A businessman resists the mob in a novel that spans most of the 20th century.
In 1915, Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a tough place for 12-year-old Morris Rabishevsky and his siblings to grow up. He takes a job sweeping floors at the Majestic Garment Company, but his drive and ambition are obvious. The owner suggests he go by Morris Raab—because Rabishevsky is “a mouthful for some people here”—and he and his mother agree. But street punks try to shake him down on payday, and he has to fight tough guy Louis Buchalter to keep his money. Morris has “never backed down from anything” and is much tougher than his brothers, Sol and Harold. Every character’s personal qualities factor strongly in this story. Morris’ drive and intelligence lead to his running Majestic at age 20 when the owner retires. Later, he and Sol start their own garment manufacturer, Raab Brothers. Morris’ brash approach wins business with a big chain store, and the company grows. Sol knows how to keep the books but doesn’t know how to sell. Their other brother, Harold, is a likable screw-up who hangs out with the wrong crowd, even mobsters, and might well ruin what becomes the family business. Louis Buchalter grows up to be a cutthroat mobster, taking over garment unions and running Murder Incorporated. The mob has a way of breaking down resistance to the unions: They throw a man out an eighth-floor window, splash an owner with sulfuric acid, destroy his inventory. Of course, the Raab Brothers’ success attracts Buchalter’s attention, and the resulting conflict is one of life and death. New York Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey seeks Morris’ cooperation in destroying the mob, but Morris and his business might perish in the process. At a funeral, a rabbi asks, “What does it mean to be a good man?” If it means standing up to evil, then Morris Raab qualifies.
A highly satisfying story of family loyalty, persistence, courage, and crime.