Sunday, May 25, 2014

Daniel Friedman Returns to Town

Posted By on Sun, May 25, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Buck is back. That’s Baruch “Buck” Schatz, 88 years old and retired from the Memphis Police Department, but he’s still got a way with words and he’s not afraid to use them. As in this exchange between Buck and a young detective on the force (the subject, crime in general; the asterisks not in the original):

“That’s how you and I are different,” Buck says. “You look at crime as a computer program. As a collection of statistics. It’s easy to take a compassionate view of criminals when you treat them as a group of the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. You have to sympathize with them in the aggregate, because on an individual basis, these mother****ers are goddamn intolerable. And statistics turn the suffering of the victims into an abstraction. Crime, to me, was always personal; a thing people do to each other.”

One crime in particular: a heist from the Cotton Planters Union Bank in downtown Memphis back in 1965 — a crime committed by a famous Jewish thief using a gang of Jewish accomplices and with the help of corrupt Jewish police.

Flash forward to 2009, and Buck is still wearing his Members Only jacket, and that famous thief, named Elijah, is once more on the scene (Memphis) in Daniel Friedman’s second (and latest) Buck Schatz mystery, Don’t Ever Look Back (Minotaur Books). And Buck being Buck, he’s still got a way with words and his own understanding of Old Testament history. Elijah (the prophet)? He’s, according to Buck, “the sneakiest bastard in all of Jewish theology.”

For more on Don’t Ever Look Back, on its hard-nosed but hard to dislike protagonist, and on its author, see the May issue of Memphis magazine. On a more serious note, for now, consider this, according to Friedman:

“The question of who [Buck] is, whether he’s right or wrong in his worldview, whether he’s ultimately a good guy or a bad guy, his rationalizations and defense mechanisms: The greater business in the [Buck Schatz] series is … getting to the core of those questions. Ultimately, at the center of the story is Buck’s character and his journey or refusal to take the journey toward embracing his own frailty and own mortality …. There’s a good mystery novel in there as well.”

There sure is, and local readers need to know the name Daniel Friedman. His first book, Friedman admitted by phone from New York, where he now lives, was a bit of a sleeper. But foreign sales of that book, Don’t Ever Get Old, have been good, and in Germany, it’s made the best-seller list. Libraries and independent book stores in the U.S. have been supportive too.

But Friedman’s hoping that Don’t Ever Look Back will “double-down” on readers’ awareness of Buck Schatz and the two mysteries so far starring him. Memphis readers, also be aware: On Tuesday, May 27th, 6-7 p.m., Daniel Friedman is here to sign Don’t Ever Look Back at The Booksellers at Laurelwood. “Back” because the writer’s hometown is Memphis, Tennessee. •

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