You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Saturday, August 6, 2011


The Iron Will of Shoeshine CatsThe Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats by Hesh Kestin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The rise, during a couple of weeks in the 1963, of Russell Newhouse from Brooklyn College honor student to kingpen of a major crime organization.

Hestin fills his narrative with enough period detail to keep all the wild improbabilities and outrageous characters grounded in a very believable New York City. (Although some of it we may recognize because the cliches have been so embedded in our minds from movies and TV.) The momentum flags some in the second half, but from the time Shushan Cats, the most famous Jewish mobster in New York City, enters the Bhotke Young Men's Society in Brooklyn to arrange a funeral for his mother, Russell Newhouse finds himself adopted into a seductive world of money, glamour, and the kindly (?) attentions of the most erudite mobster character ever created.

Hestin creates laugh-out-loud episodes and also has characters let loose on several sacred cows of the period -- actually it's mostly the Kennedy family. The story reads like a fable, although the moral may be that you can justify just about anything. The book left me craving cold cuts and sharper suits.

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Charles -- Scribner is bringing out THE LIE in February and asked me to contact you because you were so kind in reviewing THE IRON WILL OF SHOESHINE CATS. Nominally a thriller, THE LIE is the story of how Israelis deal with terrorism when it gets personal. If you would like to receive an early copy, please reply with a postal address. All good wishes, Hesh