Alan Gordon’s new book
May 15, 2008
Today I plan to go into the city to attend a book-signing. For most of my life, i.e., from about the age of six, I have been friends with a certain Alan Gordon; we grew up in the same town in New Jersey, took most of the same classes in school, acted in the same plays and performed in the same band (he played the clarinet, I played the tuba), and his parents taught me piano. These days, when he is not defending the destitute and downtrodden as a lawyer working for the Legal Aid Society in the city of New York, Alan writes mystery novels, set in various places in Europe and the Middle East around the time of the Fourth Crusade; his latest is titled The Moneylender of Toulouse. The Fools’ Guild Mysteries series is based upon two general premises: first, that the court fools of medieval society belong to a common, professional guild, international in extent; second, that this guild is, in fact, a front for an undercover agency, or what one might almost call a religious brotherhood, that is largely devoted to solving crime and preserving international order. The order which is to be preserved is (on the whole) a secular one, a kind of medieval Pax Americana. The forces which seek to disrupt that order are multifarious; they include corrupt persons on every level of society, not surprisingly those in government, but also (perhaps also not surprisingly) those in the Church; indeed, a certain subtext of the novels seems to be the ever-present threat of religious intolerance. The religious beliefs of the protagonists of the novels, the jester Theophilos and his wife Claudia — who, at the end of the first novel, takes up jesterhood as a kind of ascetic vocation — are largely confined to the overwhelming necessity to do good and defeat evil; the existence of God is not a terribly consuming question for them, and, if I recall, it is not something Theophilos (whose name, of course, means “God’s friend”) thinks really worth his time worrying about when there are so many other important things to do. In any case, around this basic theoretical framework the stories are woven with great skill, a lot of action, interesting historical detail, and much humor.
Anyhow, Alan Gordon is an old friend of mine. Buy his books.