Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Book: The Man With The Iron-On Badge, by Lee Goldberg (2005)

One of the few things guaranteed to set my teeth on edge in a mystery is the lead character who constantly wonders how their favorite fictional detectives would handle the situation. It’s an amateurish way of building reader identification. “You read Kinsey Millhone? So do I! And I like Janet Evanovich, too. Isn’t she great?”

But a talented writer can not only take a hackneyed ploy and turn it on its head. He can build an entire novel around it.

Lee Goldberg is a veteran television scribe (DIAGNOSIS: MURDER) and author of both tie-ins (um, DIAGNOSIS: MURDER) and original novels. His BEYOND THE BEYOND is a personal favorite, a bitingly funny book about the TV business by an insider. When Lee tees off on fan fiction over at his must-read blog, it’s because the man knows whereof he speaks.

IRON-ON BADGE’s Harvey Mapes drifted into security work because he thought it would be like MANNIX or one of his Gold Medal paperbacks. He stays in it because it gives him time to read more Gold Medal paperbacks. When a resident of the gated community where he works hires him to tail his wife, Harvey finally gets his chance to make like Spenser.

The book is about Harvey’s discovery that real-life crime isn’t like the fictional variety at all. At first, the differences are played for laughs, but when Harvey’s case takes a tragic turn, Lee never loses his footing. Harvey actually matures on the page, a transformation made evident in the character’s distinctive voice. He stops wising off and starts wising up.

Miscellaneous: Feel The Burn

For some reason, the Giorgio Moroder theme to MIDNIGHT EXPRESS has been playing the last few times I went to the gym. It doesn’t seem like ideal workout music ... but whenever I hear it I see visions of Brad Davis at the airport in Turkey and start sweating buckets.

By that logic, the gym should pipe in “Dueling Banjos” or the theme from JAWS. Then the pounds will melt away.