A tumler and a good-time girl tangle with some nasty mobsters at a Catskills hotel in this latest from Adler (The War of the Roses, 2004, etc.).
Twenty-two-year-old Mickey Fine doesn’t care that his father thinks comedy is no profession for a nice Jewish boy. He takes a job as social director at Gorlick’s, a hotel/casino, even though he knows the clientele is composed of Jewish gangsters, their wives, kids and girlfriends. “Absolutely no wop jokes,” warns Sol Gorlick; apparently the gangsters’ Italian boss, Albert Anastasia, doesn’t find those funny. Readers won’t find many of Mickey’s jokes funny, but he charms 18-year-old Mutzie Feder, a fellow Brooklynite who dreams of movie stardom but settles for Pep Strauss, a handsome killer who makes her his “number one” and sends her to Gorlick’s for the summer of 1937. It turns out that being Pep’s number one includes being pimped to Anastasia and passed on to the local madam as a prostitute—not exactly what Mutzie had in mind when she dyed her hair Jean Harlow platinum. Luckily for her, Mickey’s fallen in love with Mutzie. (Who knows why, since she’s an accumulation of clichés, like all Adler’s characters.) So the boy and girl take it on the lam after witnessing one of Pep’s contract murders and get all the way to Albany, where Governor Herbert Lehman promises them he’ll nail those mobsters…just as soon as he wins the next election. A gangster wannabe named Irish catches the couple and brings them back to Gorlick’s, where the enraged Pep waits to dole out retribution. It takes some really bad jokes from Mickey and Mutzie’s clever manipulation of Irish to get them out of Gorlick’s and on the road to Hollywood.
You were expecting maybe Shakespeare? Undemanding readers undeterred by the cardboard characters, B-movie dialogue and total lack of period atmosphere will probably keep flipping pages to find out where the silly plot is going.