Sunday, December 19, 2010

Read: "Man with the Iron-On Badge" by Lee Goldberg

Read: Man with the Iron-On Badge by Lee Goldberg, 2005, 1594143722.

Goldberg has written online about plugging away on his e-book sales. Man is one of those books. I finally got around to checking the library catalog and reserving a copy. This is the fifth Goldberg book I have read so I expected it to be pretty good and it was better than that. In deference to a previous comment by Goldberg there will be spoilers ahead.

Harvey Mapes - a perfect name - is the overnight gate guard for a wealthy LA area community. The job requires no thought or action. Every day after work Harvey goes to Denny's, goes home, watches television and sleeps. Harvey is a dedicated fan of mystery and P.I. novels and television shows. When one of the community's wealthy clients asks Harvey to play P.I. and follow his wife Harvey knows the idea is foolish but is happy to take the money and the activity.

Harvey follows wife. Harvey finds things out. Harvey sees wife passing money off to Skeezy Guy who Harvey follows and is then beaten-up by. Wife kills herself. Grieving husband tells Harv to buzz off. Harvey cannot let it go. Harvey travels to Washington state to research dead wife and Skeezy Guy. Harvey plays detective and even claims John D. McDonald as an alias. Harv digs. Harv finds unknown links between dead wife and husband. Harvey finds out a shockingly creepy detail. Skeezy Guy dies. Harvey is left unsatisfied with the messy ending and its unintended consequences.

1. Goldberg takes a normal guy wanting excitement and gives it to him. Nothing new about that plot but Goldberg does a great job with it.
2. Harvey knows he is going nowhere in life but is stuck in the rut. I like that Goldberg does not try to introduce Harvey with too much detail and history. Goldberg fills in that information without overloading the reader.
3. Goldberg's writing in this one is comparable to what I was thinking and reading about Westlake in that last book. Like Westlake, everything is straight forward and realistic. An exception is how Goldberg directly addresses this by pointing out the absurdity of PI cliches and how Harvey is unable to rely on the best friend cop, the kooky but genius computer nerd, old girlfriend working for the DMV, etc.
4. The blooming love affair between Harvey and his sex-buddy neighbor read true as I was reading it. Afterward, when I was thinking about the relationship, it feels a little silly. But, I still like it anyway.
5. This could be considered a throw-away book. An entertaining novel to enjoy and then forget. I disagree with that because I find Harvey an interesting and very engaging character. Harvey gives the reader things to think about as a person and also as he stumbles through the same problems that anyone taking on the kind of task Harvey has. I was thinking this is begging for a sequel or series but the character and stories would end up changing quite a bit if Harvey were to gain investigative experience and even more confidence.
6. One great aspect of Man is Harvey's love of P.I. fiction and television. He runs his "investigation" on what Rockford and or Elvis Cole would do.
7. The cover image is awful. The Kindle version is better.
EDIT #2, 8 Feb 2011
8. After further reflection I am realizing I was reading this as more comedy that hard boiled. But, the incestuous relationship at the core of the mystery is pure hard-boiled. That kind of topic keeps this at a dark, L.A. noir level but I was digging the humor too much to notice the darkness.


Lee Goldberg said...

Thank you so much for the great review!

Gerard Saylor said...

Yes, I am quite wonderful.