Saturday, February 25, 2012

Narrows Gate by Jim Fusilli

Narrows Gate is the kind of immigrant neighborhood in New York that everyone is familiar with from books and movies.  Lots of poverty, but close-knit families.  Not many chances for economic success leading to enterprising men making their way however they can.  Started as an Italian immigrant neighborhood, by WWII it was divided between the Italians and the Irish.

This is the world Leo Bell, his friend Sal Benno, and Bebe Marsela grow up in.  Each chooses a different path for his life.  Leo is smart and joins the military during the war where his intelligence is recognized and he is recruited to work for the government.  Benno has to hustle to make a living, and finds ways to make himself useful to the Mafia figures that control the city.  Bebe recreates himself as Bill Marsela, a crooner that makes the women swoon and all the men jealous of his luck. 

Jim Fusilli has written an intriguing novel that follows the life of these three characters as they navigate life in the city in the 1940's.  Full of well-researched details, the reader learns how criminal organizations grow and take over any enterprise in their vicinity that has the potential to make money.   This was the heyday of the Mafia and their plans to control the entertainment industry.  It was the time that Las Vegas was built, created by Mafia figures as a money-making enterprise.  The tension between the main characters, the government and the Mafia is carefully crafted and ratcheted up leading to a satisfying resolution.  This book is highly recommended for readers interested in a compelling read with fascinating characters and an intricate plot.

No comments: