Greg's Reviews > Saratoga Swimmer

Saratoga Swimmer by Stephen Dobyns
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Oct 18, 11

bookshelves: saratoga, mystery
Read on October 17, 2011

If I believed in silly hokum I would think that Jesus or some other mythical being / force had a hand in delivering this book to me. I'd bought the first Stephen Dobyns Saratoga novel at the Saratoga Springs Public Library Bookbag sale when I was home earlier this summer. It was the only novel of his they had and I bought it and found out, neat it's the first in the series! Then when I was home a week ago I found this book at Old Saratoga Books in Schuylerville, again it was the only Dobyns book they had and it turned out to be number two in the series. Coincidence? Or the magical hand of an irrational higher power? It's almost enough to make me want to found a religion, but that would be stupid. The books aren't good enough for that, but, well maybe religions have been founded on worse books. In Saratoga Swimmer's defense, it is much more coherent than, say The Bible and has no glaring plot holes or contradictions.

This novel takes place in the last week of July. Those who know Saratoga (or at least how it was before the pricks at NYRA got greedy and turned the August place to be into the August plus a couple of weeks in July place to be) will realize this is a magical time for the town. Some people are seeing the dollar signs coming to them either from fortuitous picks at the track in the upcoming month, or from all the extra tourist money that's about to be unleashed on the town, and others, like myself when I lived there, are cursing themselves for still living in this stupid town for yet another tourist season and using that last week as a last chance to be able to drive around and goto my favorite places in town before the locusts descend and traffic jams become common place and parking disappears. I hated Saratoga in August. Even though I'd usually goto the track once a year to throw a few bucks on some nags (usually betting on the horse whose name was closet to a Misfits song title, and not generally winning with that foolproof betting strategy, while another friend of mine would only bet on the horse with the worst odds (he never won anything when we went, but he claimed once to have won) and a third friend wanting to bet on horses with the favorite odds but usually bullied by me into playing some horse that had some other punk band or song relationship). Even though each year I'd make a trek to the track I fucking hated it. It was fun going with friends and for about maybe a half hour it stayed fun and then it got really boring, Going to watch horse races is boring. It's a half hour of standing around doing nothing and then watching some horses run for a minute and then standing around doing nothing again, all in hot and humid August. Maybe if we remembered to bring folding chairs and beer we could have sat around on the grass with the white-trash, but we forgot every year, and in those years of my life I seemed to radiate something that irritated rednecks and made them want to talk smack at me and threaten violence.

Oh, how I miss Saratoga!

I'm not feeling like giving you a book report, but here goes a short shot at it. A horse owner gets killed while swimming at the YMCA, a former cop gets drawn into investigating the crime. Adventures happen and the reader finds out who killed the man.

The ending of the novel was pretty kick ass. I liked seeing SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) in a pretty cool way (although minor plot problem, who would ever try to run through the park as a quick getaway from Route 9 to Route 50 in hopes of jacking someone's car from them on Route 50? That little short cut is probably about a mile, on foot? with someone chasing after you in a car? This isn't a spoiler though because I'm not telling how was doing the running or the chasing, and seriously were you going to read this?) I was a little confused about one or two instances of geography, and I could have sworn that Compton's (a greasy spoon breakfast and lunch joint on the main street of town) was always Compton's and was open already in the very early 80's but I could be wrong about that, anyway it's called Lou's here. I also was surprised to see that the author wrote a strip bar into the town. Is this true? Was there really a track-side dive bar / Chinese restaurant / go-go bar in Saratoga in the early 80's? I can't believe it, but maybe it's based on a real place, I kind of hope it was real, I like when anything that doesn't fit the sanitized squeaky clean faux-morality is tarnished (except you know for betting on horses, which is apparently a fine upstanding thing, oh and drinking, around the time this book took place Saratoga Springs had the most bars per-capita of any place in New York State and was up there nationally as well). Which, speaking of this, Dobyns does a nice job at laying out the moral Hypocrisy of the town.

Good work, author!
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message 1: by karen (new)

karen good work, reviewer!


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