A Gangster's Ghost Story

A mobster confronts a family secret when his father passes away and leaves him in charge.
Nealon’s debut combines the politics and intrigue of a mob story with the ghostly touches of a supernatural horror tale. As heir to the family legacy, Vincenzo Attanasio inherits a unique problem when his father, the don, passes away: managing the three nonhuman entities bound to his family. The spirit Santo Seneschal has been with the family for generations, serving as assistant and confidant. Bereu, as Aspirate, helps out the family in more shadowy ways. Chiara, a creation of Bereu, is an immortal woman capable of taking whatever form is desired by the family member she serves. Though the three have served the Attanasios for generations, they don’t feel the same about their situation. While Santo Seneschal considers the family his duty and seems honored to serve, Chiara simply wants her freedom, and Bereu wants to destroy the family that kept him enslaved for so long. Unfortunately, as the Attanasio bloodline goes on, Bereu’s connection to them grows weaker and weaker until finally, with the don’s death, he is freed from bondage. Vincenzo and his children, now in terrible danger from a source they had always trusted, must learn Bereu’s plan and figure out how to stop him before the bodies start piling up. The premise is interesting, and the take on the typical mob story refreshing. It’s interesting, too, how the mob mentality comes across in the family’s relationships with their supernatural servants: Themes of duty and loyalty, as well as justice, are explored well via the conflict between Santo Seneschal and Bereu. The writing could use some revision, though, as when Chiara is first introduced: “Like Bereu Chiara wasn’t human. She wasn’t an ordinary mortal. She hadn’t been born and blessed with life that way.” At a more reasonable length and with some tightening of these repetitive, overexplanatory passages, the story could be sharper and more incisive. Additionally, Santo Senschal and Bereu need to have their back stories further explored; in this book, the present is everything.
An intriguing take on a ghostly mob story.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495949777

Page Count: 566

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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