by Susan Berman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1981
A daughter's unsteady ""story of a father who was a gangster, not a gangster who was a father."" Growing up in Vegas, young Susan Berman did her homework in the counting room of the casino at her father's Flamingo Hotel. One of his best friends was nicknamed ""Icepick."" Another was found decapitated. They had ""kidnap drills"" at home. Shouldn't she have figured out daddy was in the Mob? Sheltered, shuttled from school to school, orphaned at 14 by the successive deaths of father Davie (""the toughest Jew I ever met,"" said a New York detective) and mother Gladys (an ex-tap dancer prone to breakdowns), Berman remained unaware until adulthood that she had lived ""on the enchanted edge of a dark reality."" In unraveling her father's past, reporter Berman found not only a Big Story but (she says) ""a framework for who I am."" Not your ordinary gangster, Davie Berman fought his way out of North Dakota's godforsaken prairies to run 20 distillery plants in the Midwest during Prohibition at age 16; at 20 he was in Sing Sing. Later, he ran gambling in the Twin Cities, joined the Canadian army in World War II, and was wounded at Anzio. Mustered out a hero, he headed for Vegas in '45 (""Where is the town?"" asked his wife, stepping off the tram in the desert) and, with Mob associates, ""took over"" the Flamingo the day after Buggsy Siegel was murdered. The truth unveiled, reporter Berman still presses hard to show that Davie ""was a good man who acted out of the most basic desire, to see his family continue and survive""--he read his daughter bedtime stories; he built a synagogue; he was a soft touch for a hard luck story; he loved his troubled wife. Though telling her father's story may be personally cathartic (""my odyssey has given me roots. . . that almost cancel out an emotionally itinerant past""), Berman never successfully explains why her father's past ""doesn't. . . make a difference to me emotionally."" Maybe the real story lies there, but it's short-changed. Overall, three unwoven threads: overdone little girl memories of daddy, a gangster's biography, and a flat-effect response. A curious, and limited, book.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981
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