SHAKEDOWN by Jonathan Kwitny


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When a caper comes without a sharp viewpoint or a distinctive tone--half of this one's told by quasi-jokey FBI agent Frank Scanlon, the other half by the blandest of narrators--it can't be anything but breezily forgettable, even if the facts are as intriguing as the ones (from the newspapers) here. The pigeon is Stanley Timmons, a compulsive gambler into the Mafia for 80 thou, who's conveniently the treasurer of a New England construction corporation. Mike Carmody, Brooklyn stud, King of the Cons, and a Mafioso collector, perceives that Stanley's access to the corporation's check-writing machine means that there's plenty--five million or so--to go around. And debtor Stanley's in no position to quibble. Negotiating the bogus checks (a hillbilly bank, a Fu Manchu disguise), concealing the fraud (fire-bombing the corporation's finance offices), eluding the Mafia greed and the FBI pursuit, and bickering (one of Carmody's accomplices turns out to be his wife's lover)--that's the criminal agenda that ends with a whole lot of shooting and a whole lot of cash changing hands. Kwitny's not much of a describer (Carmody: ""rather resembling Robert Redford, the actor"") and the off-and-on first-person presence of agent Scanlon (especially his last-minute goodguyism) is a mistake, but the talk sounds fight, the details click in tight, and there's nothing beyond belief--or really worth remembering.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1977
Publisher: Putnam