Books by Dorothy Uhnak

CODES OF BETRAYAL by Dorothy Uhnak
Released: Nov. 25, 1997

A New York City cop whose Irish relatives have been killed by the Mafia branch of the family vows revenge—even though it means he'll get pulled every which way from here to next week. Hours after attending his great-grandfather Nicholas Ventura's 75th birthday party in Westbury, Peter O'Hara, 12, is shot dead during a petty drug quarrel his cousin Sonny had with some independent dealers in Chinatown. Peter's father, Det. Nick O'Hara, is devastated by his son's death—and even more devastated when his cop uncle Frank O'Hara tells him that the story Papa Ventura told him about Peter's death was just a whitewash of Sonny, and that 30 years ago, Papa had ordered Nick's own father killed when he witnessed a fatal scene on a city construction site. It's time for revenge on the Venturas, Frank urges Nick. But first Uhnak (The Ryer Avenue Story, 1993, etc.), not content to leave Nick deadened with grief over his son's death and his grandfather's treachery, has to plunge him further into despair by packing him off on a botched robbery that leaves him struggling in the clutches of the DEA—and all the more ready to rebound to the Ventura fold, now as a government informer. Nick's betrayal of his grandfather is complicated not only by his affair with Papa's spoiled darling, manipulative fashion-designer Laura Santalvo (who has her own drug-soaked secrets to hide), but by the elaborate introduction of dozens of figures—Papa's widowed sister Ursula, loyal retainer Tommy the Dog Bianco, Nick's longtime antagonist Funzy Gennaro, Junior Caniello, Esq.—who pop up and then get disappeared, as if by the Mafia. Coupled with Uhnak's telegraphic prose, it's enough to make the whole series of triple-crosses read like a treatment for an even longer story—a television mini-series, maybe—that could dramatize Nick's never-all-that-divided loyalties against the full range of characters tantalizingly sketched in here. Read full book review >
Released: March 22, 1993

Uhnak's first novel since Victims (1985) begins when six Bronx kids, turning on an abusive neighborhood bully, Walter Stachiew, beat him, leave him for dead, allow one of their fathers to be executed for his murder—and then spend 40 years overachieving as the past waits to catch up with them. Even as each of the kids is making it big, they're all piling up new secrets. Take-charge Dante D'Angelo is able to marry into a wealthy, well-connected Italian family and serve two terms as a liberal New York senator only because Maryanne Radsinski, the whore who seduced him one night and pleaded pregnancy, is bought off by his uncles. Tomboy Megan Magee, conquering polio to become a hotshot psychiatrist and spokesperson for women's issues, has a notorious aunt and a manic-depressive husband—as well as a long-standing crush on Danny. Megan's cousin—epileptic, ethereally beautiful Eugene O'Brien- -rises through the ranks of the Church because of his questionable closeness to rich patrons, and his brother Charley, rediscovering his Jewish roots, has been smuggling arms to Israel together with Ben Herskel, who's reversed his determination to renounce his own Jewishness, emigrated to Israel, and become General Herskel, Israeli delegate to the UN. Even Willie Paycek, whose hated janitor father was electrocuted after being discovered standing over Stachiew with a coal shovel, has fought his way to the top, turning his agreement to marry Maryanne and take her off to Hollywood into the springboard for a successful filmmaking career. But Willie's never forgiven the other kids for not befriending him despite the dark secret they share, and he bides his time until he can turn Maryanne's gossip-columnist son against his old accomplices in a regrettably predictable finale. Murder, sex, religion, politics; FDR, WW II, death camps; generational strife, multiple betrayals, and all the uplift you'd expect from a successful miniseries. Irresistible kitsch. Read full book review >