Tennessee Williams wrote ‘America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.’
Maybe he hadn’t read any of the Milan Jacovich books by Les Roberts, set in that much-maligned Ohio city.
It’s a tough place, so Milan fits right in. He’s an ex-cop, Vietnam veteran, and former football player. Now he’s a private investigator with a master’s degree, a taste for klobasa sandwiches and Stroh’s beer, and a knack for finding trouble.
So far, so clichéd, you might say. But Roberts shows great skill in giving Cleveland a character of its own, a sense of place. And in the character of Milan, he manages to give the P.I. a sense of right and wrong that fits in with his working-class roots and love of his native city.
I’m always going to have a liking for the blue-collar underdog who manages to succeed, despite everything lined up against him, and Milan usually does just that.
Add his personal struggles with being divorced and apart from his sons, and Milan is a likeable, honest guy who does the best he can with the cards he’s been given.
There’s nothing shatteringly original in these books, but they’re highly enjoyable, and anything that can help redeem Cleveland’s reputation can’t be a bad thing.