Author: Ed Brodow
Author Website: http://www.fixerbook.com
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Erika Borsos originally for Amazon
Reviewer's Rating: Five Stars
This book provides a great visual representation of life in New York city at the turn-of-the-century. The author uses his words like an artist uses paint on canvas. This book leaves a great visual and colorful impact on the reader. The story is energetic, fast paced and filled with great human interest, overall a fascinating read. This is an historical era novel about a powerful charismatic politically connected figure who wielded a great deal of influence in New York city during the height of his career. It was a time when various people from Europe and Russia were clashing as they fought to create a new and better life for themselves and their families. They escaped the political forces and prejudices which held them back in the "old world" but faced new and different enemies and circumstances instead. Sometimes, the new circumstances were nearly as daunting as the old but as time marched on, the powerful walls which kept people of different cultures from achieving their potential cracked and broke apart. Times created situations where someone with a powerful personality who had major chutzpah and intelligence could work the system and become highly influential. This book is about such a man, his name is Harry Leonoff, a man of Jewish descent who beat the odds and made himself into a success. He become politically connected and indispensable to the politicians who needed major jobs done around the city. He hung around Tammany Hall with the Irish who got Harry hooked on politics. Harry's reputation grew as he strove to maintain his values and integrity while he got jobs done. Unfortunately, his strong need to maintain his integrity prevented him from backing down from a position once he took a strong stand and this became his undoing after clashing with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who also possessed a similar ego and style of behavior.
Harry Leonoff's rise to power and his fall from grace makes for a fascinating novel. Harry's early life began on the Lower East Side of New York in Jewish tenement houses and apartments. This milieu provided the foundation for Harry's developing a strong character. His character was tested when he developed polio and underwent rigorous stretching exercises, without benefit of analgesics. Fortunately, he eventually received more humane treatment from Andrew Craig a Scotsman who developed a successful home treatment for polio victims. Harry retained a limp due to this childhood illness. Perhaps this is where Harry learned to care so much about the poor and less fortunate. Harry's fearless reputation got him hired by a local group of Jewish leaders who wanted some anti-Semitic thugs taught a lesson. By age 23, Harry realized he needed education and hung out at a local Democratic Club, where he overheard Big Jim Connolly express that lawyers ran the city. This gave Harry the grand idea to become a law clerk. At the time there were several avenues to entering the legal profession, one was attending law school, another was graduating from college and preparing for the bar exam, and a third for those with little formal education, as was Harry's case, was to become a law clerk. Harry was hired to apprentice for Mr. Levine who had won some rather famous cases. This is where Harry's sense of fair play arose as he noticed not everyone was getting justice under the legal system ...in fact, the rich and powerful seemed to receive most of it. He concluded only those with political influence could correct the deficiencies in the system so Harry attempted to do just that. He returned to Tammany Hall to work for Big Jim Connolly. Harry's success continued as he gained experience and grew to have a reputation for getting the job done.
The author does a superb job of describing the rise and fall of Harry's fame. The stories are realistic and believable, most are serious, others are humorous. The author does a particularly excellent job of drawing the reader into the story from the beginning when Harry's grandson visits at the hospital where Harry resides. The description of the harbor, the weather, the landscape and views and then the inside of the mental hospital are very visually realistic and appealing. The author's description of how Harry's frame of mind flips from current reality into the past is highly accurate of how confused elderly people behave and react. The book was inspired by the life of the author's own grandfather. This book is most highly recommended. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]