“Silky” Pincus

Created by Leo Rosten
Pseudonyms include Leonard Q. Ross
(1908-97)

Ever wondered when someone would create a nice Jewish P.I.? Well, look no further, bubeleh.

SID “SILKY” PINCUS is a genuinely nice guy, an ex-cop and Vietnam vet who runs a Manhattan detective agency called Watson and Holmes, Incorporated (Chutzpah, anyone?), with his partner, Michael X. Clancy, located at 60th and 1st. He also owns a huge mutt called Isadore Goldberg, formerly owned by a rabbi, who only obeys commands spoken in Yiddish, and will only eat Kosher dog food.

Fortunately, the other half of the team, Mike, although Irish, is also pretty handy with Yiddish–he speaks it better than most New York Jews.

There are two books in the series, Silky! (1979) and King Silky! (1980). The exclamation remarks are a clue as to what to expect–both are crammed full of action and humour, a mix that isn’t always that easy to pull off (and the reviews were decidedly mixed). Sure, the jokes are often excessively broad and a bit heavy on the Borscht Belt wink-wink nudge-nudge, and the seemingly endless stream of malapropisms, fractured English, bad puns and Yiddish phrases can get tiring, but somehow Rosten makes it work, for the most part, particularly with the first book. And Rosten tosses in more than enough shooting and killing to satisfy anyone just looking for some good ol’ private eye action. These are fun books. Really.

But I’m glad the author stopped at two. Maybe one-and-a-half would have been even better.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Leo Calvin Rosten came to the States from Poland at the ripe old age of two, and has received a Ph.D from the University of Chicago, did post-grad work at the London School of Economics and lectured on English and Political Science at such big-shot places as Stanford, UCLA, Yale, and New York University. He’s the author and/or editor of over thirty books, including such novels as Captain Newman, M.D. and The Education of Hyman Kaplan (and its sequel Oh Kaplan! My Kaplan!) Anyone perplexed by the amount of Yiddish in Silky! will be relieved to know Rosten has thoughtfully included a glossary in the back, using information garnered, no doubt, from his books The Joys of Yiddish and The Treasury of Jewish Quotations. He also wrote the short story upon which the film noir semi-classic The Dark Corner , featuring private eye Bradford Galt, was based, so I guess I can forgive him the Silky books.

UNDER OATH

  • “… (the Silky! books) are like dry martinis: exciting, spirit-lifting and intoxicating.”
    — Baker and Nietzel, in One Hundred and One Knights
  • “Marvelous originality…irressistible!”
    — William F. Buckley, Jr.
  • “From the Dept. of Uncalled-For Sequels: a grossly overlong follow-up to the marginally amusing Silky!…The blah solution to all this involves drugs, embezzlement, and more–but few readers will get that far, considering the nearly 400 pages of leaden puns, oafish double-entendres, and lame giggles (plus a few good yuks). Even for fans of The Joys of Yiddish, then: too much of a so-so thing, an overextended one-joke parody that mostly just lies there like a herring
    — Kirkus Reviews on King Silky! (November 1980)
  • “(King Silky!) does have certain structural weaknesses. It is self-indulgent and there are too many set-pieces in it, inserted merely because the author was loath to let them go. They merely slow the action. Nor is some of the dialogue as funny as Mr. Rosten thinks it is. Yet King Silky! is a well-plotted and even traditional private-eye novel, and it does have its amusing moments.”
    — The New York Times Book Review

NOVELS

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

  • Going to the Dogs
    The Great Mutts of Detective Fiction
  • Even a Shamus Could Be a Shamus
    Jewish Eyes
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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