Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Forgotten Detectives: Mongo the Magnificent

Cover image from

     Even when I enjoy an author’s book(s), I don’t always keep up with what new books they might be writing, or even if they’ve died. I was sad to learn that George C. Chesbro died in November 2008. I hadn’t read anything by him in 15 years or more, but 20 years ago I loved several of his books. Most were about a dwarf criminologist, Dr. Robert Fredrickson, who paid his way through college performing in the circus as Mongo the Magnificent, an acrobat. Many of his friends still call him “Mongo,” and the books were identified on the covers as “A Mongo Mystery.” 
     Peter Dinklage (“The Imp” on HBO's Game of Thrones) was once announced as cast to play Mongo in a film adaptation, but that was in 2005, and nothing’s come of it yet, so I presume it’s a dead project.
     Chesbro’s Mongo books often included a fantasy or science fictional element and sometimes government conspiracy. They are narrated by Mongo and include his wry observations. Mongo's 6-foot-plus police detective brother, Garth, is in all of the books, I think, and features prominently in several. Other characters from one book sometimes appear in a later one. 
     I didn’t read or like all of Chesbro's books, but a few of my favorites were:
  •      Shadow of a Broken Man, the first published Mongo novel, in which one of the characters is revealed to have ESP-related mental powers.
  •      Beasts of Valhalla, another Mongo mystery, is pure science fiction, with a mad scientist attempting to regress mankind to pre-homo sapiens in order to save the world and give it a second chance. Mongo and his brother may hold the genetic key that allows him to do this.
  •      Two Songs This Archangel Sings adds Veil Kendry, a character from a standalone Chesbro mystery, Veil, to the Mongo series. Although Veil takes place first chronologically, Two Songs is more suspenseful if read first.
  •      And Bone, a non-Mongo mystery, involves an amnesiac homeless man, found holding a fossilized human bone, who may be connected to a serial killer of homeless people.

      I was prepared to lament that the books are out-of-print and unavailable, but it turns out that before Chesbro died, he regained the rights to almost all of his books and republished them. You can find a list and ordering information, along with a cover image gallery, interviews and more, at his official website.


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