Max Klein

Created by Paul Benjamin (pseud. of Paul Auster)

“I had come to the limit of myself, and there was nothing left.”

Once upon a time Paul Auster, the high-falutin’ literary author of The New York Trilogy, a three-part philosophical and literary tour-de-force, was once grounded enough to write a simple, meat-and-potatoes P.I. novel paperback original. Mind you, he must have already had his eye on bigger game right from the start– he wrote it under the pen name of “Paul Benjamin.” It was his first book.

The hero of Squeeze Play (1982) is MAX KLEIN, “a tough New York shamus who delivers wisecracks as fast as his one-two punch,” according to the cover blurb.

Actually, that’s damning with faint praise. The fact is, both Squeeze Play and The New York Trilogy are well worth reading. Good writing is good writing, whether it’s high-faluting \ring-a-ding existentialist angst or simply something to pass a few hours, and it’s almost a shame we lost Auster to a “higher” calling.

Max is an appealling character and Squeeze Play is a good, solid read (and, incidentally, a very collectible one) about George Chapman, a former star baseball player who’s decided to go into politics. When he starts receiving death threats, he hires a baseball fanatic — our man Max — to investigate.

Max is a streetwise P.I. with a penchant not just for wisecracks but also philosophical musings, and a busted-up marriage and a stint at the D.A.’s office behind him. He works out of a dinky office on West Broadway whose windows “haven’t seen a sponge since Mr. Clean went bald” and whose walls are decorated with nine identical prints of Brueghel’s Tower of Babel.

Definitely a sign that the author would soon be after slightly bigger (and possibly more peculiar) game…

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Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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