Simon, Roger L(ichtenberg) 1943-
SIMON, Roger L(ichtenberg) 1943-
PERSONAL: Born November 22, 1943, in New York, NY; son of Norman (a physician) and Ruth (Lichtenberg) Simon; married Dyanne Asimov, June 10, 1965 (divorced, December 15, 1982); married Sheryl Longin, 1995; children: (first marriage) Raphael, Jesse; (second marriage) Madeleine. Education: Dartmouth College, B.A., 1964; Yale University, M.F.A., 1967.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Owen Laster, Morris Barber Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.
MEMBER: International Association of Crime Writers (president of North American branch, 1986), Writers Guild of America (member of board of directors, 1991-92), PEN, Directors Guild of America, Mystery Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Allan Poe Award nominations, Mystery Writers of America, for the novel The Big Fix, 1979, for the screenplay The Big Fix, and 1986, for The Straight Man; John Creasey Award, Crime Writers of Great Britain, 1974, for the novel The Big Fix; Academy Award nomination, best adapted screenplay (with Paul Mazursky), Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1989, for Enemies, a Love Story.
"MOSES WINE" DETECTIVE NOVELS
The Big Fix, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1973.
Wild Turkey, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1974.
Peking Duck, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1979.
California Roll, Villard (New York, NY), 1985.
The Straight Man, Villard (New York, NY), 1986.
Raising the Dead, Villard (New York, NY), 1988.
The Lost Coast, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Director's Cut, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Heir, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1968.
The Mama Tass Manifesto, Holt (New York, NY), 1970.
The Big Fix (adaptation of Simon's novel of the same title), Universal, 1978.
(With Lonne Elder III and Richard Pryor) Bustin'Loose, Universal, 1981.
(And director) My Man Adam, TriStar, 1986.
(With Paul Mazursky) Enemies, a Love Story (adaptation of a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1989.
(With Paul Mazursky) Scenes from a Mall, Touchstone, 1991.
(With Sheryl Longin) Prague Duet, Artisan Entertainment, 1998.
ADAPTATIONS: Heir was filmed as Jennifer on My Mind, with screenplay by Erich Segal, United Artists, 1971.
SIDELIGHTS: Roger L. Simon has distinguished himself as both a screenwriter and—particularly with his "Moses Wine" mysteries—a novelist. In his "Moses Wine" mysteries, according to R. Gordon Kelly in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, Simon "has steadily developed a distinctive version of the American hard-boiled detective hero. Introduced in The Big Fix, Moses Wine is a thirtyish, dope-smoking divorced father of two young sons, living hand-to-mouth as a private investigator on the margins of Southern California society and nursing memories of his days as a 1960s student radical and activist."
Simon began his literary career in 1968 with Heir, the story of a wealthy young man who accidently kills his girlfriend by administering a lethal dose of heroin. The novel's hero, Marcus Rottner, is a particularly insufferable scion who is racked with guilt over his unmerited fortune. In the days following his girlfriend's death, Rottner preserves the corpse by placing it near the air-conditioning unit, then stashes it inside his harpsichord before moving it to the trunk of his automobile. Martin Levin, writing of Heir in the New York Times Book Review, noted the novel's "sharp sense of drama" and its "flashes of astringent humor," and Henry Tube, in his review for Spectator, called Simon's first novel "a remarkable piece of work."
In 1974 Simon produced The Big Fix, in which Moses Wine is called upon to track a fugitive radical while simultaneously outmaneuvering the stodgy members of the law enforcement establishment. Newgate Callendar, in his regular appraisal of detective fiction in the New York Times Book Review, commended The Big Fix for its construction and pacing.
Simon revived the anti-establishment Wine in Wild Turkey, in which the quirky sleuth investigates the death of a daytime television show hostess. His investigation leads him to leftover hippies, guilt-ridden radicals, and Jewish mobsters. The critic for Publishers Weekly called the novel "a manic, corpse-studded, occasionally funny romp for readers who don't take their crime fiction too seriously."
Peking Duck finds Wine, while in communist China with a leftist group of tourists, suspected of involvement in a museum theft. Wine's own investigation shows that anti-communists have framed his visiting party in hopes of disrupting the improving Chinese-American relations. While Callendar praised this work for its "sharp, amusing and sophisticated" writing, the reviewer for Library Journal thought that the "Maoist dialectic is inappropriate to a thriller, especially when the story line is so weak." The Publishers Weekly critic summed up Peking Duck as "an easy-reading zany mystery-cum-travelogue."
In Raising the Dead, Wine becomes immersed in Arab-Israeli antagonisms when he is hired to absolve an Arab suspect of incrimination in the murder of a Jewish pacifist. Wine's investigation eventually takes him to Israel, where he becomes a witness to the violence characteristic of Arab-Israeli relations. Eventually, Wine's probe assumes global importance. Toronto Globe and Mail reviewer Margaret Cannon hailed Raising the Dead as a "brash, fast" mystery that is "worth reading."
In addition to writing novels, Simon has also enjoyed success with screenplays. His first screen credit came with The Big Fix, which he adapted from his first "Moses Wine" mystery. Simon also wrote the script for Bustin' Loose, a comedy featuring actor Richard Pryor as a prison parolee who must drive eight displaced, rowdy orphans from Philadelphia to Washington state. The New York Times's Vincent Canby described this film as "aggressively sentimental." Simon also wrote—and directed—My Man Adam, a comedy about a pizza deliveryperson who becomes embroiled in a homicide.
As a screenwriter, Simon is probably best known for his collaborations with writer-director Paul Mazursky, who won acclaim in the 1970s for such films as Harry and Tonto and An Unmarried Woman. Simon first teamed with Mazursky on Enemies, a Love Story, an adaptation of twentieth-century Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel about an apathetic Holocaust survivor beset with three wives in New York City. Los Angeles Times reviewer Sheila Benson described Enemies, a Love Story as "a richly satisfying, perfectly realized film" and "clearly the best of Mazursky's career." Simon and Mazursky followed with the less well-received comedy Scenes from a Mall, in which an upscale Beverly Hills couple (played by Bette Midler and Woody Allen) reconsider their entire marriage while they spend several hours at a shopping mall. Among the film's enthusiasts was Canby, who wrote in the New York Times that it ranked among Mazursky's "madder and more reckless comedies." Canby added that the film is "peculiar but, finally, very engaging."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1978; February 22, 1991, Section 2, p. 4.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 10, 1988, Margaret Cannon, review of Raising the Dead.
Library Journal, November 15, 1968, p. 4309; July, 1979, review of Peking Duck, p. 1489.
Listener, April 17, 1980, p. 514.
Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1989, Sheila Benson, review of Enemies, a Love Story; February 22, 1991, p. F1.
New York Times, May 22, 1981, Vincent Canby, review of Bustin' Loose; February 22, 1991, Vincent Canby, review of Scenes from a Mall, p. C19.
New York Times Book Review, August 4, 1968, Martin Levin, review of Heir; May 31, 1970, p. 17; April 14, 1974, Newgate Callendar, review of the novel The Big Fix, p. 14; July 6, 1975, p. 14; July 22, 1979, Newgate Callendar, review of Peking Duck, p. 17; July 21, 1985.
Publishers Weekly, February 17, 1975, review of Wild Turkey, p. 70; April 23, 1979, review of Peking Duck, p. 71.
Spectator, June 21, 1969, Henry Tube, review of Heir.
Times Literary Supplement, July 17, 1969; January 10, 1975, p. 29; June 18, 1976, p. 732.
West Coast Review of Books, September, 1979, p. 31.
Roger L. Simon Home Page, http://www.rogerlsimon.com (February 3, 2004).