Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Men Reading Books on Jimmy Bench-Press

Jimmy Mangino is just out from his second stint in prison and figures he is due to move up the crime ladder and become a made man in the Vignieris family. Jimmy isn't just muscle for some bottom feeder loan sharks, he is all muscle with a rep for having bench pressed over 400 lbs, a handy ability for someone whose life is tied up in intimidation and violence. You don't want him for a friend or an enemy.

Gangster wannabe #1, Jimmy Bench Press, gets hooked up with Gangster wanna be #2, Larry Berra, who needs help in collecting for an ill-advised loan to a old Cuban barber. Our barber had a thing going with a young bar owner half his age and took the loan out to help her out, but she just takes the cash and pushes poor Vittorio out and left to Jimmy BP's not-so-good nature.

But Jimmy is not working in a vacuum. Two decent cops, Pavlik and DeNafria, on the Organized Crime task force are working hard to get all the details needed to put him away even while each are dealing with their own demons of marital separation and a violent history.

Jimmy BP keeps sticking his fingers where they probably don't belong, giving our 2 good cops more than enough to keep track of to get him put back in prison. With the help of some dogged police work and the help of a jilted girlfriend, Pavlik and DeNafria follow Jimmy BP to a luxury yacht where he is set to become a made man.

This is the 2002 followup to very entertaining Eddie's World, but this one takes a bit of a different turn. In a number of Stella's books we find some decent guy caught on the edge of the mob. In Jimmy BP, the decent guys are the cops and the guy on the mob's list of up and comers, Jimmy, is a violent sociopath. Down in the gutter realism (or at least as much as a guy like me can envision such realism having never experienced it) carries the soul of this story. Some later efforts by Stella have a bit of a snarky grin, but this one spits in your eye, clutches your throat forcing you to struggle against the obsession of a man with but one goal, becoming a made man. Stella paints a very bad guy in such a light that the reader patiently waits for Jimmy BP to get what's coming to him, and when he does, while it's not quite what Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci in Goodfellas) gets, I found it to be every bit as satisfying.

I've got two more Stella titles to go and I'll be up to date on his catalogue of novels (Mafiya, reviewed by West Coast Don, and Shakedown). Each one I've read so far has some seriously tough dialogue and characters that are interesting and both sympathetic and unsympathetic at the same time. If you can find it, be prepared for a few lost hours at the doorway to the alter according to Stella. And there are far worse places to wait for Tommy Burns.

East Coast Don