by Marvin Elkoff ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 18, 1983
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
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