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A mistily nostalgic period piece, set in Depression-era Brooklyn, in which the veteran West (The Killing Kind, These Lonely Victories) huffs and puffs mightily to breathe new life into the old story of a whore who really puts her heart into her work. Blanche Brotman is a nice Jewish girl from a middle-class Flatbush family, who, in 1923, throws it all away (her father says Kaddish for her) to marry Frank Cassola, an Italian guy with mob connections. It was lust at first sight, as it always is with Blanche--""It's the first thing I think of in the morning and the last at night,"" she giddily tells her prim friend, Flo--but, against all odds, the marriage survives until the Depression, when Frank is gunned down. Without him, Blanche's passion soon becomes ""eruptive and ravenous,"" so she supports herself and her young son Nicky by combining business and pleasure to become a kind of amateur call girl. Unfortunately, she also goes to work for a Mafia kingpin named Frank Diondi in a hat store which fronts for a numbers racket; when she kills a rival gangster, although in self-defense, the DA puts pressure on her to give information about Diondi's operation. In the end, she survives a rub-out attempt to help put Diondi away, marries a rich businessman, and settles down on Central Park West, a retired tabloid heroine. All of this is pretty flimsy stuff, mere window dressing for the sex scenes, which are numerous, steamy, and mainly gratuitous. The author obviously intends for Blanche to be seen as a courageous, warm-hearted woman, liberated before her time, unabashedly sensual, and fiercely protective of Nicky, who takes some hard knocks because of his mother's life style. But Blanche comes across as an old-fashioned opportunist, driven by a vapid need for sex and money. As her brother Jerry-the-dental-assistant puts it: ""Boy, you really are up in the air.

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 1985
Publisher: Macmillan