I’ve just decided that I have to put in a plug for Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. It’s a combination of writing styles that I just love and it works really well.
First, it’s science fiction, of the alternative universe variety. I won’t tell you exactly how because I think it would spoil the fun. Just suffice it to say that there are a lot of Jews in Alaska.
Second, it’s a hard boiled detective thriller. If you’ve looked through this site at all you’ll know how much I love Raymond Chandler and Dashielle Hammett. Well Chabon creates Meyer Landsman, a police detective in Sitka who can stand right up there with the best of them in the hot water he gets into. He’s a hard drinking, lonely, pathetic guy who also happens to be a great detective – most of the time. He’s very appealing.
It’s also comedy. The writing is truly funny. I mean, just the thought of a bunch of Jews in Alaska is enough to make you start chuckling, but what he does with it is hilarious. Meyer is not only hard drinking, lonely, and pathetic, he’s also a first class smart ass. So is his partner. And his ex-wife. And most of the people he hangs around with. And meets. And he gets into funny situations: Have you heard the one about the jew who jumps into a car with the wife of a mafioso rabbi? How about the one about the jew who breaks out of jail in his underwear in the middle of winter? It’s a blast.
Finally, it’s just a plain good story. Chabon writes characters who are appealing and likeable. By the time you finish the book you care about these people and what happens to them. You respect them. And that’s nice.
Anyway, I will be visiting my local library in the near future to pick up more of his books, like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I can’t wait.