to win the Pulitzer Prize
Review of Fixer by B. Wishner on Amazon.com
As a lifelong avid reader, I have been lamenting of late the absence
of great storytelling. But now along comes Fixer and I have to
say this is storytelling at its best: great setting, fascinating historical
perspectives, colorful characters that I can care about, and story elements
that are both exciting and emotionally moving.
Harry Leonnoff grows up in squalid poverty on the Lower East Side of New
York City. At the age of nine, he gets polio and the doctors say he will
never walk again. He fools them and by sheer force of character overcomes
his lack of education to become a prominent political "fixer," meaning
that he wields power in New York Democratic Party circles. He helps several
mayors get elected, performs innumerable charitable acts, saves a German
Jewish couple from Gestapo torture, and his pivotal role in the infamous
Scottsboro case saves the lives of nine innocent black youths in Alabama.
His love life is marred by a nagging wife who drives him into the arms
of a beautiful New Orleans call girl. The resulting larger-than-life love
affair is both exciting and tragic. Harry's career, as it turns out, is
on a collision course with his psychotic ex-marine brother-in-law, Willie
(nicknamed "Curly Murphy" at the First World War battle of Belleau Wood),
and Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who sets Harry up on phony charges of misconduct.
The lives of Harry, Willie, and Fiorello converge and reach a crescendo
in the surprising climax.
My favorite chapter is the last one, in which Harry's grandson tries to
make sense of the old man's life and death. This is Brodow's finest writing,
as he explores the relationship of the living and the dead, of one generation
to another. Some of it is pure poetry. Fixer should be on everyone's
list of must-reads.