Review of Fixer by Sara Marcus for Front Street Reviews
Following Harry Leonnoff from his childhood facing anti-Semitism,
surviving polio to his life protecting the underdog from political red
tape, to his downfall in facing off against Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
A fearless politician, working for over fourteen years as chief clerk
of the Marcy Avenue Municipal Court in Brooklyn, New York despite his
lack of a high school diploma, Leonnoff was married to a woman nicknamed
'The Commissioner' who forced him to work harder and harder to support
her in her desired way of life. Based on the true events of Brodow's grandfather,
Harry Wolkof, the work is fictional only in its recreation of events without
sufficient data to create a memoir. The reader is led to wonder if the
trials faced by Leonnoff in his early years led him to be more cognizant
of the less fortunate, particularly immigrants and minorities, or if it
was in his nature beforehand, and to fight for their rights. Born in 1883
on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Leonnoff
begins his climb in politics as a law clerk and aide to Tammany Hall political
leaders. While not involved in the formation, Leonnoff is a critical member
of the Harry Leonnoff Association, promoting religious and racial tolerance.
Filled with famous names and events, Samuel L. Liebowitz's involvement
in the Scottsboro Case, Rick Duvalier, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Dorsey
Hogan, and aliases for famous people such as Willie Malakow (Curly Murphy)
for William Kushakow.
The use of years in the chapter titles helps the reader to follow the
passage of time between incidents reported, and helps to place the incidents
in historical context. Beginning in 1961, Leonnoff's grandson goes to
visit his grandfather in the psychological hospital, Bird S. Coler Hospital,
the overflow holding for Bellevue in New York City. It is while looking
at his grandfather's shrunken, almost-lifeless form that the boy thinks
back to the amazing life Harry had led - amazing to others, but not to
Harry who wished to live without acknowledgement for what he felt was
necessary to do.
The attention to detail, descriptive language, and down-to-earth style
brings the reader into the story, rooting for Leonnoff's side throughout,
whether arguing for two Jews escaping the Gestapo to remain in the United
States, or considering an extramarital affair in New Orleans to escape
the horrible marriage he is in.
Written by a prior Hollywood movie actor, Fortune 500 sales executive,
and Marine Corps officer, one can tell the true love felt by Brodow for
his grandfather, the focus of Fixer. Although some events are drawn in
a darker light than might have been seen in the time, these changes are
needed in order to bring the reader more into the work - and an explanation
is given at the end of the work by the author. Accurate to history, and
well-researched, the work is akin to a memoir, although the need to fill
in gaps requires the work to be classified as a historical fiction.