Boysie Blake: Problem Solver by Max Myers introduces fix-it man Boysie Blake, a complicated man with a tragic past who isn’t in it for the money. He’s a bit like a way tougher Batman without the gadgets. An amateur boxer, bar owner and general bad-ass, Boysie Blake will help deserving people in need. In Boysie Blake’s first book (this is Volume 1), he has to uncover the mystery of a counterfeit Jackson Pollack painting (hence the cover, which doesn’t really scream out “crime fiction”). The art deal gone bad takes him to power brokers in Los Angeles, the Vatican and an alcoholic priest, gangsters from every walk of life, his crazy family, and the dark side of Hollywood.
That the plot itself revolves around an art deal gone bad, and not a drug deal or other illegal activity, shows how this novel separates itself from typical crime fair. It’s not overtly literary, as it’s fast-moving and plot-centered, but it is richly described and character focused as well. Boysie Blake is an exciting and vividly-realized character. The supporting players are also well established, especially his overly demanding mom and the producers and hangers-on who populate the dirty side of Hollywood life. Hollywood itself is like another character in this book. Setting is as important t0 this novel as Blake himself, and Myers is expert at descriptions of the city, from dive bars to pathways of the rich and famous.
You can’t review this book without dipping into Max Myers’ own biography. Born in Germany, raised in East London, and now residing in Los Angeles, all that cultural flavor permeates the book. While this feels like a distinctively American crime novel, it also reflects that tough European upbringing as well. It makes good sense: the term Film Noir actually originated in Europe, and what made it such an expressive American artform was having a distinctively European flair. Boysie Blake follows this path. It’s both more authentic than a lot of other crime fiction and more unique.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that the novel is too complex. Myers wants to get as much as he can down in his introduction to his character. Boysie Blake is a complex character himself: sensitive but tough, and a lot of people want things from him, including wanting him dead. Myers throws a lot into this novel, which can get confusing at times. The conspiracy goes to the highest echelons of religion and government, which ups the stakes, but at times complicates the plot. This is an issue even on a micro level as well: a lot of adjectives thrown in per sentence. Myers really wants you to know what makes his lead character tick, as well as the entire crime world he inhabits, and it could have been pared down a notch and still been as effective.
Overall though, this is a richly realized crime world and a richly realized central figure. Though it’s complicated at times, the effort is worth it. Boysie Blake certainly deserves more books in his name, and this is a very fine introduction to a hugely compelling character.