The same talents that were on display in Elkoff's short stories (You Can Kiss This Boy Goodbye, 1981) surface frequently...



The same talents that were on display in Elkoff's short stories (You Can Kiss This Boy Goodbye, 1981) surface frequently through this short novel: moments of funny/awful embarrassment, dreadful glimpses of marital/family ties gone wrong, lacerating dialogue, But here Elkoff tries to weave those gifts into a fairly outlandish, somewhat hackneyed black comedy about a nice Jewish guy's lethal Mafia involvements--with spotty results. PR-man Bill Berger, 48, has a terrific girlfriend (statuesque, moody Juney Winslow), a decent ex-wife, and big brother-in-law problems: his sister's husband Ozzie Strand is a grossly compulsive gambler who (in the dandy opening chapter) loses all at Aqueduct, borrowing $6000 on the spot from imperious shark Charlie Ocarello--with Billy reluctantly promising to back up the one-week, $7000 pay-back. But Ozzie can't come up with the cash, of course. And, after a bizarre family Thanksgiving and Ozzie's latest suicide attempt (kinky stuff with a vibrator in the bathtub), Billy gets the money from Juney, hands it over to Ocarello's henchman. . . and then kills the henchman (!) when Ozzie's idiotic ambush scheme leads to an angry confrontation. Bill and Juney dispose of the body; bald, skinny Ozzie fiees to Florida with the $7000, acquiring a rich mistress (and a cure for his impotence problem). But Ocarello, of course, is out for vengeance--so Bill and Juney decide they'll have to get him before he gets them: first they try hiring a black hitman (a fiasco); then, with help from Juney's cop/uncle, they plan a trap to get Ocarello arrested--a semi-success. . . though not without casualties for Ozzie and Bill. Elkoff never achieves quite the manic, panicky zest needed to carry off this sort of implausible, comic/dreadful taper plot. Nor does the more serious attempt at character-study with Bill and Juney really come together: Bill's rejuvenation-through-danger (""It was a perverse parody of all the possibilities of youth, for suddenly everything was unknown again"") is unconvincing; Juney's raunchy broodings on her sex-life wear thin; the Bill/Juney relationship, despite much up-to-date stewing, remains one-dimensional. So, while there are periodic laughs here, as well as flickers of a truly harrowing brother-in-law novel, this mixture is uneven--and finally disappointing.

Pub Date: May 18, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983