Cadaver Blues by J.E. Fishman, a review by @stephenwoodfin
January 22, 2013
Let me just get this out of the way right up front. Cadaver Blues is a piece of virtuoso writing. It is the first of J.E. Fishman’s books that I have had the pleasure of reading. It won’t be the last.
From Fishman’s author page on Amazon, we get this snippet about him and his book.
J.E. Fishman grew up on Long Island, N.Y., and received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Tufts University in Boston. A long-time resident of New York City and Westchester County, he now lives mostly in the Brandywine Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania, America’s mushroom farming capital and the backdrop to his novel Cadaver Blues (StoneGate Ink, Oct. 2012). CADAVER BLUES is a wisecracking mystery that follows debt man Phuoc Goldberg as he becomes seduced by the beautiful niece of a man who has disappeared and whose house is slated for foreclosure. Before long, Phu isn’t just looking for cash relief, but for cadavers.
Cadaver Blues is not the same old same old suspense, mystery thriller. It pushes the envelope. Phouc Goldberg (that’s Phu to you) is an unlikely hero, as all good heroes must be. He is a street-wise, smart ass, hot dog and pastry eating kid, who just happens to have a big heart hidden under layers of denial. His day job is helping people who are upside down financially make the best of terrible situations, for a price, of course. He is a compassionate cynic.
The thing that grabbed me about the book from its first pages was Fishman’s fluency of language, language which conjured up thoughts of John Updike and his character Rabbit Angstrom. But the prose of Cadaver Blues is more accessible than Updike’s, more of a young vibe, which has yet to succumb to the demoralizing pressures of a dog-eat-dog world.
The book’s title is a play on words, which is another thing I like. If you pick up a book called Cadaver Blues, you expect it to be about corpses. Not really. It is, but only sideways. “Cadaver Blues” is a reference to another key element in the plot, but I won’t spoil it for you.
Another interesting aspect of the book is its origin as a serial. From Fishman’s web site, I learned that Cadaver Blues premiered on The Nervous Breakdown. Since we are running serials on Caleb and Linda Pirtle, I have become more familiar with the writing techniques associated with that idiom. Each chapter is a standalone short story of sorts with a hook at the end. With my consciousness raised about this form of fiction, I could see how Fishman’s chapters in Cadaver Blues fit into the serials mold.
In Cadaver Blues, J.E. Fishman has created a memorable work, populated by fascinating characters. Please do yourself a favor and check out the book, as well as the other works of this fine writer.
I know I will.
(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author of six novels.)