THE SWEET LIFE OF JIMMY RILEY by James Reardon

THE SWEET LIFE OF JIMMY RILEY

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An autobiographical novel about the rise and fall of a vice squad cop during the LaGuardia-O'Dwyer eras in New York City--and, though delivered in cliched prose, a tasty, seamy tale it is, unremorseful and authentic. Jimmy Riley is a ""reverse Frank Serpico""--a dishonest plainclothesman who scoops up loot and spends like a millionaire, acquiring a mortgage-free Connecticut estate, a home in the city, country club memberships, and long vacations in Florida. He starts this shady career on almost his first day of duty, becoming the chief inspector's five-borough collections man for protection payoffs from the city's top bookmakers (these bookies are never raided for any reason). And, when Riley is put in charge of the new team of plainclothes rookies, he soon has them all swimming in payoffs. One problem, however, is that Riley starts preferring the company of gamblers to that of his fellow cops, and in no time he's blowing a thousand dollars a night ""cabareting"" two or three times a week. Worse yet, he meets Harry Gross, a smalltime Jewish bookie who suggests they team up, using Gross' smarts and Riley's protection to build their own bookmaking empire free of the Mob. True, after six years, Riley's in an ocean of cash. But then big sharks appear, high-placed cops who want to take over the Gross-Riley empire for themselves. Riley is transferred to a beat, then quits to open a cabaret while swollen-headed Gross bets with too many high rollers, loses their nut, then gets arrested, and is about to turn state's evidence. Riley shuts him up--but still winds up with a five-year stretch in Dannemora for perjury. . . . Reardon's tough-cop style--all cigar-chomping and side-of-the-mouth--may grow tiresome after a while. And there's no sign of a novel-like shape here. But the raw personal feelings are right out on top all the way through, with lots of real-life graft-and-corruption details--so readers partial to cop-world exposes will probably find this a juicy read despite the storytelling deficiencies.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Wyndham/Simon & Schuster