ACTS OF CONTRITION by William Heffernan


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Heffernan (Broderick, Gaging the Raven, The Corsican) now offers a fast-paced, sometimes bloody novel about a clean-fingered, pure-minded waterfront union president, named to head a Governor's commission to investigate corruption on the New York Harbor. The young leader is 35-year-old Tony Marco, a college grad who got to his high position by marrying Shirley Green, the daughter of former president Moe Green, who founded the union when it was run on fear and trembling like the one in On the Waterfront. With the death of his father-in-law, Marco has so cleaned up and ennobled his union that his Governor's commission appointment only heralds an upcoming Cabinet appointment as Secretary or Under-secretary of Labor if the Governor decides to run for President. Meanwhile, Marco is being groomed for greatness by his mistress, soon-to-be-divorced socialite Anne Mobray, while wife Shirley carries on like a slut-and-a-half. At the same time, over on the New York Globe, young reporter Jennifer Brady decides to do an investigative piece on Tony Marco, to see if he really is the Galahad the press has painted him to be. She uncovers a Vietnam vet, now a police detective, who was Marco's buddy in his youth and whose girlfriend was knocked up by Marco when the vet was thought lost in Vietnam. After an abortion arranged by the union, the girl became a drug addict and worse. But this was a Marco sin vaguely on the side of the angels. And indeed everything else Jennifer finds out about him, while possibly incriminating, remains innuendo. Opportunist Marco wants only to rise out of the union, while leaving it as reformed as he has made it, but union vice-president Paul Levine can't wait: he arranges for Marco's destruction by a hook-wielding psycho who likes to burn cats and cut off human genitals. Despite many pages given to lively Jennifer, the novel cannot rise above the tarnished charisma of its lead, Tony Marco. Marco's past keeps the reader curious, but unlike Brando's broken angel Terry Malloy, he lacks a rich human glow to admire and root for. No wind carries us along, only a clanking, workaday invention, with nothing invented in depth.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1986
Publisher: New American Library