Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maynard Soloman, American archetype

Maynard Soloman is an American archetype — solo man. Get it? — roaming the heartland alone, free of emotional commitments, fighting for the little guy, his only goals self-preservation and righting wrongs.

Except he and the stories in which he appears are funnier than all that. His steed is a decaying Winnebago motor home on which a vandal has spray-painted that Maynard Soloman Investigation Services SUKS!, and Soloman is on the run not from outlaws or marauding Comanches, but from unpaid medical bills.

The titles of the 4 Funny Detective Stories — Starring Maynard Soloman say much about author Benjamin Sobieck's targets: "Maynard Soloman Solves the War on Drugs," "Maynard Soloman Fixes Social Security and Eats a Pony," "Maynard Solomon & The Job-Nabbin' Illegal Immigrants," and, in a story that comes as close to heart-warming as the old cuss gets, "Maynard Soloman Proves Santa Claus is Real."

So, yes, the stories are sharply satirical, but even the villains are not all that threatening as individuals. They remind me of Bob and Ray's boobs and hapless schemers. So, what keeps the stories from veering over into mere spoofs? That Maynard, booted off the police Obscenities Division because of health problems and cheated of medical payments by "the arthritic bean counters on the force," opens his own mobile detective agency "to keep gas in the 'bago and the can opener turning." That they show a U.S. government aiming massive amounts of money at small problems while neglecting big ones. That Maynard will sneak in a mention of his stomach pains and his long-gone wife. There's is always the barest hint of grimness beneath the fun.

Mostly, though, Maynard is the philosopher-cum-man-of-action that we all wish we could be, the detective who solves mysteries by turning idiocy against itself. He knows about the state of customer service in America but, unlike most of us, he acts:
In my years, I’ve learned that customer service is a luxury that must be demanded. Asking for help nowadays is like organ donation. You’d better have a good reason. And nothing conveys reason better than a round of healthy cursing.

 “`Hey, you blasphemous pillock. If you’re done bogging off, I need some gal-damn service,' I say and kick the box a couple times.
If you don't know what a blasphemous pillock is, don't worry; neither does Maynard. But it sure sounds good.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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15 Comments:

Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

You're a class act, Peter, thank you.

I like that you picked up on the grim undertones. As an author, it's what gives the stories a little more depth. It would delve into slapstick otherwise.

If you peel away the satire, it's really about a man who is pissed off the tail-end of his life turned out to be so disappointing. He has no money, no family and no rosy career to look back on. He's convinced himself he won the War on Drugs or fixed Social Security, if only because he needs to feel like he's done something important before he dies. And for him, death is always nipping at his heels.

But other than that, yeah, it's humor all the way.

Cheers, Peter!

February 11, 2012  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

I love humorous stories--there are few good ones--so will look for these.

February 11, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Great review, and well deserved!

Benjamin is also a class act.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Dana King said...

Ben is, indeed, a class act. I've been meaning to read him for a while. This reminder pushed me over the edge. Downloaded and queued up.

Thanks, Peter, and good luck, Ben.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

Thank you, IJ and Dana. Means a lot coming from you guys.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Benjamin: You're welcome, and I hope to see more Maynard stories.

With respect to the grim undertones, I thought about including the phrase "ominous stomach pains" in my discussion, but I feared that might be misleading out of context.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Patti, you're right. There's plenty of crime fiction with humorous touches, but not much good out-and-out humorous crime fiction. These stories qualify -- and they're available at a bargain price!

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, I.J. Looks like Benjamin has a nice little following.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

There isn't a real context with his health problems, Peter, since they've never been revealed. And maybe they won't ever be. It might all be on his head, or they could be exaggerated as a means to be an "ol' badger."

Next one is on it's way. Will have lots of sex and "Frenchie" Canadians.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I'm happy to push anyone over the edge. I hope you enjoy the stories.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Benjamin, I thought that might be the case with the stomach pains. They're a nice element of mystery.

I'm glad to hear the news about the new stories and their subject. The line "Sorry, I don't listen to Canadians" is a highlight of the first collection. Also, Montreal is my home town, so I'll read the new stories with additional anthropological interest.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Well, you've got me on the hook. I must 'third' Patti's point, seconded by Peter, that there seems to be little of the out-and-out funny these days. I think perhaps the last I read were the Randolph novels, though that is a very gentle humour. The last with "humorous touches" was certainly the last from the late and more lamented than I can say, Reginald Hill.

I am curious about and a wee bit bemused by Benjamin's use of 'pillock' and 'bogging off'. Both of these are British expressions, a pillock being a fool, and bog off what Princess Anne used to tell bothersome reporters to do (I need hardly construe that), though I'm not sure in what sense Benjamin is using it here.

Splendid blog, Peter; enticing books, Benjamin; and I've already this morning demanded my regional library system buy them in multiples.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, I don't what the availability of the book will be in libraries; the stories are published only in an e-book edition, as far as I know. I hope your library is forward-thinking enough to have found a way to make e-books available to its customers.

Here's what "Maynard" has to say about "pillock" in a tongue-in-cheek glossary appended to one of the stories:

"`Blasphemous pillock.' Kids, I don't even know what in the hell this means."

Sobieck puts the most extravagant British (and British-style) invective in Maynard's mouth. This is both funny on its own terms and a nice jab at pip-pip-tally-ho and 'allo-Guv English caricatures. And he goes even further in his similar use of American Western-style insults. Cowboys and cockneys. He has fun with all kinds of linguistic stereotypes.

February 11, 2012  
Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

His cursing falls into four categories:

* American Western
* British
* 1930s-style slang
* Completely made up

The words aren't picked at random. There's a certain cadence I wanted Maynard to use when cursing. If a word fit into it, I used it.

It's all part of the confused nature of Maynard. He hurls profanity at the world to try to make sense of it, regardless of its origination. He's so out of touch, he's using British expressions like "pillock" at a drive-through. He can't understand why these words don't get him anywhere. No one knows what they mean, at least in the States. He becomes even more alienated, and in turn throws more frustrated profanity at the world in hopes of reeling some familiarity into him. Around and around it goes.

February 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But completely made up in the style of one of the other three categories, as in:

“I take it you guys aren’t here to cut a swell, are you? Or did you gal-damn apes already get a mitten?”

Another discussion of the stories referred to their 1930s style. That didn't come across for me on first reading as strongly as the Western element did, other than the fact of Maynard's being a P.I.

February 12, 2012  

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