As a teenager, Danny Fisher had all he ever wanted -- a dog, a grown-up summer job, flirtatious relationships with older women -- and a talent for ruthless boxing that quickly made him a star in the amateur sporting world. But when Dannys family falls on hard times, moving from their comfortable home in Brooklyn to Manhattans squalid Lower East Side, he is forced to leave his carefree childhood behind. Facing poverty and daily encounters with his violent, anti-Semitic neighbors, Danny must fight both inside and outside the ring just to survive. As his boxing becomes legendary in the citys seedy underworld, packed with wiseguys and loose women, everyone seems to want a hand in Dannys success. Robbinss colorful, fast-talking characters evoke the rough streets of Depression-era New York City. Ronnie, a prostitute ashamed of how far shes fallen and desperately in need of friendship; Sam, a slick bookie who wants to profit from Dannys boxing talent; and Nellie, a beautiful but lonely girl who refuses to believe Danny is beyond redemption -- each of whom has a different vision of Dannys future -- will help steer his rocky course. Gritty, compelling, and groundbreaking for its time, A Stone for Danny Fisher is a tale of ambition, hope, and violence set in a distinct and dangerous period of American history. A classic, sexy bestseller by Harold Robbins, reintroduced to a whole new generation of readers.
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August 07, 2007
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Excerpt from A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins
A Stone for Danny Fisher
There are many ways to get to Mount Zion Cemetery. You can go by automobile, through the many beautiful parkways of Long Island, or by subway, bus or trolley. There are many ways to get to Mount Zion Cemetery, but during this week there is no way that is not crushed and crowded with people.
"Why should this be so?" you ask, for in the full flush of life there is something frightening about going to a cemetery -- except at certain times. But this week, the week before the High Holy Days, is one of these times. For this is the week that Lord God Jehovah calls His angels about Him and opens before them the Book of Life. And your name is inscribed on one of these pages. Written on that page will be your fate for the coming year.
For these six days the book will remain open and you will have the opportunity to prove that you are deserving of His kindness. During these six days you devote yourself to acts of charity and devotion. One of these acts is the annual visit to the dead.
And to make sure that your visit to the departed will be noted and the proper credit given, you will pick up a small stone from the earth beneath your feet and place it on the monument so that the Recording Angel will see it when he comes through the cemetery each night.
You meet at the time appointed under an archway of white stone. The words MOUNT ZION CEMETERY are etched into the stone over your head. There are six of you. You look awkwardly at one another and words come stiffly to your lips. You are all here. As if by secret agreement, without a word, you all begin to move at once and pass beneath the archway.
On your right is the caretaker's building; on your left, the record office. In this office, listed by plot number and burial society, are the present addresses of many people who have walked this earth with you and many who have walked this earth before your time. You do not stop to think of this, for to you, all except me belong to yesterday.
You walk up a long road searching for a certain path. At last you see its white numbers on a black disk. You turn up the path, your eyes reading the names of the burial societies over each plot section. The name you have been looking for is now visible to you, polished black lettering on gray stone. You enter the plot.
A small old man with a white tobacco-stained mustache and beard hurries forward to meet you. He smiles tentatively, while his fingers toy with a small badge on his lapel. It is the prayer-reader for the burial society. He will say your prayers in Hebrew for you, for such has been the custom for many years.
You murmur a name. He nods his head in birdlike acquiescence; he knows the grave you seek. He turns, and you follow him, stepping carefully over other graves, for space is at a premium here. He stops and points an old, shaking hand. You nod your head, it is the grave you seek, and he steps back.
An airplane drones overhead, going to a landing at a nearby airport, but you do not look up. You are reading the words on the monument. Peace and quiet come over you. The tensions of the day fall from your body. You raise your eyes and nod slightly to the prayer-reader.
He steps forward again and stands in front of you. He asks your names, so that he may include them in his prayer. One by one you answer him.
My sister's husband.
His prayer is a singsong, unintelligible gibberish of words that echoes monotonously among the graves. But you are not listening to him. You are filled with memories of me, and to each of you I am a different person.
At last the prayer is done, the prayer-reader paid and gone to seek his duty elsewhere. You look around on the ground beneath you for some small stone. Carefully you hold it in your hand and, like the others, one at a time, step forward toward the monument.
Though the cold and snow of winter and the sun and rain of summer have been close to me since last you were here together, your thoughts are again as they were then. I am strong in each of your memories, except one.
To my mother I am a frightened child, huddling close to her bosom, seeking safety in her arms.
To my father I am a difficult son, whose love was hard to meet, yet strong as mine for him.
To my sister I am the bright young brother, whose daring was a cause of love and fear.
To my sister's husband I am the friend who shared the common hope of glory.
To my wife I am the lover, who, beside her in the night, worshiped with her at the shrine of passion and joined her in a child.