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Hells Belz

Comedian Richard Belzer finds a new channel with a wryly comic mystery novel starring himself.

Veteran comedian Richard Belzer crafts a successful hybrid of real life, show biz and mystery fiction in “I Am Not a Cop!,” his first novel.

Using his role as Det. John Munch, formerly of the series Homicide and now on Law & Order: SVU, as a jumping-off point for the action, Belzer sets himself up as the detective-like protagonist of a missing person/murder mystery story involving the Russian mob and other unsavory Russian agents doing dirty work in New York.

Between takes on location around New York filming his show, Belzer gets drawn into helping a Russian friend, Rudy Markovich, a former coroner he met as an advisor on the crime show, who ends up going missing after Belzer and Rudy get into some scraps with the pursuing Russians that make the tabloids.

From there, Belzer the author gives Belzer the character a sidekick, a feisty young black production assistant, Kali, who is dispatched by the Law & Order producers to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t keep pursuing what should be a police matter. Belzer the character quickly co-opts Kali as his right-hand woman, chasing down leads and researching the case. [The references to Law & Order are kept tangential -- more like “the set” or “the location” or “night shoots”].

It is a little implausible to imagine the Belzer we know as the Belzer character in the book in some scenes, where he’s practicing martial arts and even successfully deploys this in a couple scraps during the action. But it’s forgivable, redeemed greatly by the Marlowe-inspired banter right out of Belzer’s wry stand-up sensibility that is injected throughout the novel.

That goes a long way to making the story and the mystery move along at a brisk pace and keeping the reader involved and curious about the mystery that Belzer the author unfolds. One could easily “I Am Not A Cop!” being the first book in another franchise for Belzer that will go even beyond playing Det. John Munch on TV.




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