Reviews: November/December 2018

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The Judge Hunter
Christopher Buckley ’75
Simon & Schuster, $26.95
Reviewed by Alex Beam ’75

Alex Beam ’75 is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

Christopher Buckley ’75 wants you to have fun reading his books—even Wet Work (1991), a darkly comic slaughterhouse romp about professional killers. The Judge Hunter is Buckley’s second foray (after The Relic Master, 2015) into historical satire; like that wonderful teacher you dreamed of having, it never fails to both amuse and inform.

Hunter starts in 1660, the year of the Restoration of the English monarchy under Charles II. Our not terribly reliable narrator is the famous diarist Samuel Pepys, Clerk of the Acts of the Royal Navy, who needs to send his cloying pest of a brother-in-law, “Balty” (for Balthasar) de St. Michel, far, far away. Where better than to the North American colonies, to hunt for regicide judges who may be hiding in refractory Massachusetts or Connecticut?

Once his protagonist, who hates long sea voyages, sets a quaking foot in the New World, Buckley launches a lot of balls into the air: Puritans; Quakers; stiff-necked Bostonians; a Quiripi Native convert named Repent; a side-of-the-angels, seventeenth-century Special Forces operative, working undercover as Plantagenet Spong; and the odious, peg-legged Peter Stuyvesant (“Old Dildo Leg”), governor of the New Netherlands and ruler of the island of Manhatoes, aka The Big Dutch Apple.

It’s hard to sync up comedy with the pace and plot demands of even a light-hearted action thriller, but Buckley—a dab hand at ye olde tiller—makes it look and feel easy. Added bonus: Yale content! Much of the action takes place in the dour New Haven Colony, then feuding with the more liberal, Hartford-based Connecticut Colony.

Did you know that New Haven was laid out in nine squares, to symbolize the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation? You will learn a great deal about the scheming Rev. John Davenport, for whom a Yale residential college is named, and find out why there is a Judges Cave in West Rock Park, just five miles from Old Campus.