EDDIE BLACK by Walter F. Shapiro


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Eddie Black--the young, handsome, Jewish, street-smart narrator of this very short first novel--is a struggling N.Y.C. actor, working temporarily as a butcher's trucker, when catastrophe strikes: an argument with boss Frank Popowski gets out of hand, Popowski goes after Eddie's co-worker Vincent Minetta with a knife, and Eddie impulsively stabs Popowski in the back. The truckers cover up the killing fairly well, faking a robbery. In fact, Eddie's life seems to start improving once he becomes an undetected murderer: he gets a glamorous steady job on a TV soap; he starts a steamy affair with gorgeous bisexual writer Charlotte. But guilt haunts Eddie, of course--as does a suspicious cop named Nate Greenberg, who eventually winds up blackmailing Eddie; thanks to Eddie's uncle (who just happens to be a wealthy, legendary mobster), $300,000 is paid under the table. . .and unstable druggie Vincent, a security risk, is liquidated. Worse yet, Charlotte is brutally raped (by Vincent's crazed crony)--and Eddie, half-sympathetic at best, vengefully becomes a deliberate assassin as well as an accidental one. Finally, after a corny attempt to exorcise his guilt via the soap-opera script, Eddie's more than ready for capture and confession. Shapiro starts out impressively--with dark urban comedy reminiscent of Richard Price, with a shocking first chapter that promises a gritty drama of life's wayward twists: something along the lines of Bill Griffith's splendid Time for Frankie Coolin. And there are a few scenes later on (e.g., Eddie's visit to a boyhood Bronx hangout) that bristle with oddness and ambiguity. Overall, however, the novel settles for strained melodrama (coincidence and excess), along with a flat, predictable mini-imitation of Crime and Punishment--making this a talented but disappointing debut.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1987
Publisher: Arbor House