Master of Mythologies 3:
The Isaac Quartet

Blue Eyes

Jerome Charyn. Blue Eyes. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974.

In 1973, Charyn stalled while writing a novel tentatively called King Jude. He picked up Ross Macdonald's The Galton Case and was struck by its clarity, structure, and lack of sentimentality. Charyn decided to try his hand at writing a detective novel. While Macdonald chose to write about California, Charyn knew he had to write about New York. The product was Blue Eyes, his first detective novel and the beginning of a series of four novels that would become known as the "Isaac Quartet." In these novels Charyn brings his earlier concern about the plight of a moral man in an immoral world to detective fiction, effectively transforming the genre.

Manfred Coen, the title character, is a detective-wanderer who gets caught up in a feud between his mentor, Isaac Sidel, and a group of Marrano pickpockets, the Guzmanns. The action of the novel takes place against the backdrop of New York's grotesque characters and is full of vivid details. (While writing the novel, Charyn spent time with his brother, Harvey, a detective in Brooklyn. He visited the station, the morgue, crime scenes, and observed the day-to-day activities of actual detectives.) Coen's devotion to Sidel eventually costs him his life. Sidel, the tough, older policeman, is altered by Coen's death. It is Sidel who will become the central figure in the sequel, Marilyn the Wild.

Jerome Charyn. [Blue eyes]. Athens: Agra, 1993 Greek Edition.

Jerome Charyn. Zyeuxbleus. Paris: Gallimard, 1977. 1985 reprint and 1989 reprint.
Charyn's works are very popular in Europe. Blue Eyes was first translated in 1977 and published by the distinguished publisher Gallimard. The novel continues to be reprinted. Shown here are the first French edition and one of the Gallimard reprints.

Jerome Charyn. Blue Eyes. New York: Avon, 1977.
Jerome Charyn. Blue Eyes. New York: Bard/Avon, 1981.
Jerome Charyn. Blue Eyes. New York: Grove Press, 1986.
Jerome Charyn. Blue Eyes. New York: Mysterious Press, 1993.

Blue Eyes remains one of the most popular of Charyn's novels. Shown are several editions of the novel. Included in the Grove Press edition is an afterword by Charyn, written in 1984, outlining the origin of the "Isaac Quartet." The Mysterious Press edition, was the first to have cover art by the noted artist Bascove.

Marilyn the Wild

Jerome Charyn. Jerome Charyn: Marilyn the Wild, Blue Eyes, The Education of Patrick Silver, Secret Isaac London: A Black Box Thriller from Zomba Books, 1984.

This British publication by Zomba Books brings together the four novels that make up the "Isaac Quartet." They were reordered for the publication, reflecting the chronology of the narrative rather than of their creation. The cover painting--by Robin Harri s --is reminiscent of George Grosz and conjures up the often rather grotesque characters who people Charyn's mythical New York.

Jerome Charyn.Marilyn the Wild New York: Arbor House, 1976.

Though written after Blue Eyes, the action of Marilyn the Wild takes place earlier. Marilyn is Isaac Sidel's headstrong daughter, whom he loves but whom he also has trouble controlling. Marilyn is half in love with Coen. Unable to manipulate Marilyn, Sidel manipulates Coen. Coen's death in Blues Eyes, thus, is a punishment for all three of them.

Jerome Charyn. Marilyn la dingue. Paris: Gallimard, 1977.

Jerome Charyn. Marilyn la indomita. Madrid: Plaza and Janes, 1988.

Jerome Charyn. Marilyn the Wild. Athens: Agra, 1993. Greek edition.

Like Blue Eyes, Marilyn the Wild has been translated into many languages. Shown here are the French, Spanish, and Greek editions.

The Education of Patrick Silver

Jerome Charyn. The Education of Patrick Silver. New York: Arbor House, 1976.

In The Education of Patrick Silver, the narrative turns to Isaac Sidel. Coen's death haunts Sidel, who has also become obsessed with his hatred for a New York crime syndicate. Sidel wanders about the City lost in dreams, hallucinating that Coen is still alive. The novel moves beyond the traditional themes of detective fiction, exploring Sidel's tangled neuroses and his own descent into crime.

Jerome Charyn. Kermesse a Manhattan. Paris: Gallimard, 1977 and 1992 reprint edition.
The French edition of The Education of Patrick Silver was published by Gallimard. It was reprinted in 1992.

Secret Isaac

Jerome Charyn. Secret Isaac. New York: Arbor House, 1978.

Secret Isaac, the fourth novel of the quartet, focuses on Isaac Sidel. Charyn has said that his novel is about Sidel "after his fall from grace." The more Coen's death wears on Sidel, the more successful he becomes. By the time the novel opens, he is Commissioner of Police for New York City. His successes cannot replace the lost Coen and he begins to "cannibalize" himself. It is a dark portrait of internal struggle that has been called "quasimythical" rather than psychological. Joyce's Ulysses is often referenced by Sidel, a Joyce fanatic, who wanders, Bloom-like, around New York searching for Coen, his dead son.

Jerome Charyn. Secret Isaac. Autograph notebooks. No date.
While in Dublin, Charyn began work on Secret Isaac. Shown are notebooks containing the original manuscript of the book.

Jerome Charyn. Isaacs Geheimnis. Munich: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1985.

Shown is the German edition of Secret Isaac.

Jerome Charyn. Le ver et le solitaire. Paris:Balland, 1979.

As with other novels of the "Isaac Quartet," Secret Isaac has been widely translated.

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