Books by David *Evanier

THE GREAT KISSER by David *Evanier
Released: Nov. 30, 2006

"The themes evoke those of Philip Roth's work in the '70s—sex, divorce, guilt, Jewish identity—but the execution is lacking."
A portrait of the artist as an aging, solipsistic man. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1998

An exasperatingly inept biography of the other Italian-American singer from Hoboken. Ten years younger than Frank Sinatra, Roselli, though enormously popular with the Italian-American community, has lived in that shadow of and—if this screed is credible—been kept from making it "big" by Sinatra and the mob. Novelist Evanier (Red Love, 1991) depends almost entirely on hearsay and the oral testimony of Roselli and some of his associates. He cites the occasional book for background, such as Richard Gambino's Blood of My Blood, but relies heavily on newspaper accounts, concert reviews, and album liner notes. Roselli started singing in Hoboken saloons before the age of 10. Sinatra, whose family lived down the street, was "amazed at my two-octave range," says Roselli. The two shared a stage just once, in 1937, at the dedication of a local park, when Sinatra was 22 and Roselli 12. Throughout the book, Evanier recounts slights and snubs; he reiterates Roselli's claim that his refusal to sing at a charity benefit put on by Sinatra's mother, Dolly, got his blackballed. There's no documentation of this and what little corroboration he offers comes from the often inarticulate recollections of Roselli's pals. While Evanier touts Roselli as one who defied the mob, he also outlines his career-long involvement with them (he sang at John Gotti Jr.'s wedding). Evanier recounts the singer's hassles with everyone from Ed Sullivan to Merv Griffin to New York's WNEW, the radio station that "yanked" his records at the behest of either Sinatra or the Gambino family. At the same time that he presents this as evidence as to why Roselli never "made it," he writes of $100,000 concert fees and million-dollar mansions. It makes no sense. As unpleasant, mercurial, and contradictory as Roselli would appear, even he deserves better than this account of his career. Read full book review >

Gerald Lerner, fictional author of this novel, begins by telling how he began his research on Soviet espionage in America by placing a newspaper ad beginning, "IF YOU DID IT, OR KNEW SOMEONE WHO DID. . ." The double-entendre in "doing it" is an apt lead-in to a tale that treats American Communism as an infatuation, a coming-of-age ritual, a tragic passion, and as the setup for a harrowing series of betrayals. Intermittently unsympathetic Lerner's heroes Solly and Dolly Rubell, electrocuted for espionage in 1954, are obviously modeled on the Rosenbergs, but instead of treating their story with pathos and dignity, as E.L. Doctorow does in The Book of Daniel, Lerner—or rather Evanier, the gifted author of The One-Star Jew (1983)—dissolves his narrative in an explosion of anecdotes—wildly, sometimes hilariously inappropriate to the Rubells' story but deeply revealing of the milieu—F.B.I. transcripts, informal testimony from every possible point of view, and unsettling humor. We get to hear the life story of Sammy Kuznekov, the Spanish Civil War vet who writes the Rubells in prison, urging them to turn against Stalinism; Sid Smorg, the junior spy who breaks down on his arrest and insists, "Punish me and punish me well"; Antonio Carelli, a Young Rebel who, after serving his time in a US jail, gets deported to the Soviet motherland and gets to suffer at the hands of the regime he's given his life for; and Manya Puffnick, the aging, dotty all-purpose radical who testifies for the Rubells. Meantime, flashbacks show Solly and Dolly as a pair of quintessentially American rubes whose letters ("You ring my bell with your passionate utterances of unity with the people") reveal them as nobly, hopelessly out past their depth. Irreverent, unflinching, and almost disgracefully entertaining. Read full book review >