R.I.P. Martin Meyers – New York City chronicler

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough he had been ailing for some time, it was still a shock to hear yesterday that the  wonderful New York City writer Martin Meyers had died.

We weren’t related, but I had so many good times with Marty and his wife and frequent collaborator Annette Meyers that he felt like family.

After a long and varied career as an actor, Marty started out as a writer in the 1970s with a series of Mickey Spillane-style novels about a detective named Patrick Hardy — the author was the first to admit, years later, that the books were bluntly pre-feminist and un-PC — but under the influence of Annette he began writing a series of historical novels about the earlier days of the city he adored (and knew more about than almost anyone I know).

The “Dutchman” books span centuries but always have a present-tense excitement that make them read like contemporary stories. They also eschew cheap sentiment — Marty and Annette  make sure that we realize that “the good old days” were not so great.

In 2008, the couple published their final joint novel under the “Maan Meyers” pseudonym they created for their historical mysteries.

“The Organ Grinder” (Five Star) is what you might call a hard-boiled historical — a gritty crime novel set in Manhattan a century ago that doesn’t contain an ounce of fake nostalgia for “Old New York.”

The book delves into the brutal murder of a prostitute — for a missing locket that might have fallen into her hands — but the crime is just the starting point for a thrilling examination of the social and cultural changes that were sweeping through the city at the beginning of a new century.

“The Organ Grinder” is packed with interesting characters including two women — photographer Esther Breslau and reporter Flora Cooper — who are pioneers in the revolutionary roles that women were about to play in the 20th century city.

If you are as fascinated by New York City history as I am — and love a good mystery — you should read Maan Meyers. Fortunately, after being out of print for a while, many of the stories recently returned via e-Book.

In their novels and short stories that have appeared in some of the best mystery anthologies — including Lawrence Block’s great collection, “Manhattan Noir” — Annette and Marty Meyers  display a peerless understanding of the city and the way it shapes people.

 

Joe Meyers

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