Today’s featured book is Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman.
Growing old doesn’t have to mean a life watching the Fox News Network.
Why Clay Stafford chose this book:
When you read the first chapter of “Don’t Ever Get Old,” the debut novel by Daniel Friedman, I’m not sure you are going to like the main character as he visits the bedside of a dying man. Read the second chapter. If you still haven’t seen through him, read the third. At some point along the way, you’re going to find, as Buck admits later, “I was grumpy more for sport than out of necessity.” Behind a lot of deprecating grumpy, you find a lot of hurt.
The main character, Buck Schatz, is an octogenarian. He used to be “one hard-ass son of a bitch” cop. He’s an ex-police Jewish detective from Memphis, Tennessee. Apparently, he was effective, though he describes himself as “a mediocre detective in a department that was more concerned with spraying fire hoses at colored folks than it was with solving murders.” He’s a man of simple joys: ““My heart leaps with joy,” I said. “I’m going to have myself a crap.” “You have a good time, Grandpa.” “I intend to. Best part of my morning.””
But it is a dying man’s last words that send Buck on a trip he never expected at his age. Buck, who did what he had to do to perform his detective job well, finds karma coming back. “There are some things a gun can’t protect you from.” Through a series of plausible events, Buck finds himself going treasure hunting and also seeking revenge. With his sidekick, his grandson, he sets off to find the German SS officer who nearly killed him in a concentration camp after Buck was captured trying to liberate the Jews in Germany. Buck’s wife (Rose), who is also in her 80s, duly informs him, “You can’t run off to Europe or South America or Egypt chasing after a phantom. How are we going to keep track of your medications?” It is wife Rose who brings out the emotion. Friedman’s use of all the characters is amazing. He fleshes function so thoroughly, we don’t realize the path he is carrying us down as every character arcs and morphs. By the end of the book, these people will be family members.
Centrally, the goal of the story is to find Heinrich Ziegler, a fictitious German Nazi who escaped with a trunkload of gold after faking his death. It seems – believably, too – that Buck doesn’t have to go that far to reach his goal. But then, of course, it has to get personal and things have to go wrong. “There are certain realities that you can’t shout down, that you can’t bully, that you can’t beat into submission.”
At first, one might think the premise of the novel is a bit campy. The book is full of one liners. It is clever. Which is probably why it is receiving such grand reviews. The writing is a pleasure to read. Part of it, to me, was reminiscent of the old Woody Allen books I used to read when I was younger. When I first received this book for review, I was thinking it was going to be some sort of farce making fun of old men. It’s not. It’s brilliant. Author Daniel Friedman, a young man, has gotten inside Buck (the main character) and really sees what makes him tick. And he doesn’t tell us. He shows us. The plot is laid out in a believable fashion. There are no author conveniences. And it is amazing and inspiring to watch what this old retired detective is able to pull off.
At his age, Buck could have easily sat at home in his chair with his wife Rose making him coffee while they both basked in the Fox News Network. As Buck says, “When you have the option to do nothing, you should always take it.” I’m glad he didn’t. This book was rollicking good fun. If you want a laugh, if you want to believe in adventure at any age, and you want to accept that we can all be needed, wanted, effective, and useful no matter how old we are or where we are in life, then this is a great book to read.
“What I learned from being a cop is that nobody’s innocent,” Buck says. As you read the book, yes, watch everyone. It’s a mystery. But as I wrote at the very start: it is also much more. “You don’t care about anything,” Buck says. “And that’s what you end up regretting.” By the end of the book, you’ll be caring about Buck Schatz more than you ever thought possible. He may not have good bedside manner, but there is something about him that will resonate. In fact, he may remind you an awful lot of you.
“When Buck Schatz, senior citizen and retired Memphis cop, learns that an old adversary may have escaped Germany with a fortune in stolen gold, Buck decides to hunt down the fugitive and claim the loot. But a lot of people want a piece of the stolen treasure, and Buck’s investigation quickly attracts unfriendly attention from a very motley (and murderous) crew in Daniel Friedman’s Don’t Ever Get Old.”
Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!