Lionel Essrog

Created by Jonathan Lethem

When we last encountered author Jonathan Lethem in the P.I. waters, he was amusing us with various pistol-packing marsupials in Gun, With Occasional Music (1995), a wide-open sci-fi spoof/parody/tribute of the private eye genre, featuring private inquisitor Conrad Metcalf.

Now he's back with another intriguing private eye, LIONEL "FREAKSHOW" ESSROG. Lionel's a Brooklyn P.I. suffering from Tourette's Syndrome, tracking down the killer of his boss, friend, mentor and father figure Frank Minna. Seems enterprising hood Minna recruited Lionel, and his orphan friends when they were teenagers living at Saint Vincent's Home for Boys, and took them under his wing, using them to move stolen goods and other odd jobs, eventually training them to become investigators. When Minna's bleeding body is found in a dumptster, it's time to repay some debts.

The general consensus is that Lionel's quite a character, annoying and endearing, pitiful and inspiring, as he battles Tourette's as well as the usual P.I. stuff, in this literary tour-de-force that is already causing quite a buzz. Lordy lordy, but that Lethem can write....

In fact, Motherless Brooklyn won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the CWA/Macallan God Dagger For Fiction.

Not bad.

Not too shabby at all.

UNDER OATH

  • "...one of the best books I've read so far this year. Interesting use of language, characterizations, and also some really sly humor."

-- Ann from Overbooked

  • "I almost didn't take this out of the library, because the premise sounded way too gimmicky--a detective with Tourette's, to add to the dinosaurs, Alzheimer's victims, schizophrenics, and so on, that have been cropping up lately. But it turned out to be a really remarkable book--original in its language, but still firmly rooted in the private eye tradition, with a classic plot that Raymond Chandler would not have sniffed at....(Lionel) is at once hindered and helped by his condition; his compulsive verbal outbursts make it impossible for him to pass unnoticed; on the other hand, people think he's crazy, so no one realizes how smart he is. Everything about his condition, even his compulsive joke-telling, gets used sooner or later in a book which turns out to be a model of efficient narration and wildly black humour. The spectacle of a Tourette's sufferer sitting in a Zendo is worth the price of admission alone."

-- Yvonne Klein on MysInDepth, April 2000

NOVEL

RELATED LINKS

Famous Writers Who Have Dipped Their Toes in the P.I. Pool

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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