Forgotten Books: The Man With The Iron-On Badge Lee Goldberg
The Man With The Iron-On Badge isn't Forgotten, it's just been neglected because so far the only edition has been a small hardcover printing with a large print version coming soon after. This is a book that deserves a trade paperback. With all the small presses so active I'm surprised that it isn't available in a new edition.
Iron-On is a book that will keep you laughing and smiling all the way through. If you have any affection for the private eye novel, this book should be required reading because in addition to gently spoofing the form it is a story so rich in character and story twists it's truly masterful.
Say you were a lonely and somewhat overweight security guard who works the night shift at an exclusive gated community. Say that your idea of dining out was Denny's. Say that the only girl who'll have sex with you--and then only occasionally--always makes it clear that she's looking for somebody a whole lot better than you. Say that your fantasy life springs from all the private novels and TV shows you spend time with in your apartment. And say that suddenly Cyril Parkus who lives in the gated community gives you a chance to perform one of the classic jobs of a real private eye--following his beautiful wife.
This is the life of Harvey Mapes, one of my all-time favorite characters in private eye fiction. Of course Harvey takes the job and the money. Of course Harvey enjoys following a woman as beautiful and worldly as Lauren. Of course Harvey has thoughts of finally getting his life in order.
But fate--or somebody--has different ideas for Harvey.
The novel is seeded with references to private eye shows and novels. In addition it gives us a realistic look at the trapped lives of millions of working Americans who live just above the poverty line. And it also goes the standard Los Angeles crime novel one better by taking us places and showing us people we don't usually see in the LA novel.
But more than the comedy, the beautifully designed plot and the snapshots of La La Land--more than any other element in the book, it's Harvey's voice you'll remember. There's a workaday universality to it that gives the novel its wit and insight and truth.
Before a publisher comes to his senses and reprints Lee Goldberg's fine novel, you can find inexpensive copies on on line.
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