle will have on his sons. I've been digging on LA noir lately so if that's your thing too, you should see if The Big Fix will fix you right.

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