Simon, Michael 1963-

views updated

Simon, Michael 1963-


Born 1963, in Long Island, NY. Education: Northwestern University, B.A., 1985; University of Texas, Austin, M.A., 1989; New York University, Ph.D., 1999.


Home—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected]


Has worked as an actor, stagehand, cab driver, truck loader, disc jockey, probation officer, proofreader, editor, ghostwriter, and teacher at Brooklyn College and New York University.



Dirty Sally, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.

Body Scissors, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.

Little Faith, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.

The Last Jew Standing, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of several plays performed off-Broadway.


Michael Simon drew on his experience working as a probation officer while attending school in Austin, Texas, in the late 1980s for his first novel, Dirty Sally. In an article on the BookPage Web site, Simon told Alden Mudge about his experience: "It was this incredibly beautiful town, clean, friendly. Then I got this funny job and suddenly I was looking at the other part of town, the poor part of town. I was seeing who was living by working really, really hard and who was living by doing something illegal or illicit: dealing drugs, working as a prostitute or as a pimp. And it shook up my perspective."

Dirty Sally is a murder mystery featuring Detective Dan Reles, a transplanted New Yorker who, like Simon, came to Austin to go to school. But Reles ends up working as a homicide detective, and the fact that he is the only Yankee and Jew in the department raises the ire of some of his colleagues. Violent and erratic following his partner's recent death, Reles is being watched by internal affairs but soon finds himself on the case of a series of murders. It all begins with the brutal murder of a young prostitute who is cut up into pieces, which are then mailed to some of Austin's most prominent citizens. In the process of his investigation, Reles comes across shady real estate development deals and is soon facing even closer scrutiny from both his colleagues and Austin's elite.

Writing in the Library Journal, Wilda Williams commented: "While the villains are cardboard wicked, and the climax is over-the-top ludicrous, these flaws are compensated for by a strong narrative voice and the unique character of Reles." Texas Monthly contributor Mike Shea called the novel a "full-throttle detective noir," adding that "Simon's writing crackles with smarts and throbs with suspense." Keir Graff, writing in Booklist, found the novel "gripping, brutal stuff, with a freight-train plot that roars to a jump-the-tracks ending." Calling the book "a great read," a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that "Simon challenges the reader with myriad sharp asides that seem unrelated but ultimately fit neatly together."

In Body Scissors, Simon returns once more to the Austin Police Department and Detective Dan Reles. Reles is having difficulties with his girlfriend, Rachel Velez, who is worried that he will one day get killed on the job and the loss will devastate her. So she holds back, trying to spare herself what she sees as an inevitable emotional blow. Rachel's fears stem in part from the fact that she has already lived through such a devastation once—she is the widow of Joey Velez, who once was Dan's mentor. Meanwhile, Dan is working a case that proves how justified Rachel is in her fears. Two young children have been shot—one to death—in front of their mother, Virginia Key, an African American lawyer who was thinking of running for city council in her all-white neighborhood. The shooting takes place in the family's own home, when they interrupt a drug addict as he robs the place. As Dan digs deeper, he finds more layers beneath the surface of what seems to be a simple case, and inevitably the killer turns out to be linked to his own past. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews found the book "gritty, jumpy and absorbing." A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that "the well-depicted setting, the fast … pace, evocative atmosphere and believable dialogue hold the reader's attention throughout."

Little Faith finds Reles on the case of the apparent suicide of Faith Copeland, an eighteen-year-old former child star whose death seems suspicious despite outward appearances. Reles, who is bucking for a promotion after nearly twenty years on the force, hopes that the high-profile nature of the case will help his own cause. When the case turns out to be linked to the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old girl who is found in the bed of the Texas lieutenant governor, things become far more complicated than Reles had ever envisioned. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "the death of innocence lends a bittersweet tone" to this installment in Simon's series.

In The Last Jew Standing, Reles finds himself in the middle of a sea of family problems. Now living with his girlfriend Rachel, he has to deal with their son Josh, who is adversely affected by her alcoholism and erratic behavior. Meanwhile, his own father, never the most reliable individual, has shown up with a Russian prostitute in a car that may or may not have been stolen, but regardless, its original owner is dead. Mobster Sam Zelig wants the prostitute for himself, and Reles must figure out what to do with everyone, all without alerting internal affairs to his blatant flouting of department rules. A Kirkus Reviews contributor remarked that "in his trademark neat, almost noir prose, Simon perfectly conveys the dilemmas facing a perpetual outsider determined to do the right thing."



Booklist, June 1, 2004, Keir Graff, review of Dirty Sally, p. 1708.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2004, review of Dirty Sally, p. 515; July 1, 2005, review of Body Scissors, p. 707; July 15, 2007, review of The Last Jew Standing.

Library Journal, August, 2004, Wilda Williams, review of Dirty Sally, p. 61.

Publishers Weekly, May 31, 2004, review of Dirty Sally, p. 46; July 11, 2005, review of Body Scissors, p. 61; June 26, 2006, review of Little Faith, p. 29.

Texas Monthly, August, 2004, Mike Shea, review of Dirty Sally, p. 60.

ONLINE, (February 25, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Dirty Sally.

Austin Chronicle Online, (July 30, 2004), Roger Gathman, "Land of Confusion," interview.

BookPage, (February 25, 2005), Alden Mudge, "Austin Noir," interview., (February 25, 2005), Kate Ayers, review of Dirty Sally.