Johnny’s Back in Town
Robert P. Fitton
“Murder, Mayhem, and Monkey Business.”
Last night I was happy to get my copy of the latest Matthias Jones book: Johnny’s Back in Town.
The Matthias Jones Series is not your typical murder-mystery.
(Ya think, Fitton?)
Hamilton College, Hamilton New Hampshire
Jones is a coach of three sports at Hamilton College in fictitious Hamilton New Hampshire. That’s what he was hired to do. By golly Jones just happens to be up to his eyeballs in murder investigations. Does Jones have a penchant for chasing after ambulances, fire trucks and police cars? No, that’s not it. He does however have a knack for tracking down murderers. Call that quality intuition or as Jones says: ‘a sideroad theory.’ Add persistence into the investigative mix. The college tolerates and accepts that Jones is called into action every time there is a murder. And the cops like the college have no problem with Jones in the middle of investigations. Let’s take the scenario a step further. Jones is best friends with Cocoa Stefani, a local hood, connected to the mob, and owner of the infamous Club Max in the neighboring city of Prince William. Sometimes in the course of investigations Jones and Cocoa are involved with the Boston mafia and other assorted thugs. So, Jones is out of town a lot but hark! He manages to conduct practices, play games, and have a superb winning record anyway. Jones’s fascination sounds like more than a hobby but less than an occupation. Investigating murders was the occupation of Jones’s father. When his father is murdered it is Jones along with Cocoa who solves Bill Jones’s murder.
The Matthias Jones Series is to Perry Mason as Hogan’s Heroes was to Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17. Hogan’s was not real yet it’s easy to suspend the disbelief because Hogan and the boys outwitted the Germans and it was fun-so were the characters. The premise of a counterinsurgency operating out of a POW camp is outrageous. It is the character flaws and egos as well as Hogan’s cunning that fuels the laughter. Every week a returning character or a new screwball appears in camp and is tied into the plot.
Matthias Jones started out very serious. I remember my cousin asking why Jones suddenly appeared at the scene of murders. I of course had no answer. Nor I did not exaggerate character traits early on. Jones was based on our coach in high school taking over from a nice guy who the small town loved. But that coach like Lark Larsen in the Jones series did not win many ball games. I met that other coach during my first year in college and ended up missing a class because he and I were still talking about the old days. Lark Larsen in the Jones series is a cartoon-like buffoon who like many of the whacko citizens of Hamilton and beyond have no clue they are abnormally bizarre weirdos operating in the real world. And they all have a nickname! There are many old-time radio shows as well as television comedies that have these dumbbells on the loose.
Jones, although frustrated by characters such as lumberyard owner, the reckless Arnie Dewars or the know it all, untactful and incompetent Bucky Driscoll, puts up with the nonsensical behavior. Even with accentuated character flaws and poor judgement everyone has the potential to be proficient in something. So do the Jones characters. It’s easy to forget this in everyday life! Many of the underestimated Jones Series characters bring forth a certain insight that solves the murder.
One more thing:
Fletcher Patriarch Hamilton Fletcher controls the college and the town and is easily triggered which is the genesis of more humor. Fletcher’s character holds the Matthias Jones pretend world together on many levels. Cocoa Stefani is also a character who is easily annoyed. He likes to get to the point and is not going to waste time. But Jones is his best bud. And it is Cocoa’s long lost gangster father from Vegas who is back in town in the latest Matthias Jones book and wouldn’t you know… somebody is murdered.
Johnny’s Back in Town