(Reviewed by Guy Savage MAY 26, 2007)
"Hong. I don’t recognize the name. I don’t know too many of the cops investigating serious crime in Santa Rita these days because, well, because I don’t do serious crime. I’m a Misdo-Man. I do deuces and petty grabs and possession for fun. I do frat boys shooting guns at no one in particular, and drunks pummeling each other because they’ve nothing better to do after last call. And I do wankers. I suppose I might have graduated from misdos—misdemeanors a long time ago, to a better office, to a higher caliber of criminals. But I like it in the basement. It suits me."
For fans of sleuth novels, Dylan Schaffer’s Misdemeanor Man is the first book in what promises to be an excellent, entertaining series. Schaffer’s likeable, reluctant hero--deputy district attorney Gordon Seegerman doesn’t take his job too seriously. Lawyer by day, at night, he’s the lead singer for a Barry Manilow tribute band—Barry X and the Mandys. As a public defender handling misdemeanor cases only, he has no ambition to further his legal career, and he’s perfectly content defending the weirdos who come his way. While he doesn’t exactly loathe his work, he puts his cases on autopilot, and that leaves him free to pay attention to the band—the thing he cares for most in life.
With an important, possibly career enhancing concert ahead of Barry X and the Mandys—a concert that Barry Manilow may even possibly attend--the very last thing Gordon needs is a difficult case. But that’s exactly what comes his way in the form of Harold Dunn—a reformed flasher—who is accused of relapsing and flashing an eight-year-old girl inside a large department store. With several witnesses, and an off duty police officer conveniently standing by to make the arrest, it seems like an open-and-shut case. But just as Gordon thinks he’s got his case wrapped up with a swift little plea bargain, Dunn protests that he’s innocent, and he demands a jury trial.
From this point, the Dunn case becomes the most curious case of Gordon’s unexciting career. There’s an unwarranted amount of attention directed towards Dunn---a lowly, unappealing accountant with a local non-profit, and it seems as though some powerful people want him locked away for good. Forced to investigate, Gordon’s apathy towards his client and the case is replaced—at first by curiosity—and then by circumstances far beyond Gordon’s control.
Misdemeanor Man is the first published novel from Dylan Schaffer--a San Francisco Bay area lawyer, who’s clearly comfortable with the legal system. Schaffer uses his knowledge with excellent results and a light touch as he deftly recreates the legal world and its moral compromises and complexities. This humorous novel is packed with well-developed and believable characters. There’s Mary Godfrey—the superhuman, saintly director of the highly successful non-profit organization G.O.D (Giving Out Dinner), and Silvie Hernandez, Gordon’s attractive ex-girlfriend who just happens to be the prosecutor for the case, and Dunn—the laconic, scruffy accountant who may or may not be a reformed flasher.
Misdemeanor Man is not your average dry legal novel, and Schaffer isn’t out to impress his readers with his knowledge. Instead Schaffer introduces us to a different world—a world of wankers, wobblers, perverts and petty crooks—and no one seems to be telling the truth. But what makes Schaffer’s novel so exceptional is the depth he applies to his reluctant hero, Seegerman—an underachiever who struggles with the specter of Early Onset Familial Alzheimer’s, and this struggle seeps into all of his mistakes and doubts about himself and the case. For those who love the humorous novels of Bill Fitzhugh, there’s an excellent chance you’ll enjoy Misdemeanor Man.
- Amazon readers rating: from 29 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Life, Death & Bialys: A Father/Son Baking Story (September 2006)
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- Official website for Dylan Schaffer
- January Magazine interview with Dylan Schaffer
- Murderati interview with Dylan Schaffer
- Washington Post review of Misdemeanor Man
- Mystery Ink review of Misdemeanor Man
- January Magazine review I Right the Wrongs
- SF Weekly review of Life, Death, & Bialys
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About the Author:
Dylan Schaffer was born in East Lansing, Michigan and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. For most of the past 15 years he has been practicing criminal appellate law in the Bay Area. He has represented hundreds of defendants in all manner of post-trial proceedings, from drunk driving cases to multiple murders. He has never tried a case. He represents the convicted—in other words, everyone who calls his office has been found guilty by a jury and sentenced, usually for long periods, to state or federal prison.
Misdemeanor Man won Mystery Ink Magazine's 2004 Gumshoe Award for best debut novel.
He lives in Oakland, California.