A review of Misdemeanor Man by Dylan Schaffer

The style is exceptional and funny. The story – or layers of interrelated stories – never falters. The result is a mixture of exciting tale and moving incidents that create a unique work. One is surprised to note that to the genre of crime fiction Schaffer has brought a vivid combination of the tough and the tender. No reader from any part of the spectrum can go wrong with this book.

Reviewed by Bob Williams

Misdemeanor Man
by Dylan Schaffer
Bloomsbury 2004, ISBN 1-58234-460-4, $23.95, 339 pages

This is the first in what so far is a two book series regarding the life and troubles of Gordon Seegerman. The second book, I Right the Wrongs, was a spellbinder and this book is too. It is incredible to find a writer of such assurance succeeding so well from the very beginning.

And series works are tricky. I recently read the latest book in a series by an author whose early work I enjoyed but in her latest book she seemed so determined to have the whole damn town in her book – whisk, whisk, there was so and so – that she never settled down long enough to tell a story. Story telling is one of Schaffer’s virtues and sensibly he allows himself space to achieve what he sets out for. I was conscious that he was meditating on many of the same themes in both of his books but these themes are so basic and important that they cannot weary. One can only hope a long and healthy life for Seegerman, king of the under-achievers.

One can rightly be concerned for his health. His father early succumbed to Alzheimer’s and the disease proved to be the rare variety that can be transmitted genetically. Gordon has not submitted yet to the test that would free him of anxiety – or would, alternatively, destroy his hopes. His decidedly coarser brother King – Gordon describes him as an alcoholic in training – has had the test and has nothing to worry about.

His family concerns play an important role and so too do other ingredients in his life. His former girlfriend has married someone else, he is member of a musical quartet dedicated to Barry Manilow and he unsuccessfully strives to evade his responsibilities as a public defender, content to continue as the group’s misdemeanor man and resistant to advancement.

Gordon undertakes the defense of Harold Dunn, a man accused of public exposure. It is an aggravated case in that the exposure was to an eight-year-old girl. The prosecution, represented by Silvie Hernandez, his ex-girlfriend, seeks the maximum penalty. Gordon’s investigation discloses that undercover forces are at work to seek vindictive punishment. With his investigator and fellow band member Terry, Gordon searches for the truth, a search that becomes especially difficult when Dunn is accused of the murder of one of the witnesses to his exposure incident. In the process Gordon awakens the unwelcome attention of thugs masquerading as bodyguards and of treasury agents who are even scarier than the thugs.

The style is exceptional and funny. The story – or layers of interrelated stories – never falters. The result is a mixture of exciting tale and moving incidents that create a unique work. One is surprised to note that to the genre of crime fiction Schaffer has brought a vivid combination of the tough and the tender. No reader from any part of the spectrum can go wrong with this book.

About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His book Joyce Country, a guide to persons and places, can be accessed at: http://www.grand-teton.com/service/Persons_Places

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