Coming-of-age first novel of a crucial two weeks in the summer of 1950, when Vinny Vesta, teenage street punk from Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, finds the buddy—and the girl—of his dreams as he becomes a pawn in a crime family war.
One August night, Vinny is sleeping on the fire escape of his parents’ tenement and looks across the alley to see a youth reading a book by a flashlight. It’s Sidney Butcher, an Orthodox Jew whose health keeps him from attending school. The two improbably hit it off: Sidney recommends Machiavelli and The Great Gatsby, while Vinny protects Sidney from bullying punks. Not long after, Vinny’s father, a lieutenant in the Mangano family, gives his son tickets to see Tony Bennett at the Copacabana. Backstage, Vinny literally bumps into Terry Dvorak, one of the hatcheck girls, who drops her cigarette lighter. In a fit of Brando-esque bravado, Vinny finds it, gets her address from the club manager, knocks on her door and spends the next hour in bed. The sex is good—until Vinny quickly learns he’ll never be Terry’s one and only. Alas, Vinny could have let rest of the summer wind down, but he and his gang have to steal some sable pelts. They don’t snag enough, and Luciano family lieutenant Gee-Gee Patrone orders Vinny to raid a warehouse controlled by a rival lieutenant. Unbeknownst to Vinny, the raid will start a complicated mob war as the Vito Genovese will try control of Luciano family. Influenced more by Billy Bathgate than by The Godfather, author Vincent, a vice chairman and executive producer for Aaron Spelling, mixes real and fictional characters, lingering nostalgically over the chinos, T-shirts, Sabrett’s and other sights and sounds of bebop Manhattan. He also contrasts Vinny’s virile life as a mobster manqué with Sidney’s ethereal, redeeming world of books.
Sweet, affectionate, and bloody: a glance backward to a well-spent youth.