This is the first of Borstinski’s books that I’ve read, and I must tell you … he’s a fine storyteller! I would go so far as to say that there’s something a little reminiscent of Jeffrey Archer in the way he weaves a tale!
The Bowery Slugger is the first in a new series about Alex Cohen a.k.a. Fabian Mustard a.k.a. Slugger. In 1915, Alex arrives in New York with his parents and sister from the Ukraine to escape the rising violent anti-Semitism there. Along with many other confused and overwhelmed immigrants, they do their best to adapt to their new life in America and Alex quickly realises that it will be his role to be the breadwinner of the family. He’s just in his mid-teens but back home he was already involved with unsavoury individuals – another reason his parents were anxious to leave – so it’s only natural that he seeks out similar, like-minded people on the streets of his new neighbourhood.
With sharp, graphic descriptions of the early days of the Jewish mob, the author sets a scene that is very easy to visualise. Violent thugs mingle on the streets with every other type of person in the melting pot of the Bowery. Everyone’s out to make a buck, and you need to know who you can trust.
Young Alex wastes no time in making a name for himself and rapidly rises through the ranks of the gang-world that he inhabits. He hands over a sufficient portion of his earnings to his family and although they hear rumblings about his nefarious activities they don’t seem to be too bothered about accepting his money to live on. Nobody in the house is making much of an effort to do any better, so nobody mentions the origins of the income.
Similarly when Alex sets his sights on his attractive neighbour Rebecca … her parents are initially opposed to a ‘friendship’ between them, and even she seems averse to the idea. But when it becomes clear that he will always be financially stable, even if he may have to keep looking over his shoulder, they’re willing to be on friendlier terms. Isn’t it funny how that works?
At times I needed to remind myself how young Alex actually was. I found it quite difficult to equate his age with his behaviour. I tried to remind myself that times were tough and that one had to do whatever necessary to get by, but I’m still unsure of the age factor here. I was also bothered by the use of our protagonist’s three different names – Alex, Fabian and Slugger – sometimes all within just two or three sentences. I found this a bit unneccessary, as if the author was trying to reinforce the identity of his character, and I kept wondering why. Lastly, I thought that there should be some sort of glossary at the end of the book. There is a lot of Yiddish slang used throughout the book, and although many of the words have become adopted in everyday language, there are also many that aren’t and might not be familiar to some readers. A glossary would be helpful.
Regardless of these criticisms, which are purely my own and which don’t detract from the story, which is extremely well told, I would still recommend this as it’s a great book! It draws you in from the very first pages and ends in the most perfect way to segue into the next installment of Alex’s life, which I look forward to reading about.
I would give this a 3.5 star rating – increased to 4 (due to the lack of half-star ratings).
Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.
There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.
He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.
Published in paperback and ebook formats by Sobriety Press.
Thank you to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for inviting me along on this tour. Take a look at what other bloggers are saying about The Bowery Slugger …