A bright romp, with enough period detail and dialogue (“She was starting to get that puffy look dames do what drinks too...

AND ALL THE SAINTS

Second-novelist Walsh (Exchange Alley, 1997) brings New York gangster Owney Madden (1892-1964) to life in a fictionalized biography.

Where else but in America could a fatherless immigrant boy work his way from neighborhood hooligan to mob kingpin in a single lifetime? As Irish as Paddy’s pig, Owney was born in Leeds, where his parents emigrated to earn their fare to America. His father never lived to make the crossing, however, and Owney came over with his mother, sister, and brother, settling in Hell’s Kitchen, where he started his career at ten by joining the Gophers (an Irish gang that terrorized the West Side). Owney figured out early that politics was the real game, and he became the protégé of Monk Eastman, a Tammany boss who ran the Jewish gang on the Lower East Side and taught Owney who to bribe, who to fleece, and who to rub out when the heat got too high. During Prohibition, Owney made a fortune selling beer, but when Dutch Schultz tried to corner the bootlegging market in Manhattan, Owney had to cut a deal and slice up the pie. It stuck in his craw, but he knew Prohibition wouldn’t last forever, so there was no point in spilling your guts over it. He branched out into show business, buying a defunct Harlem dance hall from heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and reopening it as the Cotton Club, producing shows on Broadway for his girlfriend Mae West, and making the rounds in Hollywood with pals like Walter Winchell and George Raft. Even after the FBI decided to shut him down for good, he worked out a deal and left town for Hot Springs, Arkansas, and lived peacefully to a ripe old age.

A bright romp, with enough period detail and dialogue (“She was starting to get that puffy look dames do what drinks too much, and her beam was most definitely broadening”) to fill ten Cagney films.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-51815-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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