An exacting examination of the life and 1975 murder of the author’s father, Ed Lazar, an Arizona accountant killed just before testifying about the house-of-cards real-estate business he’d inadvertently helped orchestrate.
When novelist Lazar (Sway, 2006, etc.) was six, his father was shot five times in the stairwell of a parking garage, assassinated by Mafia hit men. “Several different profiles have emerged of Lazar—a ‘sheep,’ an aggressor, a devoted husband, a swinger,” a local journalist wrote at the time, “but no one seems sure which description fits the best.” For the next two decades, Ed Lazar was depicted as a con artist—the equivalent, in his son’s mind, of his being murdered twice. After it was revealed, in 1996, that the murder had been ordered by Lazar’s former business partner, Ned Warren Sr., the author undertook the process of reviewing the preceding events and shady dealings, drafting a portrait of a father he never really knew. “Whatever I write,” Lazar warns readers, “will have to be a kind of conjuration.” His book untangles how his father came to work as the bookkeeper for Warren, the “king of Arizona land fraud.” By reselling deeds for the same quarter-acre lots of an undeveloped subdivision, Warren, along with his partners, including the bribed state’s real-estate commissioner, swindled millions of dollars from thousands of investors. The cast of real-life characters is fascinating, but numerous enough to tax distractible readers. Instead of following a linear plot, the author—who, by his own account, lacks objectivity (“I knew I was not an objective judge. My emotions were carrying me from one conjecture to another”)—frequently switches time frames and interweaves real transcripts with imagined scenes. Fueled by an appealing masculine energy, the book is timely, considering the current real-estate climate, but it falls short of the great true-crime titles, handicapped by too many threads and a knotty structure that never pays off.
Meticulous but difficult to follow.