Moses Wine

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, long-haired 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 The Big Fix was some kinda classic; a window to a time, a place, an era. The sixties? Simon got it. And he meant it, man.

Simon, however, didn’t stop there. Moses went on to appear in a string of novels over the next thirty years, and Moses, like the times, kept a-changing, a ways that were alternately charming, bemusing and frustrating.

There should, however, always be room in the genre for someone like Moses, the defiantly round peg in a world of square holes. He stood 5-5, wore glasses and was nobody’s idea of a tough guy. Yet he was always engaging and fun to follow, as the books traced his life from his early days as a young, rather free-spirited hippie dick (recently divorced) immersed in radical politics left over from the sixties, to a full-time gig as a middle-aged father struggling to raise his sons and stay true to his values while he worked (irony of ironies) corporate security for big business, and on right through to his last appearance, 2003’s Director’s Cut, in which his two sons are all grown up (with problems of their own), and Moses himself is happily re-married–to a former FBI agent.

A long strange trip, indeed, full of head-spinning contradictions and curveballs. Given his radical past, it’s no wonder Moses decides, as early as 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, be they political, cultural, social, of not just of a man, but of his world as well. It makes for a fascinating chronicle of our ever-changing times.

The Big Fix, which first introduced Moses, garnered numerous praise and 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 (and for which he received an Oscar nomination).

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…

But I digress…

The Big Fix was followed by Wild Turkey (1975) and Peking Duck (1979), wherein Moses trailed his slightly loopy radical aunt to communist China. In California Roll (1985), Moses “sold out,” going yuppie and becoming the security director for a famous Silicon Valley computer firm. The Straight Man (1986) found 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 (1997) 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 the real turning point both for the series, and Simon himself. It found Moses flying to Prague to protect a movie crew from Islamic 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’ (and Simon’s) windshield wiper-like political about-face from left to right following the 2001 attacks. Personally, I didn’t quite buy it, and even Simon himself has publicly mused about it. I thought perhaps subsequent books in the series might enlighten–or at least convince–me, but unfortunately none have ever surfaced.

Since then, Simon has focussed mostly on politics, maintaining 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). It was only in 2019 that he returned to fiction with The Goat, a non-mystery.

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.

    

UNDER OATH

  • “… (the Moses Wine novels are) a deliberate work of social history.”
    Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times
  • “Moses Wine is back with all his wit and wisdom exposing crime and the movie industry to the respect it deserves and proving that Roger Simon is better than ever.”
    Tony Hillerman on Director’s Cut
  • “The writing, as always in Moses Wine books, is sharp, amusing, and sophisticated.”
    — The New York Times Book Review
  • “(Roger Simon is) the greatest mystery writer of his generation…”
    — Ross Macdonald
  • “Wine is the latest in an unbroken line of popular private eyes-molded by Dashiell Hammett in the ’20s, psychoanalyzed by Ross Macdonald in the ’50s and ’60s and now dragged kicking and screaming into a new decade’s cultural crunch.”
    — The Los Angeles Times on Peking Duck

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • “Just Say No” (1993, The New Mystery)

FILMS

  • THE BIG FIXBuy this video Buy the DVD Buy the Blu-Ray
    (1978, Universal)
    108 minutes
    Screenplay by Roger Simon
    Director: Jeremy Paul Kagan
    Costume Design: Edith Head
    Producer: Carl Borack, Richard Dreyfuss
    Starring Richard Dreyfuss as MOSES WINE
    Also starring Susan Anspach, Bonnie Bedelia, John Lithgow, F. Murray Abraham, Fritz Weaver, Murray MacLeod, Rita Karin, Ofelia Medina, Nicolas Coster, Jorge Cervera Jr., Michael Hershewe, Ron Rifkin, Larry Bishop, Andrew Bloch, Sidney Clute

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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