1960s

It should not have been such a surprise. A murder mystery I’d found hilarious shortly after its publication in 1973 left me cold in 2016. The Big Fix was the first of seven novels in Roger L. Simon‘s series featuring private eye Moses Wine. Set in L.A. in 1972, the book was a nonstop celebration of the drug-addled culture of the 1960s. I should have left it behind with pretty much everything else in that era. History looks better in hindsight.

The plot at the core of the book is strong. The story is full of suspense, and it holds up well as a murder mystery. It’s likely to keep any reader guessing until the book’s final chapters. But the fixation on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll gets in the way.


The Big Fix (Moses Wine #1) by Roger L. Simon @@@ (3 out of 5)


Moses Wine is broke. Even though he has little respect for mainstream politics and a long history of radical activism, Moses finds it impossible to turn down an assignment from the Presidential primary campaign of a Democrat whose policies closely resemble those of George McGovern. Senator Miles Hawthorne is on the cusp of gaining the Democratic nomination for President when flyers start appearing in Los Angeles associating him with a notorious radical. The flyer claims that Howard Eppis, chairman of the Free Amerika Party and author of Rip It Off, has not just endorsed Hawthorne but that his election will result in converting the country into a Communist state. (Eppis, of course, is a stand-in for the Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman, author of Steal This Book! It turns out, as we learn in an author’s note at the end, that Simon knew Hoffman.) Moses’ assignment is to track down Eppis and stop him from sabotaging the Hawthorne campaign.

The complicated story that follows involves Moses’ old girlfriend from Berkeley, a multimillionaire music producer, and the cast of a radical Chicano acting troupe. (The latter could only be, faintly disguised, the then-famous Teatro Campesino that figured prominently in organizing farmworkers in California.) For anyone who lived through that time as an adult, there are rewards to be found in The Big Fix. But the book conjured up more bad memories than good ones for me.

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