I spend more time than most amongst the elderly. Many a Saturday you’ll find me at “the home,” 11:30 sharp, to eat lunch with the old girls. The youngest (by far) is 82. Needless to say, when I heard an octogenarian was solving mysteries and taking names in Don’t Ever Get Old, by Daniel Friedman, I knew I had to read it.
It’s the story of Buck Schatz, a retired Memphis cop who’s eighty-seven years old, politically incorrect, and not exactly thrilled with old age. Who can blame him? After all, “No matter how tough you think you are, if you live long enough, eventually you get all squishy.” Just when he’s ready to kick back and bide his time, a WWII buddy makes a deathbed confession: the Nazi who nearly beat Buck to death still lives–and he’s hiding Nazi gold bars made of melted Jewish treasure. At first, he’s unimpressed. It goes against his motto: “When you have the option to do nothing, you should always take it.”
Famous last words.
First, the strange phone calls, then visits from certain unsavory characters–then the murders begin to stack up. Before long, Buck and his frat boy grandson, “Tequila,” are on the case–one using old school detective methods, the other employing today’s technology, such as “the Googles.”
How did I like it, you ask? Well, I must say, it had me at the opening line:
In retrospect, it would have been better if my wife had let me stay home to see Meet the Press instead of making me schlep across town to watch Jim Wallace die.
It waned a bit from there, but only because it was a bit gritty and real. Obviously, Friedman knows his old age as well. With its share of medications, frail bodies, and dementia fears, Don’t Ever Get Old was at times difficult for me to read. I’ve listened to the same concerns; I’ve seen the resignation that comes of tough decisions. Yet, that’s life. And it added a sense of realism to a somewhat fantastical adventure.
All in all, Buck Schatz is a hero worth rooting for (even if you’re secretly glad you’ll never be caught in public with the man when he says certain things aloud). The partnership between someone of the greatest generation and someone of today’s, is refreshing. And it’s a fun, new take on the detective novel. Also, the Chapters are short–perfect if you need to get away in a short amount of time, or, you know, read between naps.