An odd couple ``kidnap'' the final cut negative of a Hollywood blockbuster in this overblown caper novel—Covino's first, following his story collection, The Off-Season (1985—not reviewed). Frank Furio is the Ivy League yuppie son of a New York mobster; he has just done two years for masterminding a real-estate scam. Wilbur Blackfield is a down-at-heels professor of film who proposes they steal the negative of the soon-to-be-released, $67 million-dollar sequel to The High Plateau of Stars, the film that established Doug Lowell as a ``world-class moviemaker.'' The heist goes smoothly, but the blackmail attempts go nowhere because Lowell, holed up on his Santa Cruz mountain estate, has become convinced that his endlessly delayed, way-over-budget movie is ``rank with death-stench'': he would rather collect the insurance than get the negative back. Stalemated, Frank then kidnaps two San Francisco movie critics, hoping that, after their very private screening, they will convince Lowell of his mistake. Does this sound like the ideal fast-paced caper? It's far from it. Covino alternates narrators, first Furio, then Lowell; all that distinguishes them is Lowell's gabbiness. His long, narcissistic ruminations on creativity are one strike against a successful caper; the blink-of-an-eye speed of the kidnappings is another; and the third is that many later developments are reported on TV news while the kidnappers watch. As Furio says lamely: ``The story seemed to have passed from us.'' Covino's larger purpose is to demonstrate ``gangsterism as artistry—opposite sides of the same crazy coin''—but to get mileage out of this unoriginal proposition, you need credible gangsters and artists, those being not the case here. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-670-85078-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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