Love. Violence. Destiny. These powerful themes ricochet through Lorenzo Carcaterra's new novel like bullets from a machine gun. In Gangster, he surpasses even his bestselling Sleepers to create a brutal and brilliant American saga of murder, forgiveness, and redemption.Born in the midst of tragedy and violence and raised in the shadow of a shocking secret, young Angelo Vestieri chooses to flee both his past and his father to seek a second family--the criminals who preside over early 20th century New York. In his bloody rise from soldier to mob boss, he encounters ever more barbaric betrayals--in friendship, in his brutal business, in love-- yet simultaneously comes to understand the meaning of loyalty, the virtue of relationships, and gains a perspective on the lonely, if powerful, life he has chosen.As the years pass, as enemies are made and defeated, as wars are fought and won, the old don meets an abandoned boy who needs a parent as much as protection.
"I was now well-prepared to be a career criminal... I just didn't have the stomach for any of it." Carcaterra's latest crime novel is the tantalizing coming-of-age story of orphan Gabe, groomed by longtime New York City mob boss Angelo Vestieri to be his successor. The novel opens in the 1990s as Gabe, now middle-aged, keeps watch over Vestieri on his hospital deathbed. Slipping back in time to the Depression, the narrative tracks the rise of the famed mob boss from Italian immigrant to lord of Manhattan's underworld, when Gabe, 10, walks into Vestieri's bar after running out on his latest foster parents in 1964.Vestieri takes the impressionable boy under his wing and ushers him into the world of organized crime. Gabe runs numbers, collects debts and learns loyalty and the price of betrayal. Yet when the time comes for Gabe to take over the operation, he refuses, choosing a normal life despite his deep love for Vestieri. As he did in Sleepers and Apaches, Carcaterra shows dexterity in humanizing the denizens of the urban underbelly. Through a fine characterization of the enigmatic Vestieri, he provides a stirring perspective on the ways of mobsters and their history. Yet the book's central theme, the complex choice facing Gabe, is poorly developed, rarely penetrating the surface of his rejection of gang life. Carcaterra's portrayal ocuses primarily on violence as the source of Gabe's revulsion, only touching on Gabe's understanding of how mobsters--through fear and corruption--influence society in much deeper ways. (Feb. 1) Forecast: From its bold title and catchy cover to the publisher's plans for major ad/promo, including a six-city author tour, this novel promises to perform. Its major push, though, will come down the road, from a four-hour ABC miniseries already in the works. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2000
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Excerpt from Gangster by Lorenzo Carcaterra
He hated dredging up memories.
They did not stir in him a taste for nostalgia or loves lost. He saw in them only one purpose ' to harden the shell he had chiseled with care, the one that hid all that could be deemed vulnerable and kept entombed the signs of humanity. When he talked to me about his early years, it was with the voice of a stranger, as if what had been had touched the life of another, one a safe distance removed from the fray. In the telling, his eyes never strayed beyond my face and his voice retained its deep pitch, no matter the emotional import of what was recalled.
I was ten when I first heard the story of his ocean crossing, and as I sat in the hospital room listening to Mary ' s account of the tale, the early moments of the dying man ' s life came exploding back, as real, as hard and as fresh as a wave.
His ship was three days out of Naples when the storm hit.
Four levels below the deck, walled-in against an overworked engine, six hundred men, women and children were crammed into a space designed for two hundred. The stench of waste mingled with that of burning oil and spouting steam. The cargo hold, normally a dry haven for luggage and sealed goods, was now little more than a moaning assembly of humanity. Families sat in small circles, huddled under tattered coverlets of soiled sheets and clothes. Infants wailed against the pangs of hunger and the nibbling of rats. The elderly chewed tobacco leaves instead of food, black spittle coarsing down their chins. Women, young and old, sang Neapolitan ballads to lift deadened spirits and prayed daily to a stern God for a quick end to a dark journey.
They boarded the ship under a blanket of darkness, paying twenty-five thousand lira ' nearly five hundred dollars ' per head to a local broker, Giorgio Salvecci, an overweight landlord who kept a tan overcoat draped over his shoul- ders regardless of season. Salvecci shipped skins ' Italian immigrants ' across the Atlantic Ocean and into the harbors of New York, Boston and Baltimore. At the turn of the century, during the height of the Italian migration to American soil, Salvecci and his crew of thugs sent fifteen hundred transports a week off to an uncertain future. They were openly indifferent to their customers ' ultimate fates; their part of the bargain ended with the payment of under-the-table cash. In return for a few thousand extra lira, Salvecci could also be counted on to supply false documents that would be rubber-stamped at Ellis Island and other points of entry, allowing the less-than-desirable access to the Golden Land.
Convicts, thieves, con men and murderers: all, eventually, made their way to Salvecci. He was their last hope, all that separated them from a long stretch behind the hard bars of an Italian prison.