Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Narrows Gate" by Jim Fusilli

"Narrows Gate" opens onto a movie house playing a feature you may already have seen. But that doesn't mean you won't want to see it again.

Jim Fusilli's Big Mob Opera is a straight-shooting affair that fits squarely within the genre, eschewing experimentation or roaming outside the lines.

"Narrows Gate," starts in New Jersey, across the Hudson River from the main stem, the Big Apple, but travels to London, Madrid, Hollywood, Havana, East Africa, and points in between.

Across this vast panorama Fusilli details the lives of three young male locals, one whose life reads a little bit too much like Frank Sinatra's. Another is headed for trouble in the rackets and the third doing his best to stay out of their way (the rackets) only to find them blocking the escape route.

There are family rivalries, gruesome hits ("Gigenti's first shot took off Verkerk's jaw."), turncoats and torture, and a wide-array of food descriptions. highwayscribery's favorite presentation was the red clam sauce.

Anyway, the narrative is rendered in the street argot certain mid-20th century metropolitan area Italian-Americans spoke and gives the book a flavor.

The texture is mostly gritty. "Narrows Gate" has nostalgia for a lost world of Italian-American life, yet it is unadorned, has no linguistic poetry, its words rolling out like row houses in Brooklyn, steady and even.

It has a love of place, but a grim one.

Fusilli is a writer of note and success with books under his belt, and the work here is professional and polished. He'll have you rooting for murderers and street punks. You'll find the feds and other people swimming against the tide of impunity dispassionate, bland, rainy day people.

You'll find a brutal cityscape where might is right, where the good play it meek and do a lot of ducking, while a crazy few head straight for the knife fight.

So, you may have seen this movie, but that doesn't mean you won't want to see it again.

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