Review of Fixer by J. Guild, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer
What a storyteller we have with Ed Brodow in this perceptive "novel"
about life in New York and Brooklyn, from the time Harry Leonnoff was
born in 1883 until he passed away in 1961. It was not an easy time to
live in this rapidly expanding country, and even harder if one was carving
out a life in the ethnic slums, and with all that entailed.
The Civil War had been over for only 20 years, the huge influxes of the
"Famine Irish" was being followed by other Europeans displaced by wars
and other forms of injustice. All these people came for only one reason,
to become Americans and to find a better life for themselves and their
children. They were exploited in every way imaginable; but by banding
together and supporting one another they intended to survive, and did.
One group would succeed, move on and assimilate, and be replaced by a
new group of arrivals. We recently heard a lot about the Irish in "The
Gangs of New York" and "Five Points" and how Tammany Hall came into being
where the Irish used their connections to improve their lot.
In this book we see how the Jewish and Italians and other immigrants had
to fight and organize to carve out their future in the city.
The author is a born storyteller and through his "fictional" Harry Leonoff,
or the "real" Wolkof, develops outstanding characters to tell the story
of strife, struggle, hopes, pleasures, connections, brokered deals, politics,
disappointments and all those other emotions, that were involved in getting
ahead; or simply surviving in these difficult times.
What Brodow so aptly captures in this book it the idea that giving up,
even in the face of hopelessness, never entered the minds of those involved.
This idea comes up over and over again in these all-telling words; "Don't
worry, The Lord will Provide." I liked the author's style as he keeps
you wanting to find what is going to happen next.
The thing about this book that I found unusual was that I was never quite
sure what or who was real, what was fiction and what was a combination
of both. Reading the acknowledgments, it is obvious that the author has
an intimate knowledge of the things that took place and was well acquainted
with many who were there at the time.
The story of "Five Points" and the movie of "The Gangs of New York" were
very successful in telling the history of New York, a generation or so
earlier; Brodow has accomplished much the same through the "Fixer"; and
what a basis for a movie of this later period.
When I finished the book; I immediately thought back to the old TV series
"The Naked City". I can't recall the exact words, but they went something
like; "There's a hundred (or was it a thousand or million) stories to
be told about the naked city". I am sure Brodow could tell us many more
from this period; and let's hope he does.