The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Version: Unabridged
Author: Michael Chabon
Narrator: Peter Riegert
Genres: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperAudio
Published In: May 2007
# of Units: 10 CDs
Length: 12 hours, 30 minutes
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The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" pens an homage to the stylish menace of 1940s noir in a novel that imagines if Alaska, and not Israel, had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II.

Reviews (10)

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Written by Anonymous on April 24th, 2015

  • Book Rating: 3/5

The story dragged, it was too much work to pay attention to the convoluted story at times, and the conspiracy was thin and a bit bizarre. The reason I stuck with it is the writing - definitely a cut above the average cop mystery.

Typical hard-boiled alternative history yarn

Written by bendofbay from San Ramon, CA on April 28th, 2012

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Chabon writes in the hard boiled detective format quite convincingly. It is an alternative history giving a temporary homeland to the Jews in Alaska rather a permanent homeland in Israel after WWII. Our hero, a Jewish policeman, finds a messianic junkie shot dead in the same fleabag where he lives and follows the trail where it leads to ever higher political levels. Well-done, but the odd mix of genres and lack of universality left me feeling a bit unsatisfied ... I wanted something deeper. The narration is done well, but it gets a little tiring to go hour after hour listening to the typical Sam Spade drone tinged with a Yiddish accent.


Written by Anonymous on January 8th, 2012

  • Book Rating: 1/5

Couldn't begin to finish this book. I even re-started it twice.

Wonderful, superb reading

Written by MinMcQ from San Francisco, CA on January 9th, 2010

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I have loved reading Michael Chabon in the past and expected to enjoy this book but my expectations were so completely exceeded. The plot was absorbing and the characters beautifully fleshed out, rich and interesting. But the biggest surprise was how the narrator so enhanced my enjoyment of the book with his vocal interpretation of the characters: in both the richness of his voice, the individualized characters brought to life in accent, pitch and tone; and the emotion brought to his delivery. I had to listen through it a second time to catch the nuances of his performance again and because I wasn't yet ready to walk away from the people and places created in this wonderful book.

Yiddish Policeman's Union

Written by Anonymous from Santa Rosa, CA on November 19th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 3/5

It took a little bit to get going, which, for an attempt at a classic pulp PI novel, was a bit dissapointing. The characters were all wonderful but the story never really came together for me and the ultimate reveal felt a bit forced. My favorite Chabon novel, by far, remains Kavalier and Clay!

Took awhile to get moving, and then. . .

Written by Tracy on August 21st, 2009

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Michael Chabon's book takes a little while to really become engrossing -- it wasn't until disc three that I really felt carried along by the story -- but once that point kicks in, his style and his characters will consume you. He blends innovative uses of language and description with some of the tropes and images of the hard-boiled PI novels of Raymond Chandler, and sets in a world that, to this particular gentile, was both strange and wonderful. Perhaps the most enjoyable part, for me, was how the story resolves itself with almost Dickensian neatness, all the various characters, encounters, and subplots turning out to be entwined and enmeshed from the beginning. This is a book I would love to read again. My only complaint is that the narrator, who has tremendous skill in adopting a variety of convincing accents, sometimes mispronounces words (surprisingly easy ones!) or handles untagged dialogue so rapidly it's hard to tell which character is speaking when.

Sitka as you've never known it

Written by DF on August 6th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Chabon has created a whole alternative history in which to set this hard-boiled detective yarn. He writes with rich imagination, intelligence, and a hard-to-match command of the English language. It's an all-Jewish Sitka, Alaska on the eve of dissolution, with an underworld lorded over by the ultra-orthodox. Ultimately the conspiracy that drives events in the book proves a little too contrived and a little thin in the end, but I didn't really care. I went back to the beginning and started listening to the book again. It's the story of the murder of an addict--and pretty quickly I found myself addicted to the thrill of what Chabon can do.


Written by ML from Carrollton, TX on December 5th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 2/5

I had high hopes for this novel, but it came up way short. I even found it offensive at times. It was way too long... felt like a soap opera. 3 hours later nothing had changed! I'd suggest a skip on this one.

A great one.

Written by Anonymous on June 25th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This is a great book. Each and every character is well developed and you feel close to each of them. The story and setting are so imaginative and unique that you truly feel like it could be another, yet very real, world.

Yiddish Policeman's Union

Written by Anonymous on April 3rd, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Absolutely great book - irreverant and spiritual story of redemption. I'm ready to listen to it again.

Author Details

Author Details

Chabon, Michael

Novelist, screenwriter, columnist and short story writer Michael Chabon was born May 24, 1963 in Washington, DC. He grew up in the suburbs of Columbia, Maryland with his parents Robert, a physician, lawyer, and hospital administrator, and Sharon, a lawyer. His parents divorced when he was about 11, and Michael Chabon lived with his mother. He grew up reading comic books and knew from an early age that he wanted to be a writer. In 1984 he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English. In 1987, he received a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Irvine. His master's thesis was the novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a coming-of-age story about a man caught between romances with a man on one side, a woman on the other, and the shadow of his gangster father over it all. Apparently Chabon never intended to publish it but his professor, thinking it so good, secretly sent the manuscript to an agent. The book not only found a publisher but Chabon was awarded an advance of $155,000. At the time this was the highest figure ever paid for a first novel by a young, unknown fiction writer. The book was published with a six-figure first printing and earned a place on the bestseller lists.

Looking back on his early success some years later (in 2001), Chabon reflected that the "the upside [to my early success] was that I was published and I got a readership[, the] downside....was that, emotionally, this stuff started happening and I was still like, 'Wait a minute, is my thesis done yet?' It took me a few years to catch up. And I was married at the time to someone else who was also a struggling writer, and the success created a gross imbalance in our careers, which was problematic."

Chabon's first marriage, to poet Lollie Groth, ended in 1991. At the time he was struggling with his sophomore novel called Fountain City. At one point he submitted a 672-page draft to his editor who disliked it, but Chabon was reluctant to drop the novel as he'd already signed a contract and half of his advance had gone to his ex-wife. Eventually, he decided to abandon the novel and, after staring at a blank computer screen for hours, started to write The Wonder Boys, in which an author is hopelessly stuck writing his endless, shapeless novel! He completed The Wonder Boys in just seven months without telling his agent that he had stopped work on Fountain City. The Wonder Boys was published in 1995 and was made into a movie in 2000.

Inspired by Jonathan Yardley's review in The Washington Post, in which Yardley praised The Wonder Boys but suggested that it was time that Chabon took "the next step up", Chabon started on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the story of two young, Jewish comic book artists in the 1940s that blended the world of comic books, the impact of World War II and the lives of his characters. It won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize.

In 2002 he published Summerland, a fantasy novel for younger readers. In 2004 he published The Final Solution, a mystery starring an elderly Sherlock Holmes.

Between 1987 and 1990 he published a number of short stories, mostly in The New Yorker, but also in Gentleman's Quarterly and Mademoiselle. Some of these are collected in A Model World (1991), a second set of short stories, Werewolves in their Youth, was published in 1999. Chabon has also written a number of pieces for DC Comics, and co-wrote the story for Spider-Man 2. He has also been co-writing a film adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is tentatively scheduled for release in 2009.

From Jan to May 2007, a 15-part serialized novel, Gentlemen of the Road, ran in the New York Times Magazine; Chabon describes it as "a swashbuckling adventure story set around the year 1000"; and in May 2007 he published The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

Chabon lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their four children.