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L.A. TimesHip Sleuth Ages Nicely in The Lost Coast
By Dick Lochte, Special to The Times
When Roger L. Simon awoke his counterculture sleuth Moses Wine from a nine-year literary nap with the 1997 mystery The Lost Coast, few of his fans got the word. As Simon says in an introduction to the new trade edition (ibooks, $14, 256 pages), "Not only did [his publisher] not advertise or promote the book...they printed it on paper so cheap the pages started to turn brown around the edges before the books even got out of the stores." Rude treatment for one of the more entertaining and emotionally charged entries in the popular series. In Coast, the rebellious spirit that motivated "the people's detective" in his 1973 debut novel, The Big Fix, seems to have been inherited by his son, Simon, with tragic results. A member of an eco-terrorist group in Northern California, the young Wine is being sought by the police for a tree-spiking that resulted in a logger's death. Moses motors north from L.A. to do what he can for the boy. Not only does he have to deal with smarmy lawmen, aggressive militants on both sides of the logging issue and a ruthless cadre of killers, he's faced with a seemingly ungrateful child, a hostile ex-wife and his former best friend with whom said wife had the affair that put paid to their marriage. Author Simon provides us with action, suspense, humor and bright dialogue aplenty, but it's his narrator-detective's approach to life that has distinguished this series. In The Lost Coast, middle age may have shaken his confidence and smoothed the edge of his hipster attitude, but fueled by fatherly love, Moses Wine is still a force to reckon with and to read with pleasure.