MICHAEL Z. LEWIN – Outside In. Willie Werth/Hank Midwinter #1. Alfred A.Knopf, hardcover, 1980. Berkley, paperback, 1981.

   Most of the work that Lewin has previously produced in the field of detective fiction has been steady if not spectacular private eye fare, Albert Samson, the hero he has used most often, is known as the cheapest detective in Indianapolis, which means that he invariably gets stuck with the cases o one else will touch.

   None of this, however, adequately paves the way for the tables that Lewin turns upon himself in this, his latest effort. With a nod to the credo always given to the beginning writer, “Write what you know.” Lewin’s newest protagonist is a middle-aged writer named Willie Werth, whose life has grown soft and comfortable from the proceeds gained over the years fro a long series of mystery adventures starring that premier private eye, Hank Midwinter.

   Now, Hank Midwinter is the kind of guy who outhammers Mickey Spillane’s hero, for example, but his author, who finds himself compelled to try to help the police investigate the murder of a friend, quickly discovers that the real cops are not like, and do not like, fiction.

   Werth is also going through a minor crisis with his wifem who tolerates but who does not always understand the artistic muse. Nor is Werth (nor the reader, for that matter) entirely sure that part of what attracts him so greatly to the case us not the presence at home of his friend’s daughter, whose newly found fame is for having made one of “those movies” back in New York.

   The combination os Werth’s case and the eventual wrapping up of Midwnter’s own latest caper is a synergistic entanglement that finds each feeding off the other in alternating chapters. The result is a highly amusing and yet an intensely retrospective view of the world as it exists within its own shell of reality.

   Or perhaps, as Lewin strongly suggests, with the right perspective, why couldn’t that be taken the other way around?

–Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 4, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1980. Previously published in the Hartford Courant.