TAKE THE A TRAIN by Michael Blankfort


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Up to the day I tried to cheat Mr. Franklin Gilboa, my life seemed like something floating right out the window,"" but for ""Doc"" Henshel, nearly 17 in 1947, that attempt to fix Mr. Gilboa's pinball machines nets him more than nickels and dimes: an accelerating ride from Beachport (Long Island) boredom to Harlem and the high life of hookers, numbers running, and police pay-offs. Doc is a rudderless kid looking for style; Gilboa, with Cadillac, cigar, and flashy clothes, is a wizard of ooze, using Emperor Jones imagery and calling Harlem ""a handful of hard cash and a bucket load of trembling""; and their improbable association, sprinkled with Yiddish and black slang, has flashes of wit, frenzy, and deep feeling. Spouting ""humanology"" and strutting, Gilboa oversees the white boy's several initiations, pacifies his wary family with humble pieties, and comes up smelling good when he refuses any part of the up-and-coming drug trade. Despite some old fixtures--Doc's punctilious teenage friend, his overbearing older sister, the obligatory whore with a heart--and Gilboa's inevitable downfall, Blankfort has a hold on the scene: he streamlines the dialogue, prunes and splices so that the edges fit smoothly, and shapes Doc's restless energy and natural spirit into a jaunty, surprisingly intricate coming-of-age.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1978
Publisher: Dutton