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The Great California Game, Jonathan Gash

David Dandy and Sonia Kreidenweis, my landlords from my last semester, turned me onto the Lovejoy series on A&E. Lovejoy, a rogue antiques dealer with a circle of friends who combine to help and hinder, is the type of character I’d like to create–witty and crass, full of interesting quirks, yet also a sense of morality. Now that I’m once again sans A&E, I turned to the novels of Jonathan Gash that provided the basis for the TV show.

While the dichotomy between TV and book isn’t quite as drastic as one like Spenser: For Hire, there is a marked difference. For one, the book Lovejoy is much more a loner than his television counterpart. He’s also much more chauvinistic, smart-alecky, and incredibly stupid, at least in things other than antiques. And, although the TV Lovejoy tries to match the first-person narrative of the books with his humorous asides to the camera, it just doesn’t come close to the endless personal nature of the onrunning dialogue between character and reader in the book. Which is to say that both media have their pros and cons.

In this novel, Lovejoy finally visits America, and quickly gets involved in a very large scam–one that decides the crime takings for the whole country. I like to think of it as if Damon Runyon had been born British, with the first-person narrative flowing serenely over the dangerous mob happenings below.

Oh, I almost forgot my favorite line in the book. Lovejoy, trying to extradite himself from one of the situations is telling the reader his plan, with the ending, “Then exit, pursued by bear.” Funny? Not alone, perhaps, but in context, this stage description from Shakespeare, incongruously applied, tickled me in the right places. I liked this book enough to pick up another, and I suspect that I’ll probably end up reading them all if they can match the fun of this one.

[Finished 4 April 1994]


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