A mob tale that occasionally entertains but never satisfies.

UNYIELDING DESTINY

A historical crime novel tells the story of a Mafia hit man with divided loyalties.

After the death of his father and mother, 8-year-old Frank Morris—who up to this point had lived in a tenement on the Lower East Side—is adopted by Mafia don Joseph Cabineri. Three decades later, in 1962, Frank is serving a 14-year sentence for burglary in Alcatraz. Scott Easten lives with his mother, a nurse at the nearby Presidio Army base, and accompanies her during a three-day assignment at the prison. When Frank happens to meet the boy through the prison fence, he sees the dog tags around Scott’s neck: those of his dead father, Roy Easten. Unknown to Scott, Roy is the man who saved Frank’s life during the Korean War by selflessly leaping on a grenade. “He knew this question would haunt him for the rest of his life or at least until God revealed the answer,” Frank thought at the time. “Was I saved for a reason? Or was it just chance, pure chance, an event without meaning?” Frank soon escapes from Alcatraz and resurfaces in New York, where—after cosmetic surgery to alter his appearance—he becomes a “ghost hit man” whose very existence is known only to a few. By that time, Scott has grown to manhood and been named assistant district attorney of New York. Part of his job is to rein in the city’s organized crime families, including the one that Frank serves. When push comes to shove, will Frank stay loyal to the system that raised him or pay back the sacrifice of the man who saved his life? Gratsias’ (Rootless Roots, 2016, etc.) prose is simple and direct, communicating his images with efficiency: “His now-long, dyed hair protruded from under a black New York Yankees baseball cap. Not even his best friends from the old neighborhood would recognize him. Fifteen years had passed since his metamorphosis, and aging only added to the plastic surgeon’s handicraft.” But the author displays a perplexing lack of imagination when it comes to names. There are five characters named Sam and three others called either Simpson or Simson. While Gratsias’ inclusion of the 1962 Alcatraz escape (which really did feature a man named Frank Morris) is an impressive narrative trick, it feels somewhat irrelevant to the main story of the protagonist’s dilemma. Much time is wasted in the first half of the book, both on Alcatraz and on the character of Scott, who never quite feels fully formed. While the author manages some surprising turns over the course of the book, none of them feel terribly meaningful, and his attempts to sell readers on the nobility of the Mafia and Frank in general feel romantic and disingenuous. When the great concluding moment comes, readers will have trouble feeling much at all.

A mob tale that occasionally entertains but never satisfies.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-07-068408-6

Page Count: 303

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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