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 A journeyman author recounts his coming of age under the guidance of an admirable outlaw father. The title, no less spare than the text, encapsulates it all. Setting his story in Baltimore a generation or two ago, with flashes forward to recent years, Offit leaves his accustomed venue of fiction for young readers (What Kind of Guy Do You Think I Am?, 1977, etc.) in order to paint a fond portrait of his father, Buckley Offit, Prince of the Streets. Offit päre, his son reports, was, from the end of the First World War until the '50s, quite simply ``among the elite of the nation's bookmakers.'' Buck got busted just once, but he never served time. Just once the Mob tried to grab him, but Buck fought them off. The archetype of a respected, street-smart, self-reliant operator, the bookie was a loving father and husband during nonworking hours. No deceptive duke, Buck never lied or fooled anyone. In the eyes of his sons, he was wonderful. His wife, Lily, practical mother, reader of Montaigne, was unconditionally devoted. And why not? The character portrayed is a gruff rascal and, simultaneously, a careful, utterly trustworthy Jewish dad. The combination worked. ``How'd it go at yer office today?'' he inquired when his young sons came home from school. ``We all take our lumps...Buy yerself a new hat and keep going'' was his stoic and sartorial philosophy. Don't search here for details of living on the lam or for hints on the business of taking bets. This book is straightforward homage to a father who, before his death at 96, summarized his career in crime: ``What's the ussa talkin'? What's done is done.'' A son's personal recollection that may strike a chord for others.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13140-2
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1995