Friday, June 20, 2014

The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front-Page Bail Bondsman by Ira Judelson with Daniel Paisner

The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front-Page Bail Bondsman by Ira Judelson with Daniel Paisner (Touchstone, June 2014, 273 pages, $26.00/$11.89) is an (almost) tell-all book which tells the story of a street-smart middle class hustler who, after years of drifting, falls into the opportunity of a lifetime when he discovers, at age 30, that the largest bail bondsman in the New York metropolitan area is his uncle who is willing to back him as he learns the ropes in the bail bond business. Bail bondsmen occupy a unique position in the criminal justice system, as they are the people who provide the money that insures the court appearance of people accused of crimes within the criminal justice system. Because of their importance in this process, they appear to be nearly untouchable by the hosts of people who rely on their efforts to get them out of jail while they await trial. Thus, Judelson has numerous stories to tell about the famous, the notorious, the guilty, and the innocent. He carefully names names in those cases that have become part of the public record and (wisely) protects the identities of those who might have the will and ability to hurt him should he bandy their names about. Judelson emerges as a smart, careful, shrewd judge of character who can juggle the conflicting demands of an often misunderstood and potentially dangerous profession with the multiple demands of suburban family life in contemporary America. All this makes Ira Jedelson an interesting character and The Fixer a good read. In the end, however, the nagging question of his reliability as a narrator remains.

I'm not usually a great fan of autobiographical collaborations, however, in The Fixer co-writer Daniel Paisner keeps the book pointed in the right direction, turning this ghost written project into a masterpiece of the genre. He captures Judelson's voice and maintains it throughout the text, making the language street-sounding enough to seem authentic while maintaining focus, drive, and interest in this narrative – no mean feat considering that Judelson describes himself as ADHD in the beginning of the book, an academic and professional mediocrity without any real thought of obtaining steady, gainful employment until Uncle Phil falls in his lap, he sees the possibilities for both gain and excitement, and embarks on a career leading to plenty of adrenaline and more money than he ever imagined. He moves from being a pretty small-time hustler to serving as the go-to person for getting people out of jail in the convoluted world of New York's business, celebrity, and criminal communities. The stories of people arrested and in need of immediate bail is inter-related with Judelson's home-life, where he sees himself as a devoted father and husband who must hustle every moment to keep bread on the table. This conflict, so familiar to career oriented people, dominates the book and keeps it interesting. The other element keeping the reader driving forward through this breezy narrative is the high level of interest in the stories Judelson tells and the potential for danger always hanging in the background. The famous names always popping up also work to keep the people who read The Post, The Daily News, and People Magazine interested and involved.

Ira Judelson

Along the way, Judelson does a useful and interesting description of the nature of the bail-bond business, its risks and rewards, as well as some very good advice for innocent people arrested and finding themselves in need of bail by providing some very good advice about what to say, who to call, and how to avoid making situations worse. He also admits, nearly glories in, his addiction to seeking press for his clients and himself, to being a celebrity bail bondsman. While doing this, he emerges as a stalwart advocate for the rights of the accused to receive bail until they have been convicted in order to give them and their families a chance at keeping their lives together while the wheels of justice grind slowly forward. He also seeks to portray himself as a dedicated husband and family man who wants nothing more than to provide for his family. While resolving this conflict is never easy, in Judelson's case it appears to have been seriously considered as the basis of a syndicated television show. All this raises the question of whether the book serves more to allow Judelson to tell an interesting story or to promote his upcoming television show, of which he and his wife Blake will serve as executive producers.

Co-Author Daniel Paisner

Co-author Daniel Paisner is one of the busiest collaborators in publishing. He's written over fifty books, on topics ranging from business and sports, to politics and popular culture, including eleven New York Times best-sellers. The term “ghost-writer” is often applied in a pejorative fashion, but this book displays huge skill in capturing the putative author, Ira Judelson's voice and personality in a consistent way throughout the book. I've never before read a book that led me to want to read others by the collaborator to examine and study his writing skill.

The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front Page Bail Bondsman by Ira Judelson with Daniel Paisner (Touchstone, June 2014, 273 pages, $26.00/$11.89) presents the life and adventures of a new character on the horizon of true crime stories – the suburban bail bondsman always acting on the edges of the mob, drug dealers, and miscreant celebrities in important effort to assure they remain free until they are either convicted or acquitted. Often such proceedings take years to resolve, and (sadly) are much more available to those with sufficient funds to make paying for a bond feasible. The poor often are forced to accept a plea to get out of jail. The Fixer is light reading concerned largely with celebrities. It's a very good summer read. The Fixer was provided to me as an electronic galley by the publisher through Edelweiss. I read it on my Kindle.