Created by Roger L. Simon (1943--)
Back in 1973, when Roger Simon first introduced MOSES WINE in The Big Fix, just the fact that his laidback Los Angeles-based private eye was Jewish and smoked pot was more than enough to shake up the genre. Now, he'd probably have to be a black, physically-challenged Rastafarian lesbian tai chi expert with a talking cat from Jupiter to stand out.
But personally, I think there should always be room for someone like Moses, the defiantly round peg in a world of square holes. He was an appealing, always engaging P.I. in this acclaimed and long-running series, which traced his career from his days as a rather free-spirited hippie dick (recently divorced) immersed in radical politics left over from the sixties to a gig as a single parent trying to raise two sons, while he works (irony of ironies) corporate security for big business and on right up to the present where, as of 2003's Director's Cut, his two sons are all grown up (with problems of their own), and Moses himself is happily remarried -- to a former FBI agent. A long strange trip, indeed. Given his radical past, it's no wonder Moses decides, after 1986's The Straight Man, to start seeing a shrink. Oh, the guilt...
But in fact, that's always been one of the constants in this series -- the sometimes sweeping changes -- political, cultural, social -- not just of a man, but of his world as well, and as such, making for a fascinating chronicle of our ever-changing times.
The Big Fix, which first introduced Moses, garnered numerous awards, including the prestigious John Creasey Award from the Crime Writers of Great Britain and a special Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America, for basically dragging the P.I. ethos kicking and screaming into the counterculture, as a pot-smoking eye comes face to face with post-sixties disillusionment and late-'70s malaise. It was subsequently made into a Universal film in 1978 starring Richard Dreyfuss for which Simon wrote the script. The film, starring Richard Dreyfuss as Moses, brought an Oscar nomination for Simon for the screenplay, which he adapted from his own novel.
It's a great film even if, as a friend of mine quipped, it shoulda been called "The Big Bummer, Man." Just as Jack Nicholson subsequently brought back JAKE GITTES in The Two Jakes, Dreyfuss should have considered having another whack at playing Moses every few years. Now that woulda been something.
The novel was followed by Wild Turkey (1975) and Peking Duck (1979, wherein Moses trails his slightly loopy radical aunt to communist China). In California Roll (1985), Moses "sells out," goes yuppie and becomes the security director for a famous Silicon Valley computer firm. The Straight Man (1986) finds Moses taking a case from his shrink, and ends up getting involved with a Québecois stand-up comedienne, and in Raising the Dead (1988; supposedly the first American private eye novel published in the Soviet Union since Hammet's The Maltese Falcon) Moses goes to Israel to work for the Arabs. The Lost Coast found Moses coming to the aid of his now grown-up son who's become an eco terrorist.
But the post-9/11 Director's Cut (2003), marked a real turning point for the series. It found Moses flying to Prague to protect a movie crew from terrorists, and ends up with him directing the film. It's a broad-strokes satire of Hollywood, but what made it truly significant was Moses' seemingly abrupt political about-face from left to right following the 2001 attacks. Personally, I didn't quite buy it, although Simon himself has certainly has made that leap. Perhaps subsequent books in the series might have convinced me (an admitted Canadian), but none have been published.
Since then, Wine has focussed mostly on politicas, maintaing a political blog, co-founding PJ Media, a network primarily made up of conservatives and libertarians, and publishing such non-fiction works as Blacklisting Myself: Memoir of a Hollywood Apostate in the Age of Terror (2009) and Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown (2011).
Simon is also the author of two earlier non-detective novels, Heir (1968) and The Mama Tass Manifesto (1970). He has also numerous screenplays. his screenwriting credits include The Big Fix, Bustin' Loose, My Man Adam, Enemies: A Love Story, Scenes From a Mall and Prague Duet.
Simon has taught screenwriting at the Sundance Institute and the American Film Institute. He was the first North American president of the International Association of Crime Writers and has attended international mystery writers meetings in Mexico, Italy, Spain and the former Soviet Union. He is also a former member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America and a former President of the PEN Center USA West. He was educated at Dartmouth and the Yale School of Drama. He lives in Los Angeles.
-- Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times
-- Tony Hillerman on Director's Cut
Once Simon's personal web site and blog ("stealth promotion," he called it), the link now leads to PJ Media.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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