DON'T EVER GET OLD has earned coveted starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Review and Booklist. These are three of the four major trade publications which review most trade releases. Only about one out of every ten to twenty books reviewed gets a star, so this kind of early critical consensus is really exciting.
Friedman’s excellent debut introduces a highly unusual hero, 87-year-old, politically incorrect Buck Schatz, a former member of the Memphis PD, who’s become a living legend. Schatz’s memory is less and less reliable, and his physical decline is making his world “a gradually shrinking circle.” That circle becomes a good deal larger after he agrees to a request to visit Jim Wallace, a soldier he served with in WWII who’s on his deathbed. Wallace reveals that Heinrich Ziegler, the SS officer who ran the POW camp where both Schatz and Wallace were imprisoned, survived the war. On top of that shocker, Wallace reveals that he facilitated the Nazi’s escape in exchange for a gold bar. Schatz’s furious reaction accelerates Wallace’s demise and sets off a frantic search for Ziegler and the treasure he still possesses.
Friedman makes his limited lead plausible, and bolsters the story line with wickedly funny dialogue.
A geezer cowboy who’s been retired from Memphis Homicide longer than he served there is thrust into the middle of a murderous hunt for Nazi plunder.
What a shame that when Jim Wallace was on his deathbed, he asked his old comrade-in-arms Buck Schatz to come see him. The two had never been friends, and they don’t bond now over Jim’s revelation that he’d accepted a bar of gold in return for letting the supposedly dead Heinrich Ziegler, the SS commandant of the POW camp where both GIs languished in 1944, pass through a military crossing and out of history. As if Jim’s confession weren’t bad enough, Buck soon realizes that Jim blabbed to everyone he could reach from his hospital bed. Now Jim’s daughter Emily and her repellant husband Norris, Baptist preacher Lawrence Kind, Israeli agent Yitzchak Steinblatt and casino debt collector T. Addleford Pratt are all convinced that Buck is on the trail of Ziegler and his gold, and they’re all determined to cut themselves in for a piece of the action. Worse still, someone doesn’t trust natural causes to eliminate his competitors. Since he’s 88 years old, Buck’s clear mandate is to go back to watching daytime TV. Instead, he pokes Det. Randall Jennings with a stick and, when that fails, enlists his grandson William, aka Tequila, to spend his summer off from NYU Law School helping him track down Ziegler. The real prize here, however, isn’t Nazi treasure but Buck’s what-the-hell attitude toward observing social pieties, smoking in forbidden venues and making life easier for other folks. As he battles memory loss and a host of physical maladies, it’s great to see that he can still make whippersnapper readers laugh out loud.
A sardonically appealing debut for a detective who assures his long-suffering grandson, “I care about people. I just don’t like them.”
The title of this knockout of a book is misleading. Ninetyish, retired Memphis homicide cop Buck Schatz makes coot-dom look like a riot. Buck is an abrasive old party with not an ounce of codger cuteness. He has trouble remembering, his skin has grown papery, he can’t push his lawn mower anymore. But his cop’s watchfulness is intact. He keeps his .375 Magnum close by. He’s a death-camp survivor—his real name is Baruch—and right off, he learns that the sadistic guard who brutalized him is likely still alive and the possessor of much stolen Nazi gold. To honor the Nazi’s victims and maybe grab the gold, Buck and his chatterbox grandson go on a quest. But who are these people who suddenly come out of the woodwork—a loan shark, a scholar, a pretty Israeli soldier? And why does everyone start dying? In prose as straightforward and tough as old Buck, the plot reveals its secrets with perfect timing. It’s a shock when the killer’s identity is revealed. But, then, we think eventually, who else could it be?