The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight is a comic novel about unfunny topics such as murder written by an angry man. Author Jimmy Breslin, a brash New York Daily News columnist, invents a gang war between a Mafia don “Papa Baccala” and malcontents who want to get a bigger share of the proceeds: 100 percent […]

His Family is a kind of immortality

Roger Gale came to New York at 17 from New Hampshire looking for a business he could turn into the American dream. He made it happen. He also married. His Family by Ernest Poole MacMillan, 1917. 1917 bestseller #7. Project Gutenberg ebook #14396. My grade A-. Three daughters and 20 years later, Judith died, leaving […]

Valley of the Dolls is the pits

Valley of the Dolls is a tale of three amoral young women looking for happiness in New York City in 1945. They live life in the fast lane, pointed downhill and accelerating. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susan Bernard Geis, 1966. 442 pp. #1 bestseller 1966. My grade: D-. Anne Wells is a Radcliff-educated […]

The Harbor is an excursion into lived history

The Harbor is a fictional history of the major upheavals in American life between 1865 and 1915 as experienced by a family who lived and worked on New York City’s waterfront. [The New York Public Library’s digital book New York City Harbor puts the novel in its historical and visual setting.] The Harbor by Ernest […]

The One Woman Is Too Ridiculous

The early 1900s saw a spate of novels about clergymen who came under bad influences in big cities. Thomas Dixon Jr.’s The One Woman: A Story of Modern Utopia is one of the more ridiculous examples of group. The One Woman contains some interesting insights into what today are sneeringly called traditional values, but the […]

Happy 150th birthday to Edith Wharton

January 24 will be the 150th birthday of New York City author Edith Wharton. Pat Ryan has written a retrospective for the New York Times mingling historical perspective on Wharton’s work with insights into the  American fascination with British aristocracy as evidenced in the popularity of the  mini-series “Downton Abbey” currently in its second season […]

Age of Innocence honestly pictures hypocritical era

As Edith Wharton’s title sugests, The Age of Innocence is a picture of an era. The story opens in the 1870s. Newland Archer, from whose perspective the story is seen, is a New York nob with a law practice as a hobby; he doesn’t need the money. Engaged to much younger May Welland, Newland urges […]