Howard Engel's Memory Book
Sacks tells us about some of the surprising ways Engel overcame this condition and resumed his writing career. The first product of this resumption was Memory Book, the eleventh novel featuring private eye Benny Cooperman, and the first in which Benny must, like his creator, overcome alexia sine agraphia. (Engel's condition was the result of a mild stroke. Cooperman's was the result of -- but you'll have to read the book to find out.)
The mystery Cooperman must solve is how he wound up in the condition in which he finds himself. This leads him back into the case that had brought him from his home town of Grantham, Ontario, to Toronto, where he was hospitalized. He must solve these dual mysteries as he struggles with neurological conditions that leave him constantly tired and unable to retain names and words. His discoveries of his own slowly returning cognitive abilities as he chases down the people who put him where he is add an intriguing dimension highly unusual in crime novels to say the least. Handicapped detectives have been around for almost a hundred years, if not longer, but I don't know of any others who have shared an affliction with their creator.
I also found myself wondering if Engel's cognitive struggles accounted for my one quibble with the novel's style. In at least two places, long stretches of dialogue are uninterrupted by reaction on Cooperman's part. In at least one of these, the lack of reaction was obtrusive. Is this a quirk of Engel's style unrelated to his condition? I'll tell you after I've read more of his books.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008
Canadian crime fiction