Simon, Roger L - The Big Fix (Andre Deutsch Limited, 1974, 183 pp)
It is ironic that a novel that deals with the counterculture from the viewpoint of a sympathetic insider should win the 1974 John Creasy Memorial Award given that the prize's namesake was a irasicable hack who detested both the left and the young. The Big Fix nevertheless was indeed deserving of the title of "Crime Novel of 1974" since not only is it a tenacious novel, but it also heralded the arrival of a younger, hipper set of writers on the crime scene. Whilst these writers were not to have the impact on the genre that say the New Wave of Science Fiction writers did they still brought a contemporary sensibility to an art largely languishing in the tough guy mileu of the 1950s. Today's feminist, gay and multicultural Private Detectives owe much to Simon, but even without this distinction the "Phillip Marlowe with long hair" character of Moses Wine has proven to be enduring spawning many novels and an Oscar nominated film adaption.
Noir fans need not fear though as this novel's plot incorporates a cynical toughness of its own as Wine grapples with a conspiracy of murderous proportions while onstensibly investigating a political smear campaign and the death of an old lover. A former Berkley radical the protagonist could have become a big time Jewish lawyer, but like many of his generation he got sidetracked by drugs and rebellion before winding up in L.A. ekeing out an existence on the margins. With his wife and kids leaving him for a dodgy guru Wine like many 30 something baby boomers is contemptuous of authority, but happy to just get stoned and just get by.
Whilst on the trail of an ex Yippie radical (obviously modelled on Abbie Hoffman) whose Free Amerika Party is threatening the campaign of a liberal senator (probably modelled on jerry brown) Wine finds himself the target of death threats and beatings as he closes in on the pseudo-satanic sect (ala The Church of The Process) actually behind the smears. As a writer obviously familiar with Wine's mileu Simon's portrayls of ageing hippy has-beens and the darker side of L.A.'s wealthy free wheeling hedonists are not only valid, but also cutting.
"I lay on my bed under the Tensor light reading Rip It Off, Chapter Three, "Crash Pads". It was a dreary production filled with the cliches of the late and middle sixties set in an archaic psychedelic type. His prose sounded like a bad underground disc jockey on uppers. I wondered who would pay $2.95 for the privelege of hearing about this or that 'trip' and what was considered 'groovy' or 'right on.' Some acid-damaged fifteen year old from Des Moines, maybe, or a frustrated housewife in Waco, Texas, hoping for a way out into the cool world. I had bought it of course, but i was looking for clues, some indication of where Eppis might be hiding, betrayed by his own hand. Unfortunately of the crash pads listed, only one happened to be in Southern California and that was the LA County beach, a hiding place some thirty miles in length and a little too open to hold a mimeograph machine. I had turned to the chapter on "free Food" when I remembered I knew a friend of Eppis'- or at least an acquaintance- Earl Spiedel, the record producer. Three or four years back, right after the Chicago convention and at the height of Howard's celebrity, Earl had cut an album with him and other radicals called Voices of Dissent. Not long ago I had seen it remaindered at Thrifty-mart for 79 cents next to Gerry and The Pacemakers- Gear The Merseyside Beat." (page 32)